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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?


Closing Statement from Tabor Williams

Thanks for all the participation and discussion everyone!

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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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