While we always teach our children that lying is a sin, do we follow this commandment literally? Speaking the truth is a highly subjective matter and more often than not, we lie our way through everything, knowingly or unknowingly. It doesn’t mean that lying is correct but in quite a few situations, lying is more justifiable or acceptable than blurting out the truth.
We’d rather lie than speak the truth when feelings of people are involved. One may not want to hurt one’s close ones or create enmity among one’s family or friends. Such a situation may arise frequently in Indian families because of our cultural restraints and beliefs. When arranged marriages are concerned, it may not be possible to outrightly reject someone with close relations to the family. It can have grave consequences and breed hatred among the best of friends. Lying has its merits even while saving friendships or relationships. One might be put in an untoward situation or place where the suspicious nature of the spouse can concoct events which may never have taken place. We often lie to our near and dear ones about concerns regarding our health. A son or daughter may play down the seriousness of an illness in order to save his/her parents unnecessary grief and anxiety. Thus, we often lie or hide the truth from others in order to prevent escalation of tensions, grievances or suspicions. Spouses may avoid correctly commenting on the weight or abilities of their better half when called upon to pass judgment in order to shy away from pointless conflicts and tussles!
Another justification of lying is quite psychologically motivated. One may have heard the ideology of ‘Fake it till you make it’. This ideology justifies lying to yourself and others to some extent by putting up a brave face when adversity strikes or opportunity knocks. We must often lie to ourselves in order to hang on to the last remaining vestige of self-confidence. If we always worry about our looks, abilities or whatever we think our weaknesses are, we would lose valuable self-esteem. In order to succeed and make the most of life, we shouldn’t reveal our weaknesses to others and more importantly, to ourselves. Therefore, lie to yourself instead of accepting that you lack abilities so that success can knock on your door. How can a small town tea-seller with his insecurities and nervousness become such a capable orator who garners votes among the Indian populace?
Finally, lying can be quite justifiable in terms of emergencies involving crowds. The National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) sift through numerous terror threats on a daily basis. And don’t get me started on the local police department. If all police deployments were revealed to the people truthfully, wouldn’t it cause unimaginable and widespread panic? If a terror threat was revealed instead of making it up as a training exercise, would there not be hysteria and chaos? If somehow a statement from the chief of army were to surface in response to an inquisitive journalist that India may not be prepared for any sort of conflict instead of the textbook reply that the army shall defend the country against all external forces, would you not die a little inside? There are things that we are better off not knowing. Policemen receive various threats of attacks on crowded religious places. Not all of these are serious; actually most of them are mere pranks. However, if even due to a slight slip of tongue, were such a threat revealed, the stampede would kill more people than a terror attack might. This proves that we are better off lying than telling the truth in such circumstances which are a proof to the statement, ‘Curiosity killed the cat’.
One must realize that this doesn’t justify lying your way out of every situation. Lies several times accumulate and it may be tough to keep a track of them. Lying to loved ones may break their trust or even prevent them from taking you seriously. You may be better off telling the truth when you cannot lie convincingly or there is no possibility of a white lie.
This makes us realize that situations aren’t always black and white. There is always that gray area when a person must use his/her own interpretation of the situation and decide whether lying is for the greater good or not. Lies may be big or small but unless it leads to a universally favourable situation, it is unjust.