Do Not Lie

...unless it's absolutely convenient. --PhlIp

It is said that an average person lies several times per hour. When first reading this, you might go "Huh? No, not me" (I know I did). But then one morning at 7am you are woken up by a friend calling you on the phone, and the first thing he asks is "I'm sorry were you asleep?" to which you respond "Oh, no I wasn't."

You don't even stop to think about it until a minute later. Why did you lie? There is nothing shameful in being asleep at 7am. The thing is, it wasn't a planned lie, not something you chose to say. It came as an instinctive reaction, due to years of social brainwashing.

Every day I try to be conscious of all the lies that come out of my mouth, try to suppress them, try to be honest. Being honest has turned out to make me feel much better about myself. No more having to come up with weird excuses later when I accidentally forget an earlier lie and say something that contradicts it. No more embarrassing situations (well, not as many, anyway).

The good thing about being honest is that you don't have to remember everything you've said. -- MattiasFlodin

Emphatic agreement. We tell "white lies" to hide differences in our priorities or moral codes - to allow people to feel that we DO care about them that much, and would have paid more attention to them had we been able; or to prevent lengthy arguments. Nobody will ever teach you to do it differently; you will find no instructor in the fine art of letting people know where they stand with you, without being offensive. Instead you must find your own way, but it is richly rewarding. If you learn to be honest in all things, you will be able to express your true personality without feeling hampered by the people around you, and to enjoy their company more. (That's my flowery prose for the MONTH.) -- DanielKnapp

YES! :) It's amusing watching the mental gymnastics people go through when they live a life of lying. A special 'face (interface or face) for every person they interact with. And just witness the confusion they go through when they meet unexpectedly with two people that they have to present difference 'faces to! -- AndrewMartin

Does my bottom look big in this dress?

Your bottom looks big in any dress, or even in no dress, darling!


That's not a problem with lying as much as being graceful.

Does my...

- Now, in this dress, it does not flatter your figure.

Are you saying I have a fat bottom?

- We've both agreed before, you have wider hips, so it makes you look a little bigger there. It does not make you unattractive or ugly.

You'll find that if you keep approaching this situation with confidence in your truthful answer, eventually she'll understand that you love her and are making the objective judgement she wants. This may take a while. This could be 6 months, could be a year. Key point is to start when you're dating. However, in the end she'll feel more confident in your assesments and will stop repeatedly asking the question as in:

Yeah, but I really think it looks big. Are you sure?

See, she can't be confident in your answer if she thinks you're just flattering her. She'll repeat the question until you want to gouge your eyes out. Hence, if you're honest long enough, she'll expect it, and you won't have that nervous feeling about hurting her feelings. As long as you answer gracefully.

Once again, truth triumphs. -- Lee Louviere.

And how often do you honest folks report yourselves for exceeding the speed limit?

As often as the policeman asks. Twit.

So if no policeman asks, it's okay to conceal your speeding?

"To conceal" implies an active effort; it is not quite the same thing as simply not volunteering information.

When you insure your vehicle, you're supposed to disclose relevant information... such as, if you're truthful, your frequent speeding.

Not telling and telling a lie are related and both have their problems, but they're not quite the same thing. I do not tell my neighbor "You are ugly" every time I see her. Not saying something is to say something as well. If she were to ask me, "do you find me attractive?" I might answer "You are a very nice person." She'd probably notice I didn't answer the question, and that in itself is an answer. And it is the kindest way I can think of saying it. It probably won't hurt her feelings anywhere near as much as "You look horrible" would. -- MattiasFlodin

I don't have the exact wording on an insurance application form. Even if it doesn't require you to confirm 'I have disclosed all relevant information', that is an implicit requirement in most cases, I would think, making it effectively compulsory if having valid insurance is compulsory. I fully accept your point in more general cases - simply keeping quiet to avoid offending someone is acceptable and not dishonest.

