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Tabor Williams

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If you tell a lie and it becomes the truth, does it matter that you once lied?

In the way that some people questions whether or not the ends justify the means, I'm wondering if you tell a lie and it becomes the truth, does it matter that you once lied?

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Closing Statement from Tabor Williams

Thanks for all the participation and discussion everyone!

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    Nov 16 2012: If your lie becomes the truth, what you did initially was to lie. So, morally it was not your intention to tell the truth.
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      Nov 17 2012: So morally it's not alright, but can it be accepted logically or socially?
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        Nov 18 2012: We expect politicians, banks, doctors, businesses, pharmaceutical companies and our lovers to tell the truth; there is nothing as desirable as the truth.
        An intention to misrepresent facts is not good socially, morally or logically.
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        Nov 18 2012: We expect politicians, banks, doctors, businesses, pharmaceutical companies and our lovers to tell the truth; there is nothing as desirable as the truth.
        An intention to misrepresent facts is not good socially, morally or logically.
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    Nov 16 2012: I don't lie. I have with held information but I don't lie even if it is to save my own or someone else's feelings. There are many reasons for this but probably underlying it all is I have a value of trust.

    If someone lies to me, it forever changes the balance of trust. It will always effect what I say and how I treat them in the future. I will pass them over for opportunities and I will not work with them outside of the minimum necessary. If they happen to be family it works the same. I won't invite them so they do not have to lie and I will edit what I say to them.

    I remember learning that people who lie, do so for only two reasons. One, they lie for themselves. Two, they lie for others. For me, whether selfish or selfless, lying is never worth it.
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      Nov 16 2012: Can withholding information be considered lying? A lie of omission? Or is a lie only a falsehood that we tell others with intent to deceive?

      Trust is very important to me as well, so I empathize with your thoughts in the second paragraph of your comment.
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        Nov 16 2012: No because lying is telling a falsehood. Deception, however has a more broad definition and I would be OK if you wanted to call withholding information deceptive. But there is so much out there that is deceptive. If I wear clothes that make me look thinner, heals that make me look taller, arrange furniture so the room looks bigger. All that is deceptive but it is not lying.

        Lying is intentionally delivering false information. Whatever the reason.

        Lying is usually a cheap cop-out wielded by cheap people that want to avoid responsibility. Politicians for instance...
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          Nov 16 2012: No arguing that politicians do indeed lie, usually by bending the truth so that they're correct on technicalities. Or there are just boldfaced lies like in the previous presidential election.
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          Nov 17 2012: During the Old Ages, when you was told to tell the truth under the Eye of God, for example during trial, there was an interesting form of lie : you could start a sentence like "I did not still apples..." and end it in your mind "...last year". It was considered that God could hear all your thoughts, so the sentence as a whole was not a lie.

          So I have a wider definition of lie that "telling a falsehood". I include in lies all informations provided with the intent to deceive, what Linda calls "deceptive things".

          That's because "information" have a variety of forms. Imagine you're in conversation with several people and someone tells a lie : you know it is one. If you stay silent, are you lying too ? What if you nod ? If you mutter a "Mmm" acknowledgment ? If you say "Yes" ?
          My opinion is that it is not worth trying to define a thin line between lies and deception.

          As Linda pointed out, deception is everywhere in minor forms : appearance, advertising, etc. We must simply keep in mind that our perception can be influenced in many ways, that we ourself are biased for a lot of reasons, and live with it.
        • Nov 17 2012: Interesting, I initially disagreed with your position, because I considered deception and lies to be equivocal in the sense that it is about actively trying to get another to hold true an idea you believe to be false through communication.

          Wiki states "The five primary forms of deception are:[citation needed]

          Lies: making up information or giving information that is the opposite or very different from the truth.
          Equivocations: making an indirect, ambiguous, or contradictory statement.
          Concealments: omitting information that is important or relevant to the given context, or engaging in behavior that helps hide relevant information.
          Exaggerations: overstatement or stretching the truth to a degree.
          Understatements: minimization or downplaying aspects of the truth.[1]"

          So here a lie is a sub-class of deception where you actively invent information that is untrue, while concealment has the same ends it doesnt rely on the creation of an untruth in the mind of the deceiver, but in the deceiver providing true information in a way that he knows the receiver will interpret in such a way that they will create the untrue scenario on their own.

