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draftsman

White lies - legitimate or not?

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Tashi Delek,

 

White lies - e.g. you don't want your kids to eat too much sugar, so you say that all the cookies are gone, although this is not the case. Is that acceptable or not, avoidable or not? What do you think? An article about the topic here.

 

Best regards,

Draftsman

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Hello,

with all what is described in an artcile, I don't see any protection in such lieing; only avoiding to take the responsibility, avoiding to face the consequences. As the mother said: one day the boy will grow up and find out that there are cartoons 24 hours a day on the tv; will the mom say then that those were different times back then or the boy will have to face a crack within himself between the mom's message and the reality? The tv cartoons are not such a big thing, but the truth is. Or the other side of the coin - confusion. To protect someone I too think is a good thing; if indeed that's a protection.

Best regards.

Pamo

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Tashi Delek,

 

I agree, Pamo, because I think very often we use such lies simply to protect ourselves, to avoid unpleasant confrontations or uncomfortable situations; rather that trying to protect the others.

We may also think that we protect someone from some kind of suffering - but many times we only protect ourselves because seeing the suffering of the other would be unpleasant to us ...

 

All the best. :yes:

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Tashi Delek,

 

Would you agree that there are exceptional cases, in which it is better to lie: e.g. the case described in the article, when someone has cancer and doesn't want to upset his relatives (especially if they cannot help him/her and would only get upset). Also, can we say that there is a big grey area between telling the truth and lying? E.g. sometimes might be better not to say anything, instead of being brutally honest (if one has skillful means, of course :prayer:). Than there is the question of how (with which words) to tell the truth. At least (professional) diplomats have this dillema :))

 

And this part: "People who say lying is wrong are often thinking in the abstract. ... Four in 10 people answered that they'd never had to lie or cheat. But one in 10 of those people said in the very next answer that yes, they might have told a lie in the past week." E.g. I park in the city, buy a parking ticket and write the time of the beginning of the parking 15 minutes later, hoping that the officer won't come by so quickly and that I can park a bit longer :blush:.

 

Best regards,

Draftsman

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Tashi Delek!

 

Would you agree that there are exceptional cases, in which it is better to lie: e.g. the case described in the article, when someone has cancer and doesn't want to upset his relatives (especially if they cannot help him/her and would only get upset).

What's the point? If/when they find out he lied, they get upset anyway. Only in another way.

Maybe in the first case they would be concerned about his health and what they can or cannot do, and what his possible death would mean to them etc.

In the second case, they may get upset for not being taken seriously enough to be told such a thing. So in the first case they may develop worry, and in the second case, anger.

So, maybe in the short run they weren't upset, but in the long run they became angry and accumulated more negativity. Can we then say that the lie has been helpful? 8*

 

Also, can we say that there is a big grey area between telling the truth and lying? E.g. sometimes might be better not to say anything, instead of being brutally honest

Being "brutally honest" many times seems to be exactly this - verbal brutality. Masked by the claim: "Sorry, I just told the truth." But if someone claims that s/he is just telling the truth, this doesn't make it true, does it? ;)

Maybe it is better to sometimes not say anything before we are sure our motive isn't simply to hurt by our remark.

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Guest Ani.Chodron

Tashi Delek,

 

Would you agree that there are exceptional cases, in which it is better to lie

I believe that there are exceptional cases when it is better not to say anything à¯Ã‚¿Â½ this does not mean lying. You can say in a polite way that you donà¯Ã‚¿Â½t wish to talk about it. Usually it is not the content but the approach which hurts.

If you have a vow not to lie, this has a very simple meaning: NOT lying. :nono:

 

I think that diplomacy in the sense of adapting facts to the person and situation is a very useful think at any occasion: one person understands things better if you tell a story, another one if you talk as dry and straight as possible. :yes:

 

e.g. the case described in the article, when someone has cancer and doesn't want to upset his relatives (especially if they cannot help him/her and would only get upset).

