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Practicality of Not Lying

Rusty
Posts: 2,109
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12/10/2012 1:44:13 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I'm going to guess it's sort of an odd topic, but bear with me please. Last night, I overheard a couple talking about their plans for the upcoming new year and I began thinking about some of the traditions that usually go along with the celebration. In particular, resolutions came to my mind. When I was younger, my parents used to pressure me and my brother to pick resolutions. I remember being extremely disinterested in such a thing. The vast majority of resolutions that I'd encountered were commitments to stop smoking, to stop eating unhealthy food, to work out, etc. These weren't particularly relevant to me and, to be frank, sounded incredibly boring to my twelve year old self. On top of that, the idea of making myself publicly accountable for a year-long commitment didn't thrill me, so I gave a B.S. resolution that I never bothered to follow through with. Anyhow, being on the topic of truthfulness, I started to wonder about the practicality of giving up lying itself, altogether, for one whole year. By that, I don't mean simply toning down a habit that you may or may not have of misconstruing the truth, but to quite literally cease from spreading a single intentional falsehood for 365 days. To be honest, this isn't exactly a "moral" thing to me, I don't find it interesting because of the ethics of lying, but I suspect (though this may be my naivety talking) that it would be an incredibly liberating experience, even if tough at times.
Anyhow, what do you think?

1. Do you think it would be liberating? Is that the correct word?

2. If so, do you think that the embarrassment would outweigh the sense of liberation, or would it depend too largely on the individual?

3. In the same way that you would need to answer "I promised I wouldn't talk about that." to someone who asks about another person's secret, you could simply silently promise yourself that you won't talk about something when it becomes convenient not to reveal the truth. "Does my shirt look ugly to you?" "I promised I'd stop judging peoples clothes." Yeah, that's a weird example, but I think you get the idea. Since this would seem to undercut the possibly liberating nature of the experience, would it be easy to resist "cheating" like this or not?
badger
Posts: 11,793
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12/10/2012 1:55:03 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
supposedly, the better the liar, the better his life. better liars get all the best women, best jobs, etc. and then if you've no moral compunction against lying, then maybe it's something you might want to work on honing rather than giving up... just saying.
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FREEDO
Posts: 21,057
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12/10/2012 1:56:36 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Lying can be very harmful to your relationships with others.

But it is completely unpractical to set it aside entirely.
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fnord
Rusty
Posts: 2,109
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12/10/2012 2:02:28 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 12/10/2012 1:55:03 PM, badger wrote:
supposedly, the better the liar, the better his life. better liars get all the best women, best jobs, etc.

That's a good point. I can't imagine how a brief feeling of freedom would outweigh losing a wonderful wife, job that your family depends on, etc.
YYW
Posts: 36,289
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12/10/2012 2:18:53 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 12/10/2012 1:44:13 PM, Rusty wrote:
I'm going to guess it's sort of an odd topic, but bear with me please. Last night, I overheard a couple talking about their plans for the upcoming new year and I began thinking about some of the traditions that usually go along with the celebration. In particular, resolutions came to my mind. When I was younger, my parents used to pressure me and my brother to pick resolutions. I remember being extremely disinterested in such a thing. The vast majority of resolutions that I'd encountered were commitments to stop smoking, to stop eating unhealthy food, to work out, etc. These weren't particularly relevant to me and, to be frank, sounded incredibly boring to my twelve year old self. On top of that, the idea of making myself publicly accountable for a year-long commitment didn't thrill me, so I gave a B.S. resolution that I never bothered to follow through with. Anyhow, being on the topic of truthfulness, I started to wonder about the practicality of giving up lying itself, altogether, for one whole year. By that, I don't mean simply toning down a habit that you may or may not have of misconstruing the truth, but to quite literally cease from spreading a single intentional falsehood for 365 days. To be honest, this isn't exactly a "moral" thing to me, I don't find it interesting because of the ethics of lying, but I suspect (though this may be my naivety talking) that it would be an incredibly liberating experience, even if tough at times.
Anyhow, what do you think?

1. Do you think it would be liberating? Is that the correct word?

I think there is a place for the omission of or the outright manipulation of truth, and when the place arises, it is often a choice between, to quote the great philosopher Albus Dumbledore, "what is right and what is easy." What is easy is to tell the truth.

"Do you think this makes me look fat?"

Yes.

"Do you think I've made a mistake?"

Naturally.

"What would have been the right thing to do?"

Obviously, the opposite of what you did.

We all can consider various circumstances in which telling the truth would come at the cost of hurting another. It is fairly easy for you to be personally vindicated, in that you can reside comfortably in the light of the truth and feel good about the fact you were honest. But is that right? No.

In objective questions, that is questions of fact, lying isn't really very appropriate. But in questions that call for a subjective perspective, what one thinks or feels is an opinion, and what you say becomes the truth, because while you may think something else, it is what you have said that resonates in the minds of others. To the extent that we all do this, there is less derision in the world. Human interaction is more palatable, less offensive, and as a species we operate more cohesively. That is the only thing that matters. Now, if you were under oath, that's a different situation. But the point still stands.