          Dictionary.com and Wicktionary do however include any attempt to convey a false impression. If you come at it from a pure communication perspective, it begins to fall back into my original assumption.

          Consider this scenario. The liar has a certain untrue idea he wants to pass on to a receiver. The liar also is aware and adept at rhetoric, the study of the effective use of language. If the liar knows that his untrue idea is more likely to be transferred to the mind of the receiver through omission rather than specifically expressing his untrue idea, doesnt that then become the active (and in a way more intelligent and effective) communication of a untrue idea?

          How then is communicating a falsehood different from telling a falsehood?

          Anyone able to clear this up for me?
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        Nov 17 2012: @ Oliver. I understand your scenario but I would never want to convey an untrue idea. Why would I want to do that?

        For example. I never told my kids there was a Santa. I just did not correct the impression. I played along with their belief because sometimes magic is important for young children in a scary world.

        So I never said there was a Santa and they had to behave or not get presents. I never tried to control them or thier behavior with a lie. But their world had a little magic and sparkle for a time. Then I had to live through the whole consumer-greed stage but they made it through that one too. Now they are beginning to understand that it's not about the getting, but it's about the giving.

        So you see, if I would have lied, when they figured it out, they would have blamed me, and rightly so. AND more importantly, that balance of trust would have been broken.

        Now they are older and see the big picture. There is no anger or blame or broken trust.

        That's the difference.

        @ Jean-Charles
        If someone lies in front of me I always call them out. Maybe not in front of everyone depending on the situation. But I will not tolerate that type of environment.

        I truly believe we teach people how to treat us. If they feel it is alright to lie to me that would be my fault if I did not correct it.
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          Nov 18 2012: I don't think that at a certain point you can teach people how to treat you. People can justify anything, including lying to their loved ones. It has nothing to do with it being your fault. Obviously you'd take steps to make them not lie to you like calling them out or sitting down and having a serious conversation with them like you mentioned.

          Yet I do think we all want to be the change we'd like to see in the world.
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          Nov 18 2012: Tabor,
          We "teach" people, or demonstrate to people, all the time how we want to be treated by accepting, or not accepting certain behaviors. It is not our "fault" when others behave inappropriately, and in my perception, it becomes my responsibility for myself to be clear about what I will accept.....or not. We cannot "make" anyone stop lying. We can, however make it very clear to others what we will and will not accept....like you say...have a conversation with them....let them know that lying is not acceptable. If we are not clear in ourselves about lying....how, why, when, with whom, for what reason... then we cannot be clear with others. What is the "big lie", and what is the "little mundane lie" may not be the same for everyone.
    • Nov 17 2012: Linda are there not circumstances in which lying is a necessity? To take an absolutist stance, in which 'lying is never worth it' seems problematic. Take for example a German during the Nazi regime who is lying to protect a Jewish friend from persecution. In such a case is an absolutist stance valid?
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        Nov 17 2012: No. Most people do not know how to leverage silence. It takes practice but is more powerful than lying.

        The whole Nazi example has been used to justify the philosophical concept of utility. It helps people who feel bad about lying feel better about lying.

        Lying is never necessary.
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          Nov 17 2012: Say that a friend of yours has been really down and out recently, and needs something to really pick them up. They win an academic award, and it puts them in really bright spirits. You're then notified that in reality YOU are the person who won the award, and would you like your friend stripped of the award so that it can be given to you. You decline, letting them keep the award. You then praise them for winning the award, etc. Would that simply be withholding information when you validate their win? Would a lie in that kind of situation be justified? Or are lies never justifiable in your eyes?
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        Nov 18 2012: @ Tabor
        Sorry but my ego is just not that fragile. Awards are just that. They are awarded to someone from someone else. If my friend received the award I would be happy for them. If I knew it was supposed to be for me, I would not divulge that information. I would keep that information to myself and rejoice with my friend. I would not need to have the award.

        I am not making up false information and I am not trying to manipulate the situation. Stuff like that can bring bad "ju ju." I would not be able to live with overturning the award and it would bother me. So I would really be happy for my friend.

        I never said lies were not justifiable. Indeed many people do. They are just not justifiable to me.
        • Nov 18 2012: In regard to the Nazi example, how would one effectively leverage silence?

