In traditional education, lying is universally abhorred. Children are taught that one should tell the truth under any circumstances. Such paradigm is usually reinforced with morality tales of liars who suffer terrible punishments. However, when children grow up and become adolescents, they realize that some details do not match in the story they've been told.
The extreme emotionality of teenagers (depression, anxiety, anger) is
linked to their moral awakening. At thirteen, they complain that people
don't follow the principles they preach. At fourteen, they point out
inconsistencies between ideals and facts. At fifteen, they long to see
alignment between purpose and means, but where should they find it?
Predictable and reliable
this context of straight virtues and twisted reality, becoming an adult
frequently leads to disillusionment, cynicism, or sectarian
self-delusion. As a result, truth is reduced to the realm of talk,
actions become unpredictable, and promises unreliable. What an ethical
mess, what an intellectual nightmare.
The moral confusion of our
age is the natural consequence of contradictory premises in our
thinking. You cannot expect people to tell the truth while you overwhelm
them with equivocations and misrepresentations. There is no excuse for
eluding the issue. There is no answer to this dilemma except for that
provided by logic and evidence.
First, the ethical requirement to
tell the truth under any circumstances does not hold water and there is
no evidence that it has ever worked. Such requirement lacks solid
grounds, since it fails to acknowledge the difference between good and
Second, when dealing directly with nature, it is in our own
interest to remain faithful to acquired data and confirmed observations.
Machines and chemical processes operate according to the laws of
identity and causality. In those cases, if you lie, you will simply get
different results or none at all.
Be aware of the context
Third, when dealing with other men,
truth is morally due to those who are themselves authentic and
reliable. The proportion of genuine and benevolent individuals in your
life might include, depending on the context, a few or most people.
Indisputably, you should be loyal and faithful to those who are honest.
about the rest of your social contacts? How should one face individuals
who are evil or misinformed, in numbers large or small? For those
cases, we need to define clear guidelines for ourselves and our
children. For instance, when we have a duty to provide accurate
information, what we should do in case of doubt, and so on.
morality should demand individuals to tell the truth to those who are
trying to do them harm. Equally, no ethical system should require people
to disclose private details to random strangers. Contradictory ideals
lead to depression, anxiety and anger. The key to emotional stability is ethical
We have seen too often what prejudice has to offer.
We have experienced too frequently how chaos arises from contradictions
and waste from inconsistencies. Let us place our principles under reason
and our actions under logic, for no other approach can ever meet the
demands of reality.
For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living
[Image by sneakerdog under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]