Who does he want to help? Relatives or himself? In front of the seriously ill or dying loved one, people are often for the first time in their life confronted to the essential questions of life and death. How could be running away from the facts of sickness, old age, dying and other forms of suffering of any help, in the long run?

Another thing is that upset persons can be harmful for the dying moments. :// But there are ways to solve it without lying. A friend of mine asked his wife to tell the friends and relatives just the most basic facts about his hospitalization and that he doesnà¯Ã‚¿Â½t wish to have visits for now. She did it and he died quickly and peacefully, just as he always wanted to. His friends, knowing him, understood him. :bow:

 

All the very best,

chödrön

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Tashi Delek,

Would you agree that there are exceptional cases, in which it is better to lie
I believe that there are exceptional cases when it is better not to say anything à¯Ã‚¿Â½ this does not mean lying.

I agree although sometimes it might not be that easy in real life. But first: about whether one should tell that he has e.g. cancer to his relatives - I would say that it is highly dependable on the people. Some people might take the news good, help the sick person, pray for him etc. But there are some people, who would be full of tensions, worries and then their health could get worse and the sick person's also - since he would see their suffering - and all this because of the news that he is sick. On the other hand, he could keep it for himself, get well with time and after it is all over let the people know what happened and everybody is happy :)). So I would say that there are cases when it might be better not to tell it - depending on the people one is dealing with.

 

But is it possible to stay silent? If someone asks you if you are sick, and you say that you don't want to talk about it, he might understand it as "yes, I am sick" or maybe even as "yes, I am sick too die" - although this might not be the case - so silence could sometimes raise even more (unnecessary) speculations and consequently cause unnecessary tensions ://. If the relative is a kind of person, who would worry himself too much (as described above ;)) maybe better to say no? If one doesn't have the vow of no lying, of course.

 

E.g. sometimes might be better not to say anything, instead of being brutally honest
Being "brutally honest" many times seems to be exactly this - verbal brutality. Masked by the claim: "Sorry, I just told the truth." But if someone claims that s/he is just telling the truth, this doesn't make it true, does it? ;)

I agree, especially when the claim is more subjective. But one (half true ;)) story: a child practices an instrument like crazy - all days, dedicates all his life to it and he really wants to become a musician (let's say that it is not the ambition of his parents forcing him - for the sake of the argument :D). Then the audition for the top music school is on. He comes with his parent and the audition commission tells him to start playing. After 5 seconds they stop him and say: "Thank you very much, that's enough, good bye." The school only takes the most talented pupils and teachers have so much experience that they know right away if the child has potential. It is nothing personal, they are not projecting anything, just applying their knowledge. So, here the mere fact is brutal (for the child). Should they pretend and let the child play longer to give him the feeling that it was close? Maybe in this way he would get the wrong impression of his talent and would in the long term be even more disappointed?

 

Maybe it is better to sometimes not say anything before we are sure our motive isn't simply to hurt by our remark.

I agree - better to remain like the piece of wood :yes:.

 

Best regards,

Draftsman

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Guest Ani.Chodron

Tashi Delek,

 

sometimes it might not be that easy in real life.

I agree. As the others exposed: usually it is a short-term effort which brings a return in the long run. Our society does not encourage long-term thinking. :,(

Usually we plan our future only for the optimal results, we are not used to plan loss, decrease, death and similar. But what is the nature of samsara? If we want to decrease inevitable suffering, it makes more sense to think about the constant pendulum of the 8 worldly dharmas and to keep the middle way. This works for Buddhists and non-Buddhist.*

 

So, here the mere fact is brutal (for the child).

Of course it is much easier to confront a loss of object of our projection if we start realizing impermanence early, with small losses. We could teach a child that maybe he will win, maybe he will loose :dontknow: (what he learns and gains takes place during his practicing) and that he can rejoice about somebody elseà¯Ã‚¿Â½s victory. :applause: (Which is another thing that is not encouraged in our society.)

