I have a friend whose husband commented on her new red dress, “It makes you look like an over-ripe tomato.” That might be a bit too much honesty. Being honest does not generally require one to blab off at the mouth! Most of us who have made it through ethics classes have discussed the problem of lying when circumstances seem to indicate that is the best policy. In regard to that question, I want to consider the matter as it relates to three problem areas.
First, doesn’t honesty cause hurt feelings? It might sometimes if not handled with tact and wisdom. What if someone asked me if I liked her new dress? I don’t have to blab all I think in order to be honest. If you love the questioner, an honest answer wrapped in love will generally be wisdom. Try something like this, “It is a beautiful color but I think other styles look better on you.” Or dodge the bullet and say something like, “You look radiant tonight so the dress must be good for you.” Surely you can find something to be positive about. Just leave off the “ripe tomato” line!
Second, isn’t it essential that some people in authority lie to protect people? Let me say straight up, sometimes I hope someone is lying. The way media, administration, generals, etc. give away strategic information is much too dangerous. If the enemy is told that we are pulling out of (wherever) on a particular day. I hope they are lying and have plans to bomb the daylights out of the enemy that day instead! Somewhat like Queen Esther got permission for the Hebrews to fight before their doomsday. (Esther 8 and 9) There is a pattern in the Bible (Samuel 16) where Samuel is being sent by God to anoint David to be king. Samuel says to God, “Saul will hear about it and kill me.” God told David to take a heifer to sacrifice, then when he is challenged about his mission, he is to say he is going to make a sacrifice. That’s what Samuel did. He told the truth – just not the whole truth. Not telling everything you know is not a lie unless you are bound by an oath to tell the whole truth. But a warning, once you have proved your words to be untrustworthy, it is hard to regain a reputation for honesty. Time to confess it all to Jesus, be forgiven, and hope he will restore you shattered reputation.
Third, all this rationalization can cause compromise leading to so much deception, one might as well lie straight out. Yes, I have deceived my babies when they insisted on having more candy than they need. Just put it out of sight and say, “I don’t see any left, do you?” There are honest ways to be dishonest. But even in gray areas, I hold before me the memory of a situation in a fourth grade classroom when I was getting many conflicting stories of something that had happened. I think it related to something that had been stolen. Anyway, the kids were all in agreement when someone said, “Ask Eugene. He always tells the truth.” WOW! What a reputation for a fourth grade boy!
honest, or is honesty always the best policy? -Prompt by Daily Post, Michelle W.)