2. If so, do you think that the embarrassment would outweigh the sense of liberation, or would it depend too largely on the individual?

The truly liberated person makes his own truth.

3. In the same way that you would need to answer "I promised I wouldn't talk about that." to someone who asks about another person's secret, you could simply silently promise yourself that you won't talk about something when it becomes convenient not to reveal the truth. "Does my shirt look ugly to you?" "I promised I'd stop judging peoples clothes." Yeah, that's a weird example, but I think you get the idea. Since this would seem to undercut the possibly liberating nature of the experience, would it be easy to resist "cheating" like this or not?

See above.
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Kinesis
Posts: 3,667
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12/10/2012 2:21:22 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I genuinely don't remember the last time I ever lied about anything. I don't think I do it very often. The only time in my life I remember telling a large number of lies was in secondary school when I lied about why I hadn't done my homework.

Anyways, it should be an interesting experiment. I think stopping lies would tell you how often you rely on lying in your life and what effect it has.
wiploc
Posts: 1,485
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12/10/2012 11:46:06 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 12/10/2012 1:44:13 PM, Rusty wrote:
1. Do you think it would be liberating? Is that the correct word?

If it's liberating, you're doing it wrong. Honesty is not an excuse to be rude.

2. If so, do you think that the embarrassment would outweigh the sense of liberation, or would it depend too largely on the individual?

What embarrassment? What's embarrassing about, "I'm not in a position to answer that question"?

3. In the same way that you would need to answer "I promised I wouldn't talk about that." to someone who asks about another person's secret, you could simply silently promise yourself that you won't talk about something when it becomes convenient not to reveal the truth.

If you plan to engage in that kind of shenanigans, I don't see the point.

Striving for honesty means you'll be making fewer promises. Underpromise and overdeliver For a start, don't call this a "resolution." That way, when you screw it up, you won't have broken a resolution.

Even if you don't think lying is immoral, you want to arrange your life so that it doesn't come up. This may be impractical if you are a spy, a cop, a politician, a lawyer, or a priest. But most of us can strive painlessly in the direction of truthfulness, and I don't see why most of us can't come asymptotically close to the goal.
wiploc
Posts: 1,485
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12/10/2012 11:48:01 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 12/10/2012 2:21:22 PM, Kinesis wrote:
I genuinely don't remember the last time I ever lied about anything. I don't think I do it very often.

This is the goal, Rusty. It's how to live.
Rusty
Posts: 2,109
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12/11/2012 1:03:44 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 12/10/2012 11:46:06 PM, wiploc wrote:
At 12/10/2012 1:44:13 PM, Rusty wrote:
1. Do you think it would be liberating? Is that the correct word?

If it's liberating, you're doing it wrong. Honesty is not an excuse to be rude.

I don't know how to respond to this but to say that you seem to be viewing this in a very narrow way as if I have some sort of malevolent agenda of wanting to adopt a resolution for the purpose of trying to pawn off rudeness as a virtue. It's kind of bizarre. I'm honestly curious about what kind of psychological effect this would have on a person. On that note, why does it necessarily follow from a liberating feeling that one must be "doing it wrong"?


2. If so, do you think that the embarrassment would outweigh the sense of liberation, or would it depend too largely on the individual?

What embarrassment? What's embarrassing about, "I'm not in a position to answer that question"?

I don't suppose anything would be embarrassing about that, but you, again, seem to be adopting a strangely narrow idea of exactly what possibilities might arise from such an experiment, as someone else called it, and I can't really figure out why. Surely there are situations where telling the truth where would usually lie might prompt a good deal of embarrassment.



3. In the same way that you would need to answer "I promised I wouldn't talk about that." to someone who asks about another person's secret, you could simply silently promise yourself that you won't talk about something when it becomes convenient not to reveal the truth.

If you plan to engage in that kind of shenanigans, I don't see the point.

That's what I would think. However, one might have good intentions but find themself caught up in a potentially awkward moment, which is why I asked whether or not the self-defeating nature of these "cheats" would be enough to motivate one not to take them. Not a perfect example, but people who are convinced that they're going to stop smoking can find themselves smoking again, even though they know how counter productive it is to them stopping at that moment. So I'm just curious what people think would happen here.


Striving for honesty means you'll be making fewer promises. Underpromise and overdeliver For a start, don't call this a "resolution." That way, when you screw it up, you won't have broken a resolution.

Of course that wouldn't be the case *anyhow* if one didn't lie, and thus kept the resolution.


Even if you don't think lying is immoral, you want to arrange your life so that it doesn't come up. This may be impractical if you are a spy, a cop, a politician, a lawyer, or a priest. But most of us can strive painlessly in the direction of truthfulness, and I don't see why most of us can't come asymptotically close to the goal.