          Considering your personal preference to avoid lying, would you avoid telling your children that Santa exists?
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        Nov 19 2012: Daniel. Regarding the classic Nazi example. If I were to participate in an illegal activity I would not tell anyone. It really is that simple but most people cannot do that. And here is a little trick I learned. When someone asks you a question, you don't have to answer. You see, silence is as big a part of trustworthiness as being truthful.

        I've been doing this several decades now. It is a very effective tactic.

        When my kids were old enough to directly question me about Santa, I was truthful. But they were well into grade school by then.
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          Nov 19 2012: Hi Linda,
          Good point...when someone asks a question, we are not obligated to answer. I also suggest that we have the ability to re-direct information.

          My mom always used to say that Santa was a "feeling"...a story... and we could carry that feeling with us every day of the year. At Christmas time, as children, we still enjoyed the image and the story of santa, we still got the presents from santa under the tree, and could enjoy the anticipation and joy of the holiday, and I believed, as my mom said, that it is a feeling that we can have throughout the year. She was telling the truth, and we could still enjoy everything about santa that everyone else enjoyed:>)

          This is a story that my brothers, now in their 70s and 80s still talk about because apparently for them, it was a good lesson.

          A couple of them, with a bunch of other young kids, stole some apples from an orchard. Apparently, the owner saw them taking the apples, and could identify my brothers, and not the rest of the group. The police came to our home and demanded that they talk with my brothers, because they wanted the names of the other kids that were involved. My mom told the police that she would take care of punishing "her boys", and they needed to do their job and find out for themselves who else was involved. She could have said "her boys" didn't do it, she could have argued with the police, etc., but she was absolutely truthful, and simply advised the police to do their job and find out for themselves who else was involved. She prevented "her boys" from having to tell on their friends, which she probably knew they would not do...thereby causing themselves more trouble with the police. It's really a silly little story about how we can be totally honest, and sometimes redirect a situation in a more productive way. "Her boys" were punished because they took something that did not belong to them. She made it clear that stealing was not ok AND she did not force them to incriminate their buddies.
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  • Nov 18 2012: Two of the greatest scientific revolutions in the 20th Century started out with lies. General relativity went from an obscure concept to the prevailing paradigm as the result of the lies told to the world by Arthur Eddington, an astronomer who fabricated data from Principe in Africa and from Sobral, Brazil in 1919 just to prove Einstein right. Now we are told that "better data" confirms the theory so the "truth" started out with a lie.

    In quantum mechanics the fraudulent experimental physcist, Emil Rupp, provided Einstein and others with lies that took a decade to unmask. Now quantum mechanics is generally regarded as one of the most well documented, predictive models every discovered---but, it started out with lies.
    • Nov 22 2012: I've googled a bit :
      " Dr Rupp had been ill since 1932 with emotional weakness( Psychastenia ) it was a matter of intrusion of dreamlike states into the area of his scientific activity."
      Interesting ... What about his other scientific experiments , did any of those eventually prove to be not that ' fake ' ?
      Maybe it was not a lie or was it ?
      Thank you for bringing it here !
      • Nov 23 2012: The eclipse data confirming general relativity are dicey because the amount of deflection or curving of space is so small that there are both systematic and random errors that exceed the level of precision necessary to distinguish between the Newtonian, Einstein and Carezani deflection. Think of it this way---it is on a par with attempting to determine the width of a human thumb from 3 miles away with a primitive telescope and hostile environmental conditions.

        In the case of Eddington, Charles Lane Poor, Professor Emeritus in celestial mechanics from Columbia University, indicated that Eddington had thrown out over 85% of the data from Sobral, Brazil to get the numbers he wanted i.e. he threw out all the data differing from general relativity and kept only the data consistent with it!

        What is sad is that Sir Stephen Hawking in his book: "A Brief History ot Time From the Big Bang to Black Holes" said on page 32 that the data "was shear luck...". Later in his homage to Einstein in Time's "Person of the Century" issue, Hawking stated that the eclipse data, "Confirmed in spectacular fashion..." general relativity. When I tried to contact Hawking through his press secretary to clarify his two conflicting statements, he never responded.

        I knew that Rupp was mentally not all there but your research is an interesting side light. Thanks!
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    Gail . 50+

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    Nov 17 2012: A lie is a lie is a lie. Lies are like the invisible hand that are attached to the invisible foot that comes back and kicks you in the behind.