I have always defined a lie as to stating (verbally or not) something that you do not really believe to be true. I do not lie. It would make social life hard, I imagine, if I wasn't already a freak. Still, I decided that the already mentioned mental gymnastics trying to keep up with your lies just weren't worth it. In the end you just get confused yourself. There are better ways to spend all that time and energy IMHO.

And when your 3-yr old asks: "Daddy, is there a Santa Claus?" I'm not sure the thousands of white lies we tell every day really are lies. They're just normal social intercourse. -- AlainPicard

Personally, I say "I Refuse To Grow Up" :-) It's much more fun being a kid. (And I agree, lying to them is InducingMistrust?)

Why would a kid need to believe in Santa in order for the story to add any whimsy and magic to their universe? That's not the way other fairy tales work. Fiction can be appreciated even while knowing that it's fiction.

Guys, guys guys - the santa story is an example. The point I was trying to make is that it's the intent to deceive which is at the heart of lying. -- AlainPicard

If you don't think that conning children into believing the veracity of some fairy tale is intentional deception, just what the f--- is it? Like I said - they just turn out the lights and there's nobody home.

It is the simple realization that there are different stages in a child's emotional and intellectual development, that no harm will come of it in the end, and that magic and wonder will be present in their lives (at least for a little while). Oh, and, btw, using the F word doesn't convince me that your opinion is any more right. -- ap

I find it hard to believe that adding wonder should be sufficient cause for lying, but that sparing someone's feelings should not be. If the latter can be done through honest means, why can't the former? As for differing stages in a child's development, I don't know what exactly would make it appropriate to deceive them, but people can understand honesty and such at a very early age. And as for harm, well, lots of lies to adults don't do any real harm either - saying I am from Spain or distributing a trivial urban legend - but we don't seem to approve of them.

I was interested in the qualification "lying, unless to serve a greater good, is wrong". Does this imply that there should be some cost-benefit analysis in lying? In some cases this seems right, for example if a woman runs down a road ad a gun-carrying man runs along later and says "which way did the running woman go?" it would seem appropriate to lie. Other cases are not so clear:

Discussion of these questions turns out to be intensely politica; therefore, it has been refactored to UselessDigressionAboutLaw. Except for:

Taking an oath does not magically cause people to believe that you're telling the truth despite having overtly and explicitly stated that you intend to do the exact opposite. In such a case, the oath is just a fairy tale and your saying it does not deceive anyone. It's not a lie and thus not immoral.

Disagreement: I read the "unless to serve a greater good" qualifier as an attempt to keep the Santa discussion from touching on irrelevant details, essentially saying, "If you believe that it is all right to lie when your favorite political party does it, the burden is on you to produce the reason." Also note that it was describing "most moralities", not the author's own morality, presumably trying to make an argument which would appeal to more people. I'd like at this point to offer the advice that, in discussing morality, it's best to speak in terms which assume the validity of your own. Otherwise it's quite hard to accomplish anything.

Very good advice, with the possible exception of someone who is questioning their own moral basis.

In that vein, I will say that I don't perform a cost-benefit analysis. Actually my morality is more of an "ingrained response" rather than anything analytical, or indeed analysed. For example, in the case of someone using insider trading to support a charity, I would have no hesitation in saying it is wrong, and telling them they must stop it or I would report them, no matter what benefits the charities supported gave.

Can I be happy with this sort of "instant response" morality? Would a considered and analysed moral response be better?

The question puts me in mind of DanielDennett's "The moral first aid manual".

The term for an 'ingrained response' morality is Intuitionism. Intuitionism is more like the hypothesis that no meaningful self-consistent theories of morality exist. So the construction of such a theory automatically disproves Intuitionism. Also, most Intuitionists probably don't believe morality is an ingrained response but a 'considered conviction'.

Lying is just one form of deception that allows primates to survive in large groups. The world would be a much more violent place if everyone told the truth all the time. -- EricHodges
See also: AnswerAllQuestions, DishonestyPays

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