Noted, however that doesn't have too much to do with my post since I specifically said this is about cutting *every* lie for the next year. This really has nothing to do with how many people are very close and how many people are far away, the ethics of lying in general, etc. I think you're one of the smarter users on the site, but I think you possibly read my post in the wrong light/with the wrong notions in mind. Then again, perhaps I'm misinterpreting you in this response. Guess we'll see.
Danielle
Posts: 21,330
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12/11/2012 8:05:56 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
One of my first conversations with Vi involved asking the philosophical question of whether we would rather have ignorant bliss, or know the painful truth. Of course, I imagine the intellectual-minded people on this site would be likely to choose the truth as she and I both did. However, after more careful consideration, while I'm sure she would still choose that answer, now I'm not so sure that I would. I think it depends on the situation (perception) and individual (how inept they are at handling certain things).

Freedo mentioned that lying can hurt relationships, and that is certainly true. But let me give a real life example of where I think lying might be the better option, pragmatically speaking. An ex of mine and I both promised each other honesty regarding our relationship in general. At one point, I began to question our relationship and wound up liking somebody else. I kissed that person (so some would say I cheated, depending on how you define cheating... I know she would). However the person I hooked up with and I wound up not working out. At all. It was a one-time thing where we never spoke again (probably for the best). They wound up going back to their ex, and I stayed with the person I was already with.

That experience made me and my partner grow stronger. I appreciated them more after that. I realized that I had wanted to be with them and not the other person after all. A few months later, my partner and I were in a similar situation except the roles were reversed. They wound up liking someone else. They didn't hook up with them, but were honest with me about their huge crush and how it was affecting our relationship (making them lose interest in me over an infatuation with the other girl). It wound up REALLY getting to me. I had tremendous trust and insecurity issues with my partner after that conversation. I wound up not being able to get over it, and it definitely came between us to the point where I'd say it even ruined the relationship.

Meanwhile, I know deep down that nothing between them and the other girl ever came to fruition. However just her feelings alone were enough to really change the way I viewed them/us, and our relationship suffered a lot because of it. Of course they never knew that I had actually cheated on them. Was my action immoral? Yes, absolutely, especially because of my failure to keep my promise of truthfulness. However them not finding out about that innocent situation didn't hurt our relationship one bit, and we were both better off and more happy because of it. On the other hand, me knowing about a much less minor offense really bothered me despite knowing it was equally as innocent as mine, or probably even less. I know that looking back, my partner getting upset at my action (if they were to ever find out) would be a waste of time and energy based on the outcome and subsequent positives, but if they had known about it, our entire relationship would have probably crumbled on the spot. So I don't know.

It's really tough to talk about honesty in a pragmatic fashion, because there are so many variables. What about white lies? Lying to protect people? Lying to cover your own a$s for a situation you shouldn't be in in the first place? Interesting topic.
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royalpaladin
Posts: 22,357
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12/11/2012 8:16:56 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
It depends to whom I am lying and exactly what the context is. I don't have a problem with lying to people I don't know or care about or if I am incredibly uncomfortable with the thing being discussed, but if I lie to somebody who is close to me, I feel incredibly guilty and end up outing myself and apologizing 100% of the time. Usually with those people, if I am not comfortable with discussing something, I just tell them that I don't want to discuss it.
Ren
Posts: 7,102
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12/11/2012 8:24:28 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I lie to people who don't want to hear the truth, when I can muster it.

However, I am most often irrevocably honest, and it's not a very popular characteristic of mine.
sadolite
Posts: 8,838
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12/11/2012 9:11:27 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
The biggest draw back about not lying is having no friends but only aquaintences. I live this life. I will never tell anybody what they want to hear, lie to spare someones feelings or cover for someones BS. The positives: You will always be trusted and well respected by people who matter and those who will move you up in life. The second biggest thing is never having to worry about covering up lies with more lies and getting caught. It only takes a second to lose your honour by lying and in some cases decades or never to get it back in the eyes of those who once trusted you who matter. Personal expeience. Never ever lie about your abilities or skills, you will be called on it everytime.
It's not your views that divide us, it's what you think my views should be that divides us.

If you think I will give up my rights and forsake social etiquette to make you "FEEL" better you are sadly mistaken

If liberal democrats would just stop shooting people gun violence would drop by 90%
Sidewalker
Posts: 3,713
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12/12/2012 3:34:41 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
The alternative to lying is being real and genuine, clearly better. Being real and genuine is what is liberatng.

I'm on my second marraige (widowed), so I am an expert on the exception to the rule.

Being real and genuine, truthful, is always best, with the obvious exception of those wife questions that solicit a lie, ones like the "Does this outfit make me look fat?" question. Just think of that as a greeting rather than a question, and there is an expected automatic response, and of course, "Yes" isn't it, nothing makes her look fat, ever. That is more like how a greeting of "How are you" is a greeting, the only acceptable answer is "I'm fine, how are you?", nobody who asks that actually wants to know about your medical history, it's just a greeting, and they just want to be polite and bget past it. So...even if your wife weighs 600 pounds, piutting on an extra hundred pounds doesn't make her look fat, nothing does, the answer is never yes, just accept that.

They say "The truth hurts", well, when the question is "Does this outfit make me look fat?", the truth does hurt, and the one telling the truth is the one who gets hurt, in that situation lying is a matter of self preservation, always lie.
"It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive." " C. W. Leadbeater