    Lies have their consequences in the life of the liars.

    An opinion is not a lie unless you are intentionally (willfully) ignorant. Then it is as good as a lie and you can't avoid consequences.
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      Nov 17 2012: I do agree that lies have their consequences in the life of the liars.
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        Nov 18 2012: And so does "not lying".

        December is not that far... Go outside and start telling all children that Santa Klaus does not exist :)

        Stop being polite... Go outside and tell overweight people that they are.

        Etc... I'm playing the devil's advocate here, but things are not that straightforward.
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          Nov 18 2012: Dear Jean-Charles,
          Tabor already told us on this thread that HE is the "devil's advocate".

          Which one of you is the REAL "devil's advocate"......don't lie!!! :>)
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    Nov 16 2012: Yes.

    Do you care if someone lies to you?

    When you lie you are deciding that lying is ok, I would lay you odds that at some time in the future someone will lie to you at you will not like it.

    E.G. when I was a kid I broke a bottle at the beach so rather than throw it away I decided to bury the bottle. A few minutes later I had forgotten about it and stepped on the bottle and cut my foot.

    The point is that you will become blind to the areas you DECIDE not to be responsible for, you are deciding that in your world that that is the way it is and you will be saddled with that decision from then on.

    The decision that is going to bite you is when you do something that you don't agree with.
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      Nov 16 2012: Does telling a lie mean that you are always blinding yourself to responsibility? In the video, Mr. Hancock talks about how lies are used in order to gain something. I also believe they are used to avoid pain, or as you say responsibility.

      Do you think that lies can ever be beneficial? Or simply based on a moral grounds, are they always wrong? While we may not always like the lies that we find to be untrue, I don't think all lies are the same.
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        Nov 16 2012: It is not about morality. Morality is what people agree is right and wrong. What I'm talking about is about what you think is right and wrong. I haven't seen the video but in general I don't see how it would be beneficial.
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          Nov 16 2012: Well the problem with my thinking, generally, is that I tend to think very black and white. The world is full of shades of grey, however, which is why I ask. Watch the video, it talks about how often people generally lie, and the reasons why they tend to lie, and how technology is affecting how and when we tell lies.
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        Nov 16 2012: Ok I watched it, seems plausible. Towards the end he said something along the lines of what I said.

        Here is the deal you can choose to be responsible for something or not. If you choose not to it is no problem but if you choose not to be responsible for something in order to hide something you have sequestered yourself and your ability and control and your understanding from that area you choose not to be a part of. If you want to deliver yourself to hell this is the sure fire way to do it. If you want to be happy just be honest and take responsibility. We all have committed transgressions but the only ones that are going to bite you are the ones that you don't agree with and then lie about it. This does not mean that if you are captured by the Nazis that you should tell them that you are Jew as you would then be doing something that you disagree with.
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          Nov 16 2012: The road to perdition is indeed paved with good intentions. Technology is definitely changing when, and how we lie.
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        Nov 16 2012: Yes it is but that is a different subject.

        The technology does not change the principles.

        Go back to 17:50 to the end that is what you need to pay attention to about this subject the only difference being he is talking about what you want your record to be and I'm talking about what you want your future to be.
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          Nov 16 2012: I realize they're different subjects. And I'm not saying that I lie all the time, I just think that it's an interesting question to ponder.Technology does not change principles, but it can change the way we interact with others.

          So then does lying create a future inherently worse than one where we tell the truth? If we tell the truth all the time, are we then living in the best of all realities possible?
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          Nov 16 2012: Well said. It's not about the past, it's about the future.
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        Nov 16 2012: It is in my experience. Just go observe people who you know have little regard for the truth, are they happy or not? And the corollary observe someone that is happy, how do they regard the truth?
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          Nov 16 2012: Does lying signify a moral weakness then? The people who are close to me are very truthful, which is something I value. There's a difference between having little regard for the truth, and rarely not telling the truth. People who are happy and successful can lie their asses off. They're sociopaths, so it doesn't matter whether or not they lie if it advances them. Are there no circumstances where telling a lie could be beneficial?
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        Nov 16 2012: You are over thinking it.

        You mean those people who have to have things to be happy, those people who have to drink like fish to be happy? The people who will explode when you come to close to the truth they don't want to talk about?

