Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pain vs. Poison

Lately, I've been thinking about the importance of being truthful and the cost of not being truthful.  There's someone in my circle of relationships who at best, frequently misrepresents the truth and at worst, just outright lies for his convenience.  He tells one person one thing and another person something totally different.  When confronted with a recent example of this, he dismissively responded, "Don't pay any attention to that.  I just tell her what she wants to hear.  I tell her what makes her happy."  Is it ever good to tell someone what you think they may want to hear or what you think may make them happy even if you know it's not the truth?  If you knew this about me, would it not call into question everything that I may tell you?  What makes me think that I really know what you want to hear or what makes you happy?   Even so, is that justification for lying?  I think it would be a bit presumptuous of me to assume that I need to alter the facts for the good of another person.

I recently read something that I think sums it up very well.  "Truth can sometimes hurt but it doesn't kill.   Lying kills love,"  says author Amy Bloom in an essay titled 10 truths I wish I had known sooner.   Being truthful with someone can sometimes be painful.  It can be can be painful to both the person sharing the truth and to the person receiving the truth.  Unless I'm a sadist, there's nothing enjoyable about inflicting pain on another person.  Lying is often the coward's way out of an uncomfortable situation.  I can try to justify it by claiming that I'm just trying to spare the other person's feeling but the truth is that most of the time, I'm just trying to make it easier on myself.  I wish I had a freeze frame feature that I could use to pause life.  You've seen this illustrated in TV commercials and TV shows where characters are frozen in place while another character steps out and assesses a situation before responding.   You and I don't have that luxury of a freeze frame feature that might allow us to determine the most palatable way to be truthful but not hurtful.  We simply must determine whether we are going to speak truth or not.  Jesus didn't say, "I am the way and the truth and the life (except, of course when being the truth may hurt your feelings or create an awkward circumstance for me."  John 14:6.

It can sting for someone to be truthful with me but, in time, the sting goes away.  When you lie to me the consequence is far more permanent.  Lying destroys trust and lying kills love.

Do you believe it's as simple as that or do you think it's OK to lie if it you think it spares the feeling of another person or spares you from an awkward situation? 

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