But if one has never practiced such beneficial views, one is not to be blamed, we can still try to help as much as we can to soothe his/her suffering, keeping in mind the short- and long-term benefit. :bow:

 

But is it possible to stay silent? If someone asks you if you are sick, and you say that you don't want to talk about it, he might understand it as "yes, I am sick" or maybe even as "yes, I am sick too die"

Most of us lack wisdom to see what is the best for the others. We mix momenteraly contentment with more lasting happiness, which rises from giving up some illusions. If one postpones direct confrontation with painful facts of life now, one might prolong delusions even longer. Is this our wish? ://

For most of the serious or terminal sicknesses we can not predict with certainty how they will develop. Often this openness offers a good solution: we can tell the basic facts, the rest is left for each individual to interpret it in his/her own way, according to their abilities and needs. Some will hope for complete recovery, some will contemplate sickness and death. Each can decide for himself/herself. We have different rhytms of growth and i believe that this should be respected. :bow:

 

All the best,

chödrön

 

*The eight worldly dharmas are:

- gain-loss,

- pleasure-suffering,

- fame-its absence or negative reputation,

- praise-critique.

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Tashi Delek,

 

I agree with Ani and also think that the basic problem is the question why to lie. In example in the bodhisattva vowes one must lie in order to save other lives. Let's say a deer or an animal runs by you and some time after that a hunter also goes near you. He asks where did the deer or other animal in that case go. If you tell him the truth the animal will surely die - therefor you should lie in my opinion.

 

But regarding the things you written above - do you really save lifes? I mean confronting people with reallity might be painful but at least it is the truth and there is lesser chance that they would idealize things comming.

 

For example dieing person tells his relatives he's going to die. They know now that for a fact and they can adapt themselves to it. However not telling them the seriousness of the situation might prevent them from praying, helping etc. Those who are not prepared for these things shouldn't be told and the reason - I don't want to talk about it - is quite good. Better that than giving them false ideas and get crushed by reallity later.

 

Talking the truth or staying silent are the best ways there can be - lying should be a resort one takes only to save lives! At least this is how I feel about situation....

 

 

Best regards,

Namgyel

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Tashi Delek,

For example dieing person tells his relatives he's going to die. They know now that for a fact and they can adapt themselves to it. However not telling them the seriousness of the situation might prevent them from praying, helping etc. Those who are not prepared for these things shouldn't be told

I agree that one should tell the truth or be silent if possible. But that might be difficult. Example: a couple married for 30 years, they know each other very well, husband finds out that he has a cancer, but with a great possibility of surviving without consequences (or even a benign sort of cancer). He knows his wife very well, so he can be quite sure that she wouldn't practice or mediate on impermanence - instead she would worry herself to death knowing all this (eventhough knowing that the cancer is not lethal or very dangerous). But she knows him very well too, so she asks him directly, if there is anything wrong with him (physically). Let's say he answers no, she believes him, he gets cured and everything is fine ;). Is there anything wrong with the story ://? Let's say that in another version of the same story he tells her the truth and she experiences lots of suffering and worrying because of knowing the truth, yet later her husband is cured like in the first case.

 

He is supposed to make decisions with the wisdom&experience he has, no? By using them he comes to conclusion that it is better no to tell the truth (let's assume that he is not a buddhist :laugh:)? And it turns out that because of lying he spared some suffering to his wife ://? Ok, this might be too much too claim :laugh:.

 

Best regards,

Draftsman

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Tashi delek,

Example: a couple married for 30 years, they know each other very well, husband finds out that he has a cancer, but with a great possibility of surviving without consequences (or even a benign sort of cancer)
My take: when we are 'in trouble', our loved ones, the people who care for us (and are in daily contact with us), have the right to know that something more serious is happening to us. I beleive we need to be honest with them and not lie. If we do lie, we betray the trust we have with them. Is there anything worse that can happen in a relationship?? Also, by being honest and sincere, the trust and love we have can only deepen, no matter what the consequences of, if i take the above example, an operation. In such a way even some negative karma within the family can be healed, and some positive generated. Let's think like Buddhists and put karma and re-birth into the equasion, i think decisions can be much easier then.

