We are taught from an early age that honesty is the best policy, but are there situations in which lying is beneficial or acceptable? That is the question many of us ask ourselves all the time. Sometimes we are faced with an impossible dilemma that causes us to have to choose whether or not to be 100% honest. Most of the time these situations involve matters of the heart or other factors that may lead to harmful consequences, either for ourselves or for someone we love. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an easy answer to these questions. Any form of dishonesty could have lasting consequences, no matter what the original intention may have been. For this reason it is very important to think carefully about everything we say or choose not to say for that matter. Let us examine some of the most common situations in which we feel as if we have no choice but to lie.
Lying to Your Children
Parents find themselves lying to their children all the time about a number of different things. But where do we draw the line? It seems harmless to make up fictional characters such as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, even though in essence these are lies. In addition, these sorts of lies create a fantasy world that brings children joy. Obviously, these lies could be considered beneficial lies. However, there are other lies we tell our children that are much more serious. For example, we may lie about something as important as our child’s paternity or the circumstances of his/her birth. We may tell ourselves that this lie is intended to protect our child but the problem is that these lies often come back to haunt us. When considering which information you want to tell your child or keep from your child, play the tape all the way through. This means visualize how detrimental this lie could be if your child ever discovered the truth about it. Parents also lie to children about specific skills in order to boost their child’s self-esteem. For instance, you may tell your child that he is very good at playing baseball when in fact he doesn’t play very well at all. This may be a perfect example of a beneficial lie because it helps build the child’s confidence.
Omitting Painful Details
Some people do not believe that withholding specific details is necessarily considered lying. Any time you omit any of the details from a story you are telling, in essence you are lying. It is important to realize that withholding information is actually considered a form of dishonesty. However, there is not always such a clear line as to which details would actually do no good were they to be told. For example, a husband confesses that he has had an affair. Is it necessary for him to tell his wife that the woman he cheated with was much more entertaining in bed? Withholding a detail such as that would spare his wife’s feelings. This is the sort of detail that when left out could be considered a beneficial omission. The reality is that it is entirely possible to be too honest in some situations. It is very commendable to want to live as honestly as possible but it is also very important that you always consider the way specific information could affect someone. As a rule of thumb, if nothing good or useful can come out of telling the truth about a specific circumstance, sometimes it is better to leave it out.
Helping to Cover a Secret to Protect a Loved One
Knowing a secret that could hurt someone you love can be a very difficult position to be in. Chances are you may be confused by whether or not you should reveal the truth or whether you should help keep the secret. While it may be admirable to want to protect the feelings of someone you love, withholding information from them could very easily backfire on you. When faced with a situation such as this, there are several things you will need to consider. Is the secret you are helping to keep from your loved one something that could put him/her in danger or injure him/her by not knowing? A good example of something you could help keep from a loved one that may put him/her in harms way would be to assist in concealing a sexual affair. No matter how much it hurts, everyone has a right to know if there is a possibility they could be exposed to a sexually transmitted disease. On the other hand, what if the secret you are keeping is about a harmless crush that never went anywhere? Is this the sort of secret you would find necessary to tell someone? Again, if the truth will serve no purpose other than to hurt someone’s feelings, it may be best to leave it unsaid.
The truth of the matter is there are no simple solutions and no quick fixes to these issues. Everyone must follow their hearts when it comes to being honest with someone they care about. Our lives are filled with trials and errors and no one is perfect. The only thing we can do is strive to live as guilt free a life as we possibly can. If at the end of the day we can live with our decisions and we have gone without hurting another human being, perhaps that is the best we could have done. The best thing to do when faced with a dilemma about a secret you are being asked to keep or a lie you feel is necessary, is to consider the consequences should the truth ever come out, and you are the one who withheld it. You are the only one who can decide how far you are willing to go to protect someone you love and how many risks you are willing to take in order to do so.