Monday, May 08, 2006

i found this blog that is reliably beautiful: whiskey river. i added a link to the right. anyway, today's poem was lovely. like many of my favorite poems, i'm not sure exactly what it means, but it evokes a feeling of recognition. it reminds me of a feeling i'd never named.

on truth: roommate and i are attempting to sub-lease our apartment for the summer. we wanted to meet the people to see if we felt comfortable with them. this guy emails us regarding the ad we had online--he's a professor, going through a divorce. when he comes over to see the place (and get screened by me) he lets it drop that he has a girlfriend.

roomie and i hope to be married one day, and the fact that this dood has a girlfriend while he's going through a divorce annoys us. so while he seems to be a good guy in all other respects, we decide we don't want him living in our place. and yet--here's the part where the truth comes in--when i write him to turn him down, i don't tell him the truth. i tell him "the apartment is no longer available".

polite society seems to require these small lies of us--less than the truth--to avoid awkwardness...

i didn't want to get into an argument with this guy. i didn't want to confront him about his morality...none of your business--he'd say. i didn't want to stress out a man who's clearly already got enough to worry about.

what do you think?

13 comments:

Wikkid Person said...

It's not "polite society" getting you to lie, it's you using deceit as a tactic.

Wordsmyth said...

I think sometimes it's acceptable to lie. By "lie" I mean half-truths, omissions, AND actual lies.

Intelligence gathering often requires lying; national security depends on it.

And sometimes people ask questions that require a "tactful" answer. Example: "Do I look fat in this dress?"

Sometimes when children hurt themselves and are afraid, it's okay to say "you're going to be okay" even if you're not sure they will be. You can't tell a kid that's bleeding all over the place "looks like you're losing too much blood."

fog said...

i can't wait to hear what mike says to that one...

i agree with you of course...sometimes. sometimes, though, i wish there was just a TAD more honesty.

Wikkid Person said...

well, obviously I'm going to say: Jesus is my example in this, as in all things. He was smart, so he didn't have to lie. Some examples:

"Do I look fat in this dress?" when asked of a guy, isn't usually an actual seeking of professional opinion as to the fit of dresses. It is a grab for a compliment. Saying "You look good" if that's true can sidestep the whole "fat" issue, or you can compliment whatever you can. You can also deflect with a joke.

If a child is scared, a hug is usually better than words anyway. A child seldom asks "Will I be ok?" and if he or she does, is actually just wanting comfort, not your medical opinion. Saying things like "The doctor's coming and he knows lots of stuff" is also good, as if "We'll go to a doctor and see what we can do."

I have no trouble answering the heart rather than the words. I have no trouble not answering at all or deflecting. My relationship with the truth requires me to never walk in lies, though. My nay is nay and my yea yea. Yay.

Wordsmyth said...

hate to pull this tired old example out of the bag, but I'll do it anyway:

You're a Jewish kid in late 1930's Germany. You know that people are being rounded up, put on trains, and never heard from again. Nazis come to your front door and ask "Is your father home?" Your dad is home, hiding in the attic because his co-worker told him "the authorities are looking for you."

What do you tell the authorities? What do you say when they ask, "Do you know when he'll be available?"

Wikkid Person said...

Tell them "He's hiding from you and I'm not going to tell you where he went because I think you're going to have him killed. Why would you do a thing like that?" or something like that.

Wordsmyth said...

call me unethical, but I'd lie my ass off. My pants would just burst into flame. I think God does indeed call us to be truthful, and we are admonished to avoid lying to one another.

and yet ...

I think the fallen state of our world has brought forth certain ... "complexities" that cannot be ignored.

I agree with the idea that sin is sin. but I think a man can "miss the mark" by a millimeter, a centimeter, a meter, etc. Thus, in my mind, some sins are indeed greater than others. perhaps not in terms of separating us from God, but certainly in terms of real world consequences in time and space.

so if my lie makes it less probable that someone will be killed, or tortured, or seriously harmed ... I'll gladly tell a lie.

If it is my own life, my own body that is in peril ... I believe I have more of a choice. put in a position where I had to hoose between having all my teeth pulled out, one by one, and denying our Lord ... then perhaps God might be very angry with me. or disappointed. or hurt. Or maybe he would just understand that I was denying Christ so that someone would stop doing something horrible to me.

I know, I know ... modern day American Christians are so ... milk-toast. we wouldn't know what to do if someone merely threatened to throw us to the lions.

I do believe there is a thing called the "greater good." While it is difficult to define at times, most of us know it when we see it.

sometimes a person can ask "do I look fat?" and the truest, most honest answer would be: hell yes. now take your ass to the gym, immediately. and stop wearing spandex until you've lost 30 pounds. but telling the honest-to-goodness truth would cause discord.

sometimes being charitable means "glossing over", or forgetting, or omitting, or quite frankly, lying. Have you ever said "good morning" to a guy who's a jerk? when you said it, did your really, truly, honestly hope that he had a good morning? or did you just say it to be polite or keep the peace?

fog said...

i agree. to save my life, or that of someone i love? of course.

i guess the lies that keep bad people comfortable are the ones that give me a bad feeling. mike's

"He's hiding from you and I'm not going to tell you where he went because I think you're going to have him killed. Why would you do a thing like that?"

is classic.

today, at a meeting, we (more than 100 faculty) were getting b.s.'ed and pushed around because many of us don't call the guy on his b.s., and if we did he'd deny he'd lied.

lies, vagueness, mischaracterizations.

trust is so priceless...to be able to rely on a person to give you the truth, no spin. how often do we get that? it's precious.

Wordsmyth said...

yeah ... truth is precious. I think we all agree that saying what is true is ideal, and that should be our goal.

and liars can definitely be frustrating.

I spoke to one of my profs about how to handle witnesses who are liars. He told me that it happens often because people will lie to protect their children, sibs, lovers, etc. They have "good" motives in that they don't want someone to go to prison.

The professor said "Never, ever get into an argument and call a witness a liar. Especially if you suspect they are lying to protect someone. But if you know they're lying, you can say something like, 'you and I both know that isn't true. let's talk about what really happened.' Gently but firmly insist upon the truth and quite often, people will tell the truth. Of course, this method tends to be effective with people who are not malicious, and desire to do the right thing.

Wikkid Person said...

When dealing with church elders, I always used the phrase "But, that isn't true." I was always astounded at just how powerful those words really are.

Wordsmyth said...

wikkid, what did they say (or do) when you'd say that? I'm always curious to see how leaders behave when confronted.

Wikkid Person said...

They consistently broke down the facade and were either suddenly "real" with me as individuals, with the understanding that they could not deal with me as people, and as representatives of a group at the same time, or else they aborted the interaction very abruptly, with fear and desperation in their eyes, like they'd found themselves in the middle of a game they didn't know the rules to (truth telling).

To me, of course, they were playing a game I don't play before, not after I said those magic words.

Wikkid Person said...

Or, to be more succinct, they looked at me like I'd brought a gun to a knife fight.