Should You Always Tell The Truth?
Recently, I had a discussion with a friend about the duality of truth and lies. We discussed whether the opposite of truth is a lie and vice-versa. Much of our discussion involved whether telling the truth is always the best policy. For example, if someone asks you whether or not you like her recent hair style and you don’t, should you be truthful?
OK, so what are my thoughts regarding truth and lies? Well, first of all, a well-known statement comes to mind: “The truth hurts!” I have heard that many times and agree that the truth often does hurt. Of course, the truth may hurt when the truth is not what you want to hear and your self-esteem depends upon it. Often times, we want to hear the opposite of truth in order to enhance our self-esteem. But really, isn’t self-worth more important than self-esteem? Why maintain self-esteem and lower self-worth?
I think we sometimes know the truth when we ask a question, but the truth is not what we really want to hear. Why? Perhaps, because it will hurt our feelings. What we really are hoping for is someone to tell us what we want to hear and not necessarily, what is the truth. In this case, lying to protect the person’s feelings seems like an easier way to keep whatever relationship we had before the lie.
Actually, I think lying to protect someone else’s feelings can be very damaging in the long run. When we know the truth and we tell a lie, we have to then know both, the truth and the lie. This leads to confusion and dishonesty in the relationship. I think humans are programmed to seek the truth. Lies go against human nature.
Let’s focus on truth and lies in relationships, and not in, for example, law, sports, government, politics, contracts, business, retail, etc. Lying to someone, no matter what the relationship, can be devastating and may undermine the integrity of the relationship for a long time. Think about it, how do you feel about someone lying to you? Do you really want those around you to withhold truths that they think aren’t what you want to hear? Or, would you rather hear the truth, no matter what?
Consider the yin and yang of it. What do I mean? Well, in our minds, when we consider telling the truth, we must weigh it against the apparent hurt the truth will cause. In other words, we need to seek balance. For every truth, there is a lie that could be told. But, how do we know how much the truth will help or hurt as compared to a lie? We don’t!
If we lie, we must know that what we did is not “real.“ We are attempting to “live a lie.” We are trying to make reality fit our thinking instead of making our thinking fit reality. Eventually, we will have to face reality (since the only place we can live is in reality) and own-up to our lie. This happens constantly in life. For non-relationship examples, consider such issues as global warming, war, Enron fraud, Bernie Madoff, etc. All of these have lies at the center of the problem. I’m not proposing they are lies, but only that they became a problem because of lies.
How do you like the truth? Up front with no regard for your feelings? Or, do you like it tactfully, with affection and softness, such as “Please remember, we said we’d be up front and truthful with each other, so here it is…” or “I don’t know everything, but here is what I think about…..” My guess, is you like the truth delivered tactfully.
I think the truth doesn’t have to hurt. It’s not the truth that many people don’t want to hear, but the spirit in which the truth is given. What really hurts is feeling we have to, or must, cover-up our true thoughts and emotions. If we want our relationships to get bigger and stronger, then honesty and truth must be our ultimate goal.
Of course, we will not always be truthful. That is human nature, which is an integral part of all of us. Since we are human, we are not perfect. Having stated that, it’s important that we set aside all ideas that deception of those close to us is something we should do for anyone’s good. Hiding the truth leads to living a life of lies. None of us need that.
Considering truth and lies, what really hurts us are the lies. The truth does the opposite, it heals. The truth sets us free! Set yourself free in life and never have to worry about what is right or wrong. Be an imperfect person who strives to be a truthful person. That’s making your thinking fit reality!
Should you always tell the truth? Only when you shouldn’t lie! :-)
Nice article. Yes, it should go without saying, that the truth is the way to go. As long as one is entitled to hear the truth. I can think of situations where it one would NOT be entitled to the truth; when lying would be justified.
If someone asks you something they have no right to know, they are not entitled to the truth.
For instance: if a used car salesman tells you “you are getting a good deal” and you do not check on the goodness of the deal yourself, you are not entitled to the salesman telling you that you are an idiot for believing him.
Or…if you were hiding someone, from a murderer, and they asked where they were, so they could kill them, you would be justified in lying about the person’s where abouts.