        If you ever talk to a sociopath you will quickly discover that they are NOT happy actually they are insane.

        That just ain't the way it is...
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          Nov 17 2012: I think we're getting out of bonds haha. Taking anything to an extreme can serve your purpose. I think you're equating people who lie with those who are fundamentally unhappy, or those who are pathological liars. Can you not lie infrequently and be happy?
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        Nov 17 2012: Yes I am associating the people who lie with unhappiness. No doubt about it. You apparently disagree, my only words would be to look at people who lie a lot just look. Or don't that is all have to say about this.
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          Nov 17 2012: Just trying to engage in a friendly conversation. I don't think the world is so black and white. Thanks for all the comments though!
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        Nov 17 2012: Ok here are the shades of grey. Does your lie cause damage to you? Does your lie cause damage to others? Does your lie cause damage to mankind?

        If you lie about dumping toxin into the river that is much worse than telling someone you are on your way when you are not.

        If you convince everyone that mankind has to change everything because it has been proven that man is causing global warming that is worse than stealing someone apple

        Of course there are shades of grey.
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          Nov 17 2012: So if your lie doesn't cause damage to you, doesn't cause damage to others, and doesn't damage mankind, what inherently makes it bad?

          I don't think convincing people that climate change is real and is happening relates to telling lies, as it's scientifically proven.
  • Nov 19 2012: At the time of the lie, it is a lie.
    If it is to be proven many years later, that isn't known and usually cannot be known.
    It then is no different than the wishful thinking of those who so badly want their "personal experience" to be proof of God!

    I can understand their desire for that, but they cannot prove it, so it isn't.
    Therefore, a lie is a lie. Twisting to somehow verify some part of it that will lead another to believe it more readily as a truth, is still deceiving, misleading and lying. I don't get it. It seems that most must lie to themselves about this idea in order to believe a lie can become a truth. It can't. It's first moment is as a lie. That is its essence. That is what it was conceived for. To say it was for a future identity is a lie, or the same wishful thinking that the mentally ill, religious practice.

    Trust doesn't make a lie a truth. That isn't a criteria. That is practicing deception, or for lack of a better word, lying.
    One is lying to gain trust from another for something else that is withheld by, for lack of a better word, lying.

    Tabor, you never said that you answered when asked if you are proficient at 'sucky' Microsoft Word.
    So you didn't lie. If you said you were, you lied using your analogy.
    You go home and learn it, now you know it should you be asked that question again.
    But, you lied and it hasn't become a truth. The truth and the lie are not the same. If you think they are, then I think you are seriously mentally ill.
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      Nov 19 2012: I never said that I think truth and lies are the same thing, so no need to call me 'seriously mental ill'. That's a very offensive thing to say.
      • Nov 22 2012: Tabor,
        I am sorry.
        I really meant a more collective 'you' rather than you personally.
        But, I sure said it that way.
        I do believe there is a tremendous amount of mental illness present in society and with the Comorbidity Replication Survey indicating that it is now beginning at age eleven in the States, it validates its existence.
        Also, most who become ill by eleven, on average, do not find or get care, diagnosis or treatment for 20 years. This means it has become, or does become "normal" to most, thus, most don't or can't recognize it.

        Again, I apologize for my direct and hurtful comment.
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          Nov 22 2012: It's all good, thanks for engaging in the conversation!
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    Nov 18 2012: Trust seems key and therefore a loss with the lie regardless of it becoming a truth. Beth
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    Nov 18 2012: Interesting poem. Emily Dickinson. Tell all the truth but tell it slant.
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    Nov 18 2012: Lots of interesting thoughts about 'lie' somehow being the opposite of truth. Would like to suggest maybe everyone has their own truth and it is re-inforced by finding others with similar ideas of 'truth'. Maybe question something to do with consequences of statements. Familiar with the saying 'lies, damned lies and statistics' ? Words very open to misinterpretation as multiple layers of meanings, numbers seemingly unambiguous but still capable of being manipulated in the interpretation of end result. Hence scientific experiments always seem to have a 'control' sample as if somehow this would be absolute proof of reactions in other samples. Idea from psychology is 'ripple effect' or 'butterfly' effect. Ownership of consequences of own actions is either brave or foolhardy. Actions always have consequences.
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        Nov 20 2012: Truth is not found in ideas - agree hypothesis always need rigourous investigation and testing before unleashing wild inaccurancies into the world.

