opinion tok

Is honesty the best policy?

“No, I didn’t hear him say that about you.”

A little white lie. A small dishonesty. No big deal. It is to protect someone so their feelings are not hurt. It is just a trivial matter anyway.

But what if it was not?

What if that one lie happened to change the course of a friendship or the alter the actions of another? Well, this may sound dramatic, but the point is this: lying hurts. There is no such thing as a harmless lie.

What is the definition of a lie? According to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate dictionary, a lie is “an assertion of an untrue or inaccurate statement… with the intent to deceive,” meaning that any untrue statement told—regardless if the speaker believes it to be true—is considered to be a lie. However, it is true that there are different degrees of severity when it comes to lying. Lying about a crime is much more severe than claiming that a person never said something, but it is still lying nonetheless.

Dishonesty does not just end at lying, even omission of details can be considered dishonest if the intent was to mislead how information is perceived. Although you are not actually saying anything false, skewing the facts to deceive others falls into a similar category where truth is distorted to suit someone. We all know that lying is bad and should be avoided normally, but are there any exceptions where lying is acceptable?

One of the most popular justifications for telling lies is that these “little” lies are not harming anyone and that it is okay to tell lies if it is to protect someone’s feelings, but who are we to judge whether or not to withhold that information? How can we decide for our friends and family what they should hear? Sure, it may avoid some hurt feelings, but, in the long run, it does not really do those people a favor since they might eventually find out the truth and be hurt anyways. We should support people by being honest with them and letting them know what we think is best or how we feel. Not only are you promoting a more open relationship, you are better able to express yourself. Perhaps there’s a grain of salt to the saying that “honesty is the best policy”—wouldn’t you want to know when if a “friend” is toxic or if they are truly looking out for you? Perhaps, not everyone feels this way but I know I would like to know that even if it hurt because I know it will be better for me later on.

Often times, we tell little lies like saying “that outfit looks nice on you” or that someone’s idea is not full of logical fallacies because we do not want to hurt others. While, I do agree that hurting people should be avoided and sometimes, it’s better to just keep quiet, but we shouldn’t avoid speaking out all the time. Sometimes, telling the truth is just easier and probably better in the long run. If these lies are found out, we lose credibility. People begin to distrust what our words and wonder if we are lying even if we aren’t. Losing your credibility in the eyes of others is much worse than the consequences of not being truthful. Your reputation will follow you throughout life and your words and actions really do affect other people’s perception of you.

So why do we value honesty so much? I feel like the answer lies with the feeling of trust. Sometimes it’s hard to know who to trust, especially when everyone is competing for the same colleges or club positions. When someone is always honestly giving their opinions, it feels as though you can trust them and feel comfortable around them. Relating honesty to trust, a open and honest person is less likely to betray others for their own gain and it is easier to open up to them in turn.

When it comes to white lies, it is really not worth it to just to temporarily protect someone or avoid consequences. The truth will likely eventually come to light so why not start off by being truthful because even if we do not see it, lies hurt.

By Anna Yu, Manager
Editorial Cartoon by Jason Yen

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