The real problem is being peaceful ourselves in such situations, and have compassion for ourselves and others (relatives, friends). If we can do it, we could maybe even teach them how to be strong, i.e. peaceful and compassionate.

Of course, words are only words (haha!) and actions are actions... (hmmm)

 

Best regards :yes:

Khyenrab

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Tashi Delek,

My take: when we are 'in trouble', our loved ones, the people who care for us (and are in daily contact with us), have the right to know that something more serious is happening to us. I beleive we need to be honest with them and not lie.

In principle I agree with you, but as said it might not be that easy in practice. I sketched a concrete case in order to avoid generalizations, but now I am quite disappointed to see that nobody joins me in praise of many benefits of lying :laugh:. Just kidding :blush:. No, seriously, what would you do in a concrete case described above (tell the truth and cause suffering :ssst:) - follow the rule "by the letter" and by this perhaps disregard its meaning :-)) - just asking, I actually don't know, what would I do in such situation :prayer:.

 

Best regards,

Draftsman

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No, seriously, what would you do in a concrete case described above (tell the truth and cause suffering
I would try to do as i explained. I don't see equals sign between 'telling the truth' and 'causing suffering', they may not even be consecutive (but that is a long-shot). It depends on the people and how they can handle the situation. It can bring them closer together.

Imagine you had a wife who would undergo such an operation without telling you... I wouldn't like it one bit.

 

Best regards,

Khyenrab

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Guest Felix

Tashi Delek!

 

I am quite disappointed to see that nobody joins me in praise of many benefits of lying :laugh: Just kidding
Maybe the silent majority is on your side. :laugh: I'm kidding too. This is a Buddhist forum, our ideal is not lying, but who is able to fully live the ideal?

 

Also, by being honest and sincere, the trust and love we have can only deepen, no matter what the consequences of, if i take the above example, an operation.
I agree. But I would keep in mind that some people feel free to talk about the difficulties they have in school, family etc. some do not. I don't think that opened people are better Buddhists. Maybe they are more honest to themselves. It is not so easy to expose our weaknesses, :blush: it doesn't suit our ideas about who we are. :clown:

Being Buddhists, we can at least train to openly admit our weaknesses (which means acting against our comfort and self-cherishing attitude) while trying to preserve peace. :-)

The real problem is being peaceful ourselves in such situations
I agree again. But hard times are almost a synonym for loosing peace, they are the greatest stress in one's life. Again, we can train now, if we want to be trained later. ;)

 

In such a way even some negative karma within the family can be healed, and some positive generated.
Karma of a family? To my understanding, karma is individual matter.

 

He knows his wife very well, so he can be quite sure that she wouldn't practice or mediate on impermanence - instead she would worry herself to death knowing all this
It's a pity that people often build partnerships as a kind of mother-and-child relationship, very dependent. It would be better to keep the right to withdraw, to be weak, to be wrong... to be a normal human being, with good and bad sides. But this is not romantic enough, I guess. :// I don't think lying helps much, it saves the appearance, while building a thin glass wall between the partners, doesn't it?

 

I strongly dislike being in the position of majority when the balance of opinions is all against one, so I would add also: if one is weak, due to the crisis, and the partner's stress just increases the burden, and because any work on one's weakness triggers a chain reaction of other changes, and because most people prefer suffering they know then a change they don't know, some might not have support, wisdom, trust... I think it's hard to say 100% what brings the best results in the future, even when knowing a particular situation.

 

Respectfully,

Felix

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I would like to point out maybe one other thing...

 

When you think you don't know the person or that you would hurt her by telling the truth - you should rather think if you're not trying to prevent your ego to be hurt. I know in my case that many times when I thought that I would hurt people by telling them something, I actually tried to prevent the changes that were being made to me.

