This repost from Brain Pickings is worthwhile reading, very good food for thought. It’s an interview with Sam Harris, author of Lying, which is available as a free ebook on Amazon through August 5.
As one who has valued tact over honesty in the past, I’m rethinking that stance. I have opinions, biases, associations, memories, judgments, emotions, rules, blind spots, and an internal bullshit detector, like everyone else (I assume). Redefining “the truth” as accurately communicating one’s subjective experience (and presenting it as such) motivates me to be more honest.
Why not share our subjective realities? Why not put my integrity first, instead of protecting someone else’s feelings so they’ll like me? Every interaction between people creates a bit of consensual reality. Why not share what’s really going on? Honesty is liberating. I love those people with whom I can really be myself.
And yes, maybe not everyone needs to hear your truth. For instance, telling your mom’s boss at a Catholic school that you’re an atheist will not go over well, especially when her job is putting food in your belly. But what about your friends and those you’re closest to? Do they know the real you?
At least one study suggests that 10 percent of communication between spouses is deceptive. Another has found that 38 percent of encounters among college students contain lies. However, researchers have discovered that even liars rate their deceptive interactions as less pleasant than truthful ones. This is not terribly surprising: We know that trust is deeply rewarding and that deception and suspicion are two sides of the same coin. Research suggests that all forms of lying — including white lies meant to spare the feelings of others — are associated with poorer-quality relationships…
But what could be wrong with truly ‘white’ lies? First, they are still lies. And in telling them, we incur all the problems of being less than straightforward in our dealings with other people. Sincerity, authenticity, integrity, mutual understanding — these and other sources of moral wealth are destroyed the moment we deliberately misrepresent our beliefs, whether or not our lies are ever discovered.
And while we imagine that we tell certain lies out of compassion for others, it is rarely difficult to spot the damage we do in the process. By lying, we deny our friends access to reality — and their resulting ignorance often harms them in ways we did not anticipate. Our friends may act on our falsehoods, or fail to solve problems that could have been solved only on the basis of good information. Rather often, to lie is to infringe upon the freedom of those we care about.
What do you think? How do you feel about this issue?