        Truth needs no reinforcement - really would hope so but own lived experience often to the contrary.

        Bonus day, thank you for the feedback.

        References: George Orwell '1984', Gilbert and Sullivan 'Utopia (Ltd).
        Summer research: Cultural etiology and artefacts
        Peer supervision always useful !!
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        Nov 20 2012: Further info:

        Maths theory sum is always greater than it's constituent parts.

        Psychology theory - Gestalt - a person is multi-faceted and more than just the sum of their lived experience, personal pain always to be acknowledged as part of person's 'shadow-side' due to consequences on adult persona.

        Personal belief systems always to be evaluated as part of personal kit-bag of resilience in testing times. Person's own self-awareness enhanced by peer feedback as long as peer feedback valid and not just one shadow answering another.

        Well aware of own personal shadow due to family constellation in real time. BTW humour 'cultural conditioning' - going to find appropriate research paper but discussed in 2008 in U.K. media.

        Further reading: (sorry not great referencing but academic paper) 'Is Fat still a Feminist Issue? The Selling of Hope, Fear and Resistance at the Movies' , L. Friend and L. Westgate, Waikato Management School, University of Waikato.

        Paper about resonance of cultural values in cultural products. Academic analysis of Shrek etc.

        Not N.Z. as in Philip Schofield BTW N.Z. as in carefully, researched, debated hypothesis not flash and dash.
  • Nov 18 2012: Please explain to me just how can a lie "become the truth"?
    That seems a lie in and of itself.
    You cannot cover up the truth with the truth.
    You have to use lies to do that. After awhile, a truth about a small part can be injected, thus giving the appearance of truth about the rest of what lies beneath it.
    Lying to children is harmful and I believe the beginning of mental illness in humans, that are not from organic causes. (Not the children. The mental illnesses)
    Later in life, the split caused by early years lying is and can be, manipulated by others.

    However, not all lying is bad as it is to some degree an instinct of self-preservation and self-preservation is not wrong, immoral, harmful or out of proportion unless it grows and becomes out of proportion to its intended (for lack of a better word), usage.

    I just don't see how a lie can become the truth unless one lies to oneself about this idea.

    Deception (dishonesty, lying?) is the active misrepresentation of reality to another persons mind.
    This leads to mental illness which in turn leads to insanity.
    Self-deception is the active misrepresentation of reality to ones own mind.
    The better one becomes at one, the better they become at the other, setting up a horrible cycle.
    Extrapolate this into American culture and society and one can easily see how they reconfirm and revalidate their mental instability and insanity to one another to the degree they cannot spot it any longer in their culture and society but continue to perpetrate among themselves, their children and the rest of the world.
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      Nov 18 2012: Somebody asks you if you are proficient in something, say Microsoft word. In reality you've never used it. You then go home and learn it in a night. When called upon to use word, you're amazing at it.

      Not exactly the best example, but yeah.
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      Nov 19 2012: it happens all the time.

      it all comes down to the ability to verify a statement.
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    Nov 18 2012: Tabor,

    You had an interesting exchange below with Pat Gilbert where you press the question: "Do you think that lies can ever be beneficial?" You also touch questions of improving reality and happiness: "So then does lying create a future inherently worse than one where we tell the truth?"..."I think you're equating people who lie with those who are fundamentally unhappy, or those who are pathological liars."

    Here is my philosophical take on it. I agree with Pat. Lying has to do with happiness. We all perceive reality (what is). We also have desires what the reality should be (what ought). We are happy when our "what is" matches our "what ought" - when reality matches our desires. When it does not, we are unhappy. People deal with it in different ways. Some strive to change reality - work hard, change personalities of others, get things, etc. This rarely leads to happiness. Striving for things becomes our nature, and it's never enough. Some people misrepresent reality to themselves and to others (lie). I think, this dissonance between desires and reality is at the root of lying. Pat's comparison to taking drugs is quite appropriate. Lying about reality may create only an illusion of happiness with rude awakening.

    The third way to happiness advocated by most religions is to be content with what we have and have faith that tomorrow we will have enough to survive. It's about accepting the reality and people "as is", without moral judgments. It's also about accepting ourselves "as is", without desires to be someone else. This way, we won't have the need to lie - enhance breasts and penises, cheat, steal or otherwise try to make ourselves happier than we are.

