Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When is it Okay to Lie?

Some lies are a necessary evil.  There I said it. Some of you might think that I'm off my rocker because you assume that any form of lying is wrong and I used to believe that, too.  But, if I didn't censor some of my more scathing thoughts with an occasional, complimentary little white lie, I might be friendless.  I choose not to be friendless so I lie.  How do I justify lying even if it's to protect someone's feelings?  Because I'm lying to protect someone's feelings...duh!

Don't for a minute kid yourself into thinking you don't lie or that other people aren't lying to you.  You do and they are.  How else could we live in a semi-civilized society?  I have the utmost respect for someone who tells the little white lie to help ease the awkwardness of questions like, "does this make me look fat" or "do I sound like my mother?"  When I was pregnant I remember receiving over-the-top compliments like, "you can't even tell that you're pregnant!" or fibs like "you're legs really aren't that swollen"  Those unsubtle liars need to come clean right now and admit that I clearly resembled a Weeble (Weebles wobble but they don't fall down!) and my bloated legs required their own zip code.

So, you and I lie now and then to protect someone's feelings.   We can rationalize it and condone it.  But what do we tell our kids who are, hopefully, learning that all forms of lying are wrong?  I can't very well separate a little white lie from a bold-faced lie and explain to an almost 7-year-old that it's okay to lie in one situation and not in another.  What kind of message does that send?  We are pretty clear in our house that lying is unethical no matter the reason and I'm sticking to it.  I am cultivating consciences here and those consciences need to know right from wrong.  I'm not giving any indication now or in the foreseeable future that it's okay to lie even if it is a little white one.

My kids will figure out on their own, eventually, when and if a little white lie is necessary. By the time their consciences are equipped with a compassion meter that allows them to protect a friend's feelings, they will have already developed a sensible moral base.  Until then, I'm going to continue my mantra that lying is wrong.  I am going to keep pounding it into my kids' heads day after day.  I'm going to keep acting exceedingly dramatic when Nicholas tells me that his friend lied about pushing another kid on the playground (What?!  That sounds horrible!  What kind of animal would do that?!) or that his classmate ate someone else's cookie at lunch and didn't confess when asked (What?!  He told a bold-faced lie...just like that...with a straight face?!  I know you would never lie like that Nicholas.  You know it would break my heart!).  I want him to notice that I'm terribly disappointed when I hear stories about other kids that lie so that he won't even consider lying when presented with the chance.  I am not naive enough to think he won't ever test his own moral values, but his capacity of knowing right from wrong will ultimately prevail.

Nicholas is understandably skeptical when I tell him that bold-faced liars will get their due punishment.  He doesn't have any solid evidence of that yet because some of his friends get away with being deceitful.  I continue to try and convince Nicholas that, in the long run, it's much easier to tell the truth and face your consequences. When he asks why I tell him simply - liars need good memories.

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