Character

When Lying Is Good

when lying is good

Google “when lying is good” and you can easily assemble a long list of suggested situations. They boil down to four basic categories.

  • Lying works. From a pragmatic standpoint, lying helps us get what we want. It can help us get the attention we crave, a better negotiation result, or keep us out of trouble.
  • Lying alleviates unnecessary suffering. Neither children nor dementia patients are best served with hard truths. Those who can’t handle the truth shouldn’t be told the truth.
  • Lying preserves relationships and life. Lying is a kindness we offer when the risk of offense is great. And in life-threatening situations, you should lie up a storm to protect life and national interests.
  • Lying is primal. It’s a natural, protective instinct to acknowledge and embrace. Everyone does it.

All of those categories make sense to us. Each one contains an element of truth that would seem to justify lying on a fairly frequent basis.

But, A Few Things To Consider. 

Lying works as a pragmatic strategy only until the moment you’re found out. Click To TweetLying works as a pragmatic strategy until the moment you’re found out. When your lie is discovered, it destroys your credibility and reputation.  Others may forgive you, but lies are not easily forgotten.  You’ll never fully regain the trust you trampled.

It’s not necessary to lie to children or the emotionally delicate. Your choices aren’t limited to either telling the whole story (beyond what they are capable of understanding or processing) or lying outright. You can maintain integrity by giving them a stage-appropriate explanation. This can be followed up with a statement like: “We’ll go into more detail about that when you’re [fill in the blank].”  It’s ok to tell them you’re withholding information until a later date.

Lying preserves relationships in proportion to the superficiality of those relationships. The people close to you expect honesty. Flattery or withholding honest evaluations is not helpful to them. The fact is, sometimes it hurts to hear the truth about ourselves or others. But thoughtfully processing painful facts is part of maturing. Truth-telling respects and encourages maturity in others.

Remember, too, truth doesn’t have to be brutal. Truth delivered with gentleness and sincere regard for another’s benefit is ultimately kinder than a lie. In this statement, I’ve found an unlikely ally. Atheist author, Sam Harris, has written a book called Lying in which he argues people should never lie because it undermines individuals specifically and society generally. About this, he’s right.

The Bigger Problem

Lying truly is instinctive to human nature.  We can hate lying and still do it without thinking.  Rather than crediting this to an evolutionary adaptation and embracing it, we should recognize it as the result of our sinful spiritual nature – to be abhorred and continuously repented of. Because the best argument against lying is God hates it. He said so. Furthermore, He never lies and commands us to be like Him.

Might a commitment to speaking truthfully cost us something in terms of consequences? Absolutely. Jesus spoke nothing but the truth and people hated and crucified him for it. The Bible is very forthright that His followers should expect no better treatment. But we forget that, and we do expect better. And we lie to get better.

The truth is, lying is never good. There are incidents of lying descriptively recounted in the Bible, but it’s not prescriptively sanctioned. So whatever the cost, ask God to help you speak truthfully – with wisdom and kindness. In this, you show obedient love to Him and brotherly love your neighbor.

when lying is good

  • Berniedette PetiteAndToned

    I agree with you, Alexandra! Lying is never good, but sometimes, it is a necessary evil if the ends justify the means. Really makes me wonder how much “lying” I do in a day. At least I’m aware now!

    xoxo,

    Berniedette | PetiteAndToned.com

    • Wife Sense

      Wouldn’t it be nice if a little bell rang whenever we told a lie so we’d be aware? I shudder to think of the lies I’ve told that just rolled off my tongue without thinking or recognizing afterward.

  • This is an interesting perspective, for sure. There are certain situations where I definitely agree it’s not the best interest to break hard news to someone.

    • Wife Sense

      I’m finding it easier to withhold hard news without lying. I gave myself permission not to answer every question people ask! 😉

  • justine

    i totally agree! lying isn’t good, and i’m totally teaching my kids that lying is a bad thing… BUUUUT here i am, lying to them all the time! i don’t mean to hurt them, but i’m using it as a means of protection or just to save my sanity LOL

    • Wife Sense

      Yuuuup. I told my grandkiddos I could see what they were thinking! ?

  • Shannon Marie

    Interesting read! I agree with you but you’re right – it’s in our nature and it’s so hard not to… especially when we think we’re doing a good thing!

    • Wife Sense

      I feel you. I’m preaching to myself mostly. I can justify my “good” lies, and then I go to pray – and my justifications fall apart in my lap. What would I do without God’s mercy and grace?!