The problem with lying


There are times when lying is innocent and perhaps even expected, such as in matters of common courtesy when we tell someone it is nice to see them when we really dreaded seeing them. No one is deceived by these words, and no one is harmed by the attempt to be courteous, even if the truth suffers somewhat. And we don’t owe the truth to evildoers bent on hurting us (you can certainly be forgiven for lying to a villain who is looking for a victim). But most of the lies we tell are not of this kind. We lie to gain some advantage, or to have others think better of us, or sometimes even to allow us to think better of ourselves, when we lie to ourselves. But the problem with these lies is that they damage the trust that others put in us. Whether you are a head of state or a fiveyear old child, the trust that others place in you is largely a result of your tendency to tell the truth and to do what you say you will do. This last point is crucial: a person whose deeds are not in harmony with his thoughts and his words makes of his life a lie. And here he may be lying most of all to himself, telling himself that he is a good and honest person when he is not. Truth is one and cannot be sacrificed in one area without harming the whole in some manner.

–Christopher Simon