Generally, when most people object to lying, they think about themselves being lied to – or lied about – and consider lying to be a moral indiscretion. They rarely see themselves as being the liar, nor do they consider how they might even unwittingly or unconsciously be lending credibility to a lie told, whatever its source or intent.
A ‘lie’ is defined as “an untrue statement made with the intent of deceiving; a falsehood; that which creates or is intended to produce a false impression.” (Funk & Wagnalls)
Note that the definition, per se, does not necessarily imply any form of criminal or immoral objective; it merely defines a lie as being a statement that does not represent the reality of a given situation or fact.
Even among the Ten Commandments there is none commanding that “Thou shalt not lie.” However, specific forms of lying are indeed implied in the eighth and ninth commandments, which command that “Thou shalt not steal,” and “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”
Stealing encompasses the use of lying for the purpose of fraud since fraud is a means of stealing through misrepresentation without the direct use of physical force. And bearing false witness is clearly a form of lying that leads to injustice.
It is regrettable that when it comes to these sinister forms of lying, the most glaring examples are to be found in the politics and journalism of the day. Worse, in the wake of a recently adopted philosophy called ‘accountability journalism,’ the creation of fake news has been transformed from journalistic malpractice into a journalistic virtue, while sinister lies told by politicians have long been a necessity for those advocating collectivist ends.
Fortunately, given that they are a fact of life, lies take many forms, and are not always told for sinister ends. White lies, half-truths, lies of omission, lies told in legitimate self defense, lies told to protect privacy or confidentiality – all are forms of lying that play a critical part of most people’s daily lives.
Unless one can be certain that a lie was told for a sinister purpose with dishonest objectives, there’s no single way to view all ‘lying’ in a way that is Just Right, and that’s the honest truth.
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