    Some people say that such faith is self-deception. I don't see it that way. To answer your question, when we "lie" about our attitudes, these "lies" become true. To me, that's totally acceptable. E.g. I may lie to myself that I "love my enemies" and do good things to them.
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      Nov 18 2012: Thanks for the response! I think that you do bring up some very interesting points. So my question would then be, can you "fake it until you make it?"

      I don't think that honesty and happiness are necessarily the same, but they do go hand in hand in most cases.
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        Nov 18 2012: Re: "can you "fake it until you make it?"

        "We can't all, and some of us don't" -- Eeyore :-)

        I wouldn't say, honesty and happiness are the same. I believe, adequate perception of reality is essential for happiness and many other things.
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    Nov 18 2012: [As I can't respond to Mark Meijer, I'm posting this up here]

    I am indeed looking for justifications for lying, because I'm a writer. I'm interested in what makes people tick, and what makes people act the way they act. I've been trying to play devil's advocate, because I truly am interested in people's thoughts on honesty, and lying.

    Honesty about someone's shirt is not pathetic. You're looking at in the wrong way. Absolute truth means being truthful in all instances. It doesn't pit one truth against another on a scale. In the same way that some people believe that all sins are equal. Do I personally believe that? No. But I'd like to understand why people hold the views that they do.

    Thanks for contributing! :)
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      Nov 18 2012: I love Mark's comments. Razor-sharp opinions, clearly stated.

      Re: "Honesty about someone's shirt is not pathetic." There is no such thing as honesty or lying about our attitudes, tastes, preferences, and emotions. They change on a whim. I can make them true or false simply by moving a few mimic muscles.

      I know a person who always answers the question "How are you doing?" - "The best day of my life!" When I asked him why he always says so, he explained that he used to be grumpy, and this is his way to be happier. And, you know what? This answer made me happier too. Is it a lie?

      Some 10 years ago, my wife and I went for a walk downtown. She wore an outfit that didn't seem to me very appropriate. I told her that I'm not very comfortable with it, but not more than that. She still wore it. To my surprise, several random people came up to us in the street to compliment her on her dress - in a good way. Some compliments came from women. Since then I trust her taste more than my own. Honesty about someone's shirt IS pathetic and is not worth much.
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        Nov 18 2012: I wasn't making the comparison that you can pit sins against one another on a scale. I was actually saying the OPPOSITE that sins can't be compared.

        If you're taking the approach that truth comes from words, obviously an opinion on someone's shirt is irrelevant.
    • Nov 18 2012: What is your take on Kant's categorical imperative about telling the truth? For example if I am harboring a Jewish fugitive and the Gestapo asks if you are hiding someone, do you tell the truth i.e. that yes you are harboring someone or do you lie? From Kant's perspective this is no idle question.
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    Nov 17 2012: Tabor,
    "If you tell a lie and it becomes the truth...", it matters to YOU, because YOU have to live with the consequence of the act of lying. I agree with TED Lover that "Lies have their consequences in the life of the liars", and that idea seems to be reinforced with many insightful comments on this thread.

    Very rarely, do people tell one little lie, because once there is a lie, there is a need to keep covering up that lie, so it generally expands. When people lie, they are telling us something about themselves, and as we get to KNOW that people lie, which we eventually do, we learn not to trust that person. So, one who lies, is creating consequences for him/herself. When one lies, it also gets very confusing for the lier....you have to remember all the time what you told each individual person to maintain a coverup for the lie.

    Oliver Murray just posted information regarding "The five primary forms of deception..."
    Lies, Equivocations, Concealments, Exaggerations, Understatements.

    These forms, may at times, have a very fine line between one and the other. The question we can ask ourselves, is what are the consequenses to myself and others with the information I choose to provide....or not. As Linda writes, a lie may "forever change the balance of trust". Is that a consequence we want? What is the point in even taking that chance?
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      Nov 17 2012: I do think that lies do have consequences in the liars lives, but sometimes when you're sparing someone's feelings I don't think it has to necessarily be negative. Liar's who tells lots of lies do have to keep spinning their webs because that's the only way that things won't unravel.

