As a general rule I don’t believe in the benevolent lie. I believe it’s possible to tell the truth judiciously, which is to say tactfully, but I don’t believe in lying for the sake of good, not to people who aren’t your sworn enemies anyway. I remember one day when my two middle kids put me on the spot, asking me if there was a Santa Clause. Knowing their mother may have lied to them about this, and unwilling as I was to start a needless scandal, I replied “I don’t believe in Santa Clause.” It was a tactful statement that was 100% true.

A short while after that I remember my kids saying something about not wanting to go to church (their mother’s destination of choice). My sister, an avowed atheist, but of a feeler ilk, replied that church was good and would teach them right from wrong. Now be be perfectly fair my sister might actually believe this, as some atheists believe that the steaming masses are incapable of refraining from killing and raping each other without the belief in the heavenly Eye in the Sky and a host of angels keeping a list of who is Naughty and Nice. I, however, am not (and have never been) in favor of deceiving people I love in the name of a greater good. I challenged my sister on this point, in the presence of my children, and asked her how she could say that church was good. She did not respond as I think she was afraid of speaking her true thoughts in the presence of children. I challenged her again, asking if she believed in God. My sister responded like the consummate politician: “My beliefs are a private matter.” How very weaselly.

The idea that Truth is only accessible or desirable for a small percentage is an elitist proposition that has no place in an ethical world view. I don’t believe in benevolent lies any more than I believe in sacrificing a few innocent people for the common good or that there is an acceptable level of arsenic for a tuna fish sandwich. If the Truth is sometimes rough it’s because Reality is often that way. It is neither desirable nor useful to compound those problems by falsifying reality (an exception, as Ayn Rand pointed out, being medical situations where a patient might be aided by the placebo effect). Situations like that aside, I can’t think of a valid reason for lying to people for their own good.

“Grandma’s sleeping.”

No, the bitch is dead. And if you don’t own up to that your kids are going to have nightmares and perhaps sleeping disorders and the fault is going to lie (pun intended) 100% with you.

Son (age about 8): Have you ever been to jail?
Me: Yes, and if you ever do anything to get arrested don’t fight the cops or try to run. They’re going to win and if you fight back things are going to turn out bad.

Wife: Do I look like I’ve gained some weight?
Me: Ask me again when you’re on the other side of bulletproof glass.

Sometimes a non answer is in order. A lie is still not necessary.

11 Responses to “Lies”

  1. Phelps says:

    Call me an elitist, but I believe in hidden truths. I don’t think that everyone is ready to know everything anymore than monkeys are ready for machine guns. Church is going to teach the kids some fantastic things (and I mean fantastic literally.) It is also going to give them a moral framework that doesn’t involve buying whatever the newest thing is. Public schools often teach kids fantastic things (like communism) while failing to teach them to read and write. If they actually succeeded in teaching them to read and write, I might be more tolerant of the fantasies. (Like I am with Catholic schools.)

    Church is good for them. It will teach them that some adults think crazy things, it will let them meet new friends, and it will make their mother less of a bitch for at least a couple of hours.

  2. mexi says:

    I used to like church when I was a teenager but I think that’s because it wasn’t foisted upon me. If I would have been made to go I would have tattooed sixes on my scalp.

  3. Very true. You should see the 666’s all over my head.

  4. Yollie says:

    Going to Church? Yes, I luv it!!

  5. mexi says:

    I killed about 48 harpies yesterday just to get 8 long tailfeathers so I could make 2 pairs of Fletcher’s Gloves.

  6. R says:

    I think a combination of Mexi and Phelps’ beliefs are the truth.

    The idea to always tell the truth is a noble philosophy, but when implemented – as Phelps alludes – it doesn’t come out so great. (Just like socialism).

    Whether this is a result of society having evolved with “the elites” hiding the truth from them, or if it is actually an innate human characteristic would be an interesting question to ponder.

  7. mexi says:

    I don’t believe in always telling the truth. I just don’t believe (as a general rule) in lying to people for their own good. Also to believe that someone can’t handle the truth is to (imo) have a pretty low opinion of them.

  8. Phelps says:

    I have a pretty low opinion of most people.

  9. mexi says:

    There’s the rub for me. The people I have a low opinion of I won’t deign to lie to for their own good because I don’t particularly care for their good. That sentence is awkward and ungrammatical but there you have it.

  10. Vee says:

    I am going through this very thing right now. My family asked me if I told Cody the “truth” about my husband. Of course I told him his dad is in rehab! He’s almost 13 years old. Why shouldn’t I? Hi dad fucked up, owned up to it and is getting help. What’s the big deal? No one is perfect FAMILY OF MINE!

    My brother is an atheist. I am somewhere in the middle. I believe in God but have a hard time with organized religion, although I feel calm and happy in church I can’t buy into all their rhetoric. I leave it up to Cody on whether or not he wants to attend church and answer all his questions honestly. I want him to form his own opinions, not mine.

  11. Phelps says:

    I dont advocate lying to them for their own good. I advocate lying to them for my good. I dont keep machine guns away from moneys because I am afraid they will shoot themselves. I keep machine guns from monkeys because I am afraid they will shoot ME.

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