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How Do I Look? You Look Fabulous.

"You can't handle the truth" – A Few Good Men.

Is lying inherently wrong? Imagine someone saying to you, "I have something to ask you; whatever you do, please do not lie to me. I cannot trust a liar, and should you lie to me, and I find out you lied, I cannot see myself ever trusting you again." Talk about pressure to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

You may think commonsense dictates that lying is unethical. Still, telling the truth is not always as straightforward as we are nurtured to believe. We attach conditions to when we say the truth or lie. Morally, most of us would prefer to tell the truth and have a clear conscience because we were raised to be honest, irrespective of the consequences. After all, honesty is the best policy.

You are probably thinking, what conditions could be attached to telling the truth or a lie? If it is a matter of life or death, then one could conclude that lying is reasonable in this scenario. Of course, it is an extreme example, but on the other hand, think of the little white lies we frequently tell to get out of unimportant engagements or even to protect our best friend's feelings. Or we decide to stay quiet not because we would incriminate ourselves but because staying silent is better than telling the truth.

I would imagine the older you get, your perspective on whether honesty is the best policy changes, given all the things you've experienced as you mature.

Further, if you grew up attending church, you are probably familiar with the Ten Commandments, particularly this one: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." This commandment is about honesty and is used to reinforce the idea that one should not tell a lie about another person.

You didn't have to grow up in the church to value the truth; telling the truth is woven into the fabric of our being. Honesty is an expectation. Some people intentionally test us to see how we respond and determine our trustworthiness. For instance, they pose a question to which they already know the answer to see how you would react.

Thought Experiment: If we look beyond the moral code, is there ever a reason to lie or use deception, even if the lie or deception results in a positive outcome? 

Broadly, there are many examples of lies/deception in society, such as high-pressure sales tactics, the salesman inflating a product's performance, creating the impression of scarcity, using limited-time offers, or promising deep discounts without stating the additional costs of owning a product.

In our social interactions, we will likely encounter someone who resorts to emotional manipulation to get over on us. These tactics may include guilt-tripping or appealing to your ego. In Robert Greene's 48 Laws of Power, Law 31, Control the Options: Get Others to Play with the Cards You Deal, you persuade people to think they are in control but acting in your interest.

In psychology, there's Kholberg's Theory of Moral Development, which examines how we respond to moral dilemmas when deciding whether our behaviors are right or wrong in a given situation.

We know people get punished for lying, but that doesn't seem to be a deterrent because people continue to lie despite the consequences. Lying is goal-directed and predicated on a specific outcome. On occasion, Instead of honesty, we would resort to platitudes that soften the blow of being 100% honest. We sometimes lie using platitudes to be polite, so we don't have to say how we truly feel.

The vagueness of platitudes makes them safe without sharing too much information. Sometimes, when someone questions a compliment, it is easy to think they have low self-confidence, making it difficult to accept a compliment. Are you familiar with the song "Just the Way You Are" by Bruno Mars? If not, check out the lyrics. Are we programmed to second-guess the genuineness of people's statements?

I submit that people lie for a reason. Probably, you disagree and believe lying is morally wrong, so you vow never to lie because the truth will set you free. Does the truth free you or leave you guilty, depending on the outcome?

Awkward Conversation: Think of any awkward conversation you've been a part of in which someone asks a question to which there were no correct answers.

When someone lies to you and violates your trust, should you cut them off? Don't lie to me; do these jeans make my ass look fat? What do you think the other person is hoping to hear? Do you think they can handle the honesty that it's not the jeans that make their ass look fat? The truth is their ass is fat in and out of the jeans.

I hope you aren't triggered; the point here is that we may desire the truth, but we really cannot handle it most of the time, if at all. The reason people lie may not be justifiable if you believe lying is wrong. Does lying change the situation if you are rewarded or prevented from being punished? Is there a time when lying is justified? People don't needlessly lie to hurt others, but they lie to protect themselves and others.

It is not that people can't handle the truth but that it is more palatable on their terms. Further, we often know the truth but prefer to hear something less direct; therefore, when you tell the truth, tread lightly.

Empowering Minds. Inspiring Lives.

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Jun 03


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