I had a great conversation with a friend the other day and we talked about lying. They were having a little relationship difficulty and one issue centered around a lie that had been told. As we discussed the ins and outs of lies, white lies, big lies, little lies, etc., this became clear to me:
A lie is an attempt to manipulate someone into doing something in accordance with your wishes when if they knew the truth they probably would not.
In essence, I see a lie as an attempt to manipulate another into doing something that is not in their best interest.
If you've read other entries in my blog, you know that one of my primary themes is freedom. I believe in freedom. I believe that God values our freedom. I believe freedom is very important in human relationships and in nearly every other aspect of life.
When we are free, we are able to do what is in our best interest. I add to that this caveat: our freedom should not take away the freedom of others to do what is in their best interest. I believe that God designed the world in such a way that things work best when people do what's in their best interest while at the same time respecting the freedom of others. Essentially the golden rule: "treat others as you would like to be treated."
Occasionally our interests conflict with the interests of others. I believe it is at this point that we are offered the temptation to lie.
Sometimes we want something very badly; however, we know that those around us may not want the same thing. I think we know when another will not want what we want. We know, like an innate sense, when it isn't in their best interest. When we suspect that another person does not want what we want, we have to choose at that point to press on and try to get it anyway, or back off. Its in our nature to try to get what we want and therefore we limit the information another has or in some way "frame" things so that the other person will "see" what we want them to see. We manipulate; we lie.
Quality human relationships are based on the truth and both parties are free to act as they see best. We enter into relationships with others because we see something of value in that person. We choose to have a relationship with another person because we believe that in some way we will be better off having known that person. Relationships are based on a mutual benefit. This applies to marriages, families, business, friendships, you name it. We have relationships that will in some way benefit us. I don't believe that this is an evil characteristic. Even when we help the poor or serve in a ministry to others, we benefit from that relationship. Service to others has its own rewards.
Lying takes the benefit away from the other person. We still want to benefit, but our lie prevents the other person from being able to benefit. If we want to have quality relationships, we've got to decide that we value their desires as much as we value ours. If we don't do this, the relationship will be shallow and short lived. So in the end, it's actually in our own best interest to seek the best interest of others!
Lying actually undermines our own interests by removing another's reason for being in the relationship and thus - robbing us of the benefit of that relationship. Lying is stealing - and people will not put up with that for long. If you lie enough to another person, they will know they are being taken advantage of and leave the relationship.
Oh - I can already hear the naysayers - "What about the little white lies? If my wife says, 'does this make look fat?' I can't say yes or I'll be in trouble!" There are plenty of good answers to that question. If it does make her look fat, how about saying, "yes" for starters. If she is not attractive in a particular outfit, telling her that she is attractive is not helping her.
People trust truth tellers! If you don't want to tell someone the truth, don't say anything. People don't need to know everything you're thinking. But when you speak, speak the truth - it may not always appear on the surface to be the "nicest" thing to do, but by doing so you are always preserving the right of others to decide for themselves what is best for them. They may or may not like hearing what you have to say, but once you've said it, they now have the option of responding to it in a way that is best for them. People around you will know that they are safer being around you, as a truth teller, then around the "nice" person who lies.