      I don't know why people take the chance of lying given what's at stake for most of their relationships.
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        Nov 18 2012: Dear Tabor,
        You say you recognize that lies have consequences in the liars lives....BUT...sometimes you're sparing someone's feelings. Lying does NOT spare anyone's feelings but your own. Would you like it if people lied to you to spare your feelings? Or would you prefer that people are truthful to you? Personally, I prefer that people are honest with me. As a person with the potential to lie (it's always a choice), I prefer NOT to keep spinning webs in my own life experience.

        I suggest that people take the chance of lying, because they want to take care of themselves in the moment and they are not considering the consequences.
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          Nov 18 2012: If someone asks you a mundane question like what do you think of X? when you know it is something they're into, how is it wrong to tell them you like it (thinking in terms of how it will work/be for them). Do you think absolute truth is required to be considered an honest person? What if they are considering the consequences, and decide that the upside outweighs the downside?

          I do prefer people be honest with me, but I'm not going to fool myself into thinking everyone in my life is 100% honest with me, and has never spared my feelings.
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        Nov 18 2012: Tabor,
        You ask..."If someone asks you a mundane question like what do you think of X? when you know it is something they're into, how is it wrong to tell them you like it (thinking in terms of how it will work/be for them). Do you think absolute truth is required to be considered an honest person? What if they are considering the consequences, and decide that the upside outweighs the downside?"

        First of all, I'm not judging anyone to be "right" or "wrong". The discussion question is..."If you tell a lie and it becomes the truth, does it matter that you once lied?" I have addressed your question.

        To address your recent question...
        If a person is really into something and they are considering the consequences to make a decision, it may NOT be a "mundane question", as you say, so why not tell the truth? As I said in another comment..."What is the "big lie", and what is the "little mundane lie" may not be the same for everyone." You may be judging something to be insignificant, so you may think it's ok to lie about it, when, in fact, it may be very important to another person. With your lie, you could be influencing something really very significant in that person's life.

        I TOTALLY agree with Mark, that you are looking for all kinds of imaginable justifications for lieing Tabor, and I read your reply to Mark... "[As I can't respond to Mark Meijer, I'm posting this up here]"

        Mark,
        Regarding your comment: "Colleen, I think you made some good points there (although I've been honest with you before and you didn't seem to prefer it then)."

        I've always enjoyed reading your comments and perspective Mark, which is why I encouraged you to continue with TED way back when you seemed frustrated with TED, and considering leaving the forum. I don't always agree with you, and I've been honest about that:>)
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          Nov 18 2012: I am indeed looking for justifications. Thanks for the response!
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    Nov 17 2012: I consider that the lie is "the delivery of an information that is knowingly incorrect/misleading". So it depends of the liar's perception/representation of reality. I you decided to lie, you cannot argue that the information bacame true : you moral decision is in the past and the future cannot change it, that would be too easy : after all, "on the long-term, we're all dead", so no decision matter ? If you provided wrong information while believing it to be correct, it's not a lie.

    Now, you cannot make the lie vanish, but "does it matter" is another point. You can consider the outcome of the lie and fell that things are better now than if you had not told it, but that's a strict act-utilitarian point of view. If you are more sensitive to the moral wrongness that to the issue, you'll regret it forever. That said, if you lied, that mean that you allowed it to yourself and you're not in this case...

    "You should never lie, except on exceptions." is the paradox for most of us...
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      Nov 17 2012: So then regardless of what happens after the lie, the only moment that matters is when you tell the lie?
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        Nov 18 2012: Do not mix two things :
        - the act of lying
        - the consequences of your lie.

        The act by itself cannot be undone. You decided to deceive someone, and that decision was yours. So that will stay as a fact in your mind.

        Now, the consequences are something else : there may be good consequences that you expected and morally compensate your lie (if you lied to avoid someone's death, I consider it as perfectly ok in my moral system). There may be other consequences like self-interest, that are less morally eligible to compensate the lie. There may be unexpected consequences that you may feel very responsible for because your lie (strangely, we are less guilty about the consequences of speaking the truth).

        So to sum up : yes, the only moment that matters is when you tell the lie. After that, it's all about how you can handle it...

        By the way, there is a debate regarding lies where you may find some matter too :
        http://www.ted.com/conversations/14890/telling_the_truth_are_there_l.html