Lies - Part 2 (The Granny Scenario!)

In a recent post, we asked a few questions about when it was okay to lie. We received lots of great feedback and discussion on the issue, and so we will continue the discussion over the next few weeks.

When is a fib okay?
Many readers pointed out that a lie is okay when the situation critically demands it. For example - if your life depends on it. We won’t argue with you on that one, but lets put the question in terms of some everyday examples.

The Six Pillars of Character can seem pretty straight forward. But in everyday life, the Pillars often come into conflict with one another. We may need to break one Pillar to uphold another. We may need to lie so that we can avoid hurting someone’s feelings.

Additionally, “white lies” often look very different from the perspective of the person being lied to. Here is a good test: upon learning of the lie, would the person being lied to thank you for caring or feel betrayed or manipulated?

A classic example that many of us have experienced is receiving a gift that we didn’t like. Granny has knitted you a sweater. Not only is it bright orange, it has red kittens on the front of it and it is 2 sizes to small. Granny, who is beaming with pride over her creation, carefully watches you unwrap the gift. She is eager to hear how much you love your new sweater. Do you tell Granny that you don’t like the sweater and risk hurting her feelings or do you lie to her and make her feel good?

Many of us will tell Granny that we love the sweater and compliment her knitting skills. We are willing to lie to spare Granny’s feelings, because we assume that if she ever found out about our fib, she would thank us for considering her feelings.

Before we close this post, lets do a pre-emptive response to those who would suggest a “Granny Middle Ground.” In this scenario, we come up with a reaction to Granny’s sweater that isn’t technically a lie. For example, “Wow, Granny! That is quite a sweater. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of attention by wearing it.” or “This looks like it was a lot of hard work! I’ll really enjoy this sweater.”

Maybe what you SAID wasn’t an actual lie. However, your intent was still to DECEIVE Granny into thinking you liked the sweater. Omitting the truth is still a lie.

Ethics aren’t easy and often times we are required to make tough choices. (And we didn’t even discuss what happens when Granny continues to make you a sweater year after year because you said you loved it so much.)

What do you think? What are other good examples of Pillars conflicting with one another? Do you have a good way to reply to Granny?

Tell us what you think!
JD Stites says:

Sometimes, I think we sell Granny short. After all, she's been around a while. She may have been in a similar predicament herself. And, MY granny had a great sense of humor. Such a sweater might even have been her idea of a great joke we'd enjoy together. I've heard people say 'NEVER assume anything'. I prefer to say 'ALWAYS and NEVER are almost always at least a slight exaggeration'. So, I try to check out my assumptions, before acting on them. And, checking assumptions can be done with sensitivity AND humor. I think it's OK to express appreciation for Granny's effort (even if you'll never wear the sweater) as long as your intent is not to deceive. A few questions may be helpful, eg: 'Granny, what was your inspiration? Have others enjoyed similar designs, or is this 'one-of-a-kind'? Are you test marketing this line of apparel?' Her responses may give you a better idea of how she'll take it when you say something like 'I'll always cherish this sweater and think of the love and effort you put into it when I see it in my drawer'. Maybe then Granny & I can look at a few sweater catalogs and discover more about each other's fashion preferences.

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