Sunday, May 29, 2011

The many virtues of Lying

(We’ve been fed with the virtues of truth since childhood. But what about the virtues of lying?)

How would you feel if someone told you were not a good person? Or that you don’t look good? Or that you’ll never make it big in life and die a mediocre?

Not so good, eh? It’s always easier to hear good things about yourself than be faced with the bitter truth (this is not to say the above hold true for you). Which is why I say - lying is not all that bad.

To be specific, there are three kinds of lies – the white lie, which doesn’t really harm anyone (even does some good at times), the black lie, which is unforgivable and scars the trust individuals share and the gray lie, which can’t be confidently categorized and is perceived differently by the giver and the receiver of the lie.

It is the white lie and to some extent the gray lie, that I refer to when I say lying is not all that bad.

Some white/gray lies are rather harmless
Human beings are sensitive creatures who derive confidence from appreciation and admiration from others. Sometimes, it is difficult to fathom if the two were genuine or superfluous. But that does not matter much to the heart. The brain may intervene and warn you “He’s just being sweet. That was such a lie.” But your heart is still reveling in the thought that they cared enough to lie. So lies make us happy.

There was a short story I read in school, "The Price of Flowers" by Prabhat Mukhopadhyay that better illustrates my point. It was a story of a poor little girl in England who had an ailing mother. Her brother was in the army and had been sent for battle to India. The mother believed that the author had a magic ring looking into which he could see people afar. One day the girl asked the author to lie to her mother that her brother was alive by pretending to gaze into the ring. The author obeyed. And only hearing those few untrue words, the mother's health was back and she soon recovered. Now didn’t the lie do more good than harm?

Moreover, one person’s lie can be another person's truth. There are only few absolute truths in the world.

When an onlooker encounters a child working in a factory he is quick to condemn it and urge action towards his schooling for a better future. For him, it’s true that the child deserves a better childhood and a better life and it’s abominable that he should be made to work at such a tender age. Hence, ban child labour.

For the kid though, it’s definitely not a pleasant experience. He hates being exploited like a slave but the labour feeds his family. It feeds his hunger. That’s his trurth. Hence, "I would like to have another option but please don’t ban child labour till I get one".   

Bear with me when I say this, but the whole world is living one lie or another.

Imagine your life without lies. No fiction or movies would exist. Except maybe documentaries, though they too show truth only from the filmmaker’s eyes – it may be not be the whole truth. What about jokes for that matter? 

Now don’t all these sources of fun and entertainment take away our stress? Lower stress means a healthier and happy life – and isn’t that what we pursue all our lives?

Economically speaking, lies generate employment. Apart from fiction writers and movie makers, people involved in the advertisement business, the PR business and even lawyers live on lies ;) :-  

Consider these advertisements, for instance – Fairer skin in just seven days (Fair and Lovely) or Kills 99.9% germs in your mouth (almost all toothpaste ads) or longer smoother shinier hair in the first wash (shampoo ads) and so on.

If they start speaking the truth, companies will shut down and millions would be unemployed.
Finally, it takes imagination and a lot of creativity to cook up lies and that in itself exercises your brain cells hence reducing your chances of age-related brain disorders
and you can lead a longer life. So, lies help you live longer too. 

(Interestingly, the fact that I am trying to justify lying when I don’t think lies can be justified, is a lie in itself )


  1. Pure awesomeness!

  2. Loved it..I like all the reasons that you have given..lying surely is creativity..haha..should exercise my brain cells now!! LOL

  3. Brilliant!! Must say one of your best posts till date! And about lying as Krishna said in Geeta...jis jhoot se kisi ka bhala ho woh jhoot jhoot ho ke bhi jhoot nahi rehta :)..though I am terrible at lying I start giggling and go weird...but sometimes I surprise myself when I give a fine performance :D...A total readers joy must say!

  4. Dunno about lying.. but you are surely creatively... one of your best :) The way you have weaved giving exemplary examples :P And I realized you can amazing book reviews and movie reviews.. try once :d

  5. i love d coffee mug .....( nd ofcourse ur article bcz mujhe bachpan se saare english ke papers se pehle tune hi summaries di hn....)...i'm a proud student....:)

  6. @ Tania: Thank you so much! :) Keep reading...will bring you more of it then.

  7. @ Radhika: How about finding the absolute truth instead? That'll exercise your brains harder ;)

  8. @ Newsgirl: Thank you so much! Now I know why Krishna was my favorite character in the Mahabharata :) Ha ha ha! It'll be fun to make you lie then. Some fun's coming your way and ours as viewers :D

  9. @ Dodo: Read "The Open Window" by Saki to see some creative lying :D Will definitely try writing movie and book reviews - always tempted too. I did make an attempt with a review on the movie - Freedom Writers and a review on the TV show - Prison Break. Read them, in case you haven't :P

  10. @ Ridhi: Ha ha ha :D I am proud of you. Thanks for the mug and funny - I don't even like coffee that much ;)

  11. Superb. Lies do prevail everywhere today. That's what makes the truth so powerful. They're two sides of a coin. One might say that lying is a taboo. Do it, but never talk about it, or admit it.

    I loved that story back then.

    This post is as seamless, as straightforward as it gets. Brilliant work!

    Btw, nice coffee mug. :)

  12. @ Ira: In your comments, you talk abt the 'absolute truth', I thought you rejected that notion in the article?

  13. @ Quizzard: Thank a lot :) Well said, that does make the truth very powerful. I didn't get why you can't admit or talk about a lie though - of course later on? Did you like the Price of Flowers or the Open Window?

  14. @Tania: In the article I said - there are only few absolute truths in this world. Didn't reject the notion outright :) I am asking Radhika to go find those. One is death I know. But there are others.

  15. The Price of flowers. The open window was a bit too subtle for my then weak head. :D Took me a while to get the scurrying away thing.

    Talking about it later is indeed an option, but as you get older, the consequences can get more heavier. Imagine a guy admitting to his wife he had a an affair yesterday. Now imagine him confessing ten years later.

    The white lies can do good while people believe them, but they can cause some serious damage when the truth finally comes out. Like a kid finding out the truth about being adopted.

    So I guess confession is an option, but the liar should be aware of the repercussions.

  16. @ Quizzard: Yes true. A lie is powerful as long as the truth doesn't come out. Now the example of the guy having an extra-marital affair and lying about it - I categorise it in black lies, which I didn't touch upon coz I don't think they can be justified.

    As for telling a kid he's adopted, I think he will have to face it sometime because if not you as parents, then somebody else is going to tell him which is going to hurt worse. So lies should be avoided there too.

  17. And there you have it. Thing is, that to the cheating husband, it was a white lie coz he wanted to save his marriage. Whatever the liar lies about, to him/her it's right, as it helps the liar achieve his/her motive. The colour will be white to the liar.

    Whereas the one on the receiving end of it would call it black. It'd take a very strong bond of trust for the victim to accept justification of the lie.

    So I guess my point is, like most other things in life, this is yet another matter of perspective.

  18. Completely agree with you there. Lies are as relative as the truth.

    But I still maintain - the cheating husband's lie is a black lie. White lies are rather insignificant to matter - lies which even if come out in the open later on don't do much harm. White lies are white from both sides.

    Yes, it's a matter of perspective. Almost everything's relative :) what is not relative is an absolute truth.


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