Opinion: Don’t Lie

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To lie is to make an intentionally false or deceptive statement. Lying is common in society and as such it is prudent to consider its ethical implications. I have observed that lying is often unsuccessful, if not counterproductive. As such, I refuse to tell lies because I think they contribute to mankind’s destruction. I have various reasons for reaching this conclusion.

Reason #1: A society that denies truth often degenerates into tyranny or anarchy.

George Orwell’s “1984” is a classic example here. In Orwell’s novel, society is brainwashed as the media and government promote propaganda and lies about the state. I think it’s clear that avoiding the truth is responsible for this society’s problems. People are afraid to speak (or think) their true feelings, so they lie or remain silent. Worse, people lie to themselves when they don’t acknowledge their own lies or those of their peers. This epitomizes how refusing to acknowledge the truth leads to tyranny or anarchy. The society’s restrictive government is demonstrably the consequence of individuals refusing to tell the truth. The lies don’t begin with the tyrannical government. The lies begin with the individual and over time lying becomes the social norm. Once lying becomes the social norm, the political norm follows suit. This lying creates a society in which the state of reality is constantly distorted. Historically, such conditions have produced Nazi Germany (i.e. persecution, scapegoating, and atrocities that became normal over time), and as such I think that it is our utmost responsibility to tell the truth.

Reason #2: The facts don’t change when you refuse to accept them.

When you refuse to accept the truth, this doesn’t change the objective state of reality. For example, one can deny the fact that they have unpaid bills, but that won’t keep the lights on for very long. Additionally, denying your addiction to alcohol won’t save you from fatty liver disease (steatosis). Ignoring problems is a form of lying because you ignore reality in doing so. This wreaks havoc over time because problems don’t solve themselves if you ignore them. In acknowledging the truth, one can effectively diagnose problems, and thus solve their problems with enough effort. A problem cannot be corrected unless it is identified, and a problem is never identified if its existence is denied. Therefore, lying about objective reality is a destructive act because it impairs our ability to diagnose problems.

Reason #3: Lying makes problems much worse over time.

Ignoring your problems will only allow them to grow bigger and manifest, subsequently allowing them to rot away at your being or at society’s expense. Using the aforementioned examples, debt only increases as bills remain unpaid over time. Untreated alcohol addiction only strengthens over time. Further alcohol consumption only degrades your health and reinforces bad habits. Increasing debt hinders economic development locally and over generations, which then harms society. In each case, ignoring the problem only makes it worse because the problem gets bigger if you ignore it.

Reason #4: Lying doesn’t typically work out, or at least not as expected.

Lies may fail to produce the intended results, even if the lie produces the outcome you had expected. Plagiarizing your classmate’s work will help you finish writing a paper, but it certainly won’t help your grade when your teacher notices. Further, you have to remember all of your lies if you want to ensure that they won’t backfire. This may be troublesome. If you make a habit of lying, then it becomes very difficult to recall every lie you’ve told. This can only proceed for so long before others notice.

Reason #5: Lying corrupts social constructs.

Lying corrupts social constructs because lies often undermine trust. Trust governs human social interactions and as such, lying is problematic. You will struggle to maintain relationships if nobody can trust you.

To further exemplify that trust and truth are the pillars of social interaction, refer to close friendships. Your closest friends are the ones that you can always be truthful with and this isn’t a coincidence. Trust greatly enhances the process of cooperation, which thereby allows mutually beneficial relationships to form. This cannot happen if two people cannot trust each other. The threat of manipulation prevents cooperation in trust’s absence.

Reason #6: Even white lies are often unhelpful.

White lies are often not very useful, because a white lie is an insufficient solution to a larger issue. Though they may seem harmless, white lies can be counterproductive. Praising your friend’s (horrible) driving will not help prevent them from crashing their car.

Conclusion

Despite the appeal of distorting reality to fit your needs, lies tend to hurt all parties affected. Lying deteriorates a society by destroying the trust that otherwise holds society together. Lies often prevent diagnosis of problems, making problems worse over time. White lies provide poor solutions to identified problems. Even “successful” lies may produce undesired outcomes. Lies are therefore unlikely to help anybody and as such I implore you not to lie.