 

About mother son relationship. - if I understood correctly, in all lives that passed weren't all sentient beings our mothers or people close to us? Don't they all deserve to know the truth and not to be lied to (when it is not necessery)?

 

You gave the marriage for example. Isn't the basis for great relationship honesty, reality, love, compassion and openess of ones mind? When you are with person - isn't it easier and nicer if you talk trouble through and give each other advices? When you don't lie you also have nothing to hide, nothing to clear, less to lose... you are able to help and see things more clearly. That is at least in my opinion...

 

 

Best regards,

Namgyel

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Tashi delek,

 

Let's say a deer or an animal runs by you and some time after that a hunter also goes near you. He asks where did the deer or other animal in that case go. If you tell him the truth the animal will surely die - therefor you should lie in my opinion.

 

If such a thing happened in my case, I would not lie about where the deer ran but would openly say that I will not answer that question because I believe the animal will die if I do so.

 

As for the married couple case - if such a situation would happen to me, I would definitely tell my partner about it. of course it would be far from easy and the information would certainly cause him (both of us!) suffering, but still in my opinion such a situation could serve as "a place of healing" and learning about life's impermanence (even if we don't use Buddhist terms for it). and if it happened to my partner, I would most definitely want to know about it too. in my opinion this is the ground for a healthy relationship.

 

I agree that sometimes it would be much easier to simply produce "a small white lie", but why doing so if we know this can only bring us more harm and negative karma?? especially in cases when it is really unnecessary to do so - like with the cookies for a child and with the parking ticket ... (I hope I have been listening to myself carefully! ... :blush: )

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Tashi delek,

If such a thing happened in my case, I would not lie about where the deer ran but would openly say that I will not answer that question because I believe the animal will die if I do so.

By that you're risking that the hunter will go the right way (for him). I feel the same, however to lie is not to answer. I remember Lama Shenphen once said on the teaching that before saying anything count to 10.

When we lie, we should honestly and openly ask our self is it necessary? Will it benefit anyone? For to do something non-virtues we must be 100 % sure that it will benefit sentient beings. Does lying to your children about the cookies help anyone? Instead I think we should teach them about honesty, open relationship. This is my opinion ;) .

 

Best regards,

Namgyel

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I agree with Felix that lying builds a thin glass wall between two people and should therefore be avoided. But maybe we should keep in mind also that the rules are there to help the people and not vice versa. Perhaps sometimes enforcing an abstract rule regardless of the concrete people/situation for the sake of the abstract justice might not be the best thing to do given the concrete cirumstances, although avoiding the rule might also be a very slippery ground, especially in the long run.

 

Another example, which is not connected with lying, but speaks about suitability of the rules. In Africa the percentage of infected with aids is extremely high (in some countries) due to the risky sexual behaviour of the people. The church thought that the right way to avoid further spreading of aids is for the African people to become more responsible. It sounds fine, but the church also refused to give them contraception, refusing the measure since it only helps preventing consequences without removing the deeper causes. Although responsibility is surely the right way in the long term, in the short term this approach is completely unreal and accepting it means giving way to further spreading of aids.

 

Best regards,

Draftsman

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Guest Ani.Chödrön

Tashi Delek

 

Perhaps sometimes enforcing an abstract rule regardless of the concrete people/situation for the sake of the abstract justice might not be the best thing to do given the concrete cirumstances, although avoiding the rule might also be a very slippery ground, especially in the long run.
I agree. Nevertheless, I wouldn't dare to bargain with ethical rules too much. They might seem restrictive - especially when they are turned against our comfort - but their aim is to set the limits to the behavior which can bring negative consequences in the future.

 

Each new lie thickens the glass wall between persons and strengthens the habit of lying. In the long run, this harms the liar (and karma has an exponential growth). I see more need for a flexibility in observing a situation and seeking the right tool and the right moment to help the persons involved, so that they can recognize the source of their suffering and generate a wish to be liberated from it.

 

All the very best,

chödrön

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