When we were children, our parents told us that telling the truth is good, while telling a lie is bad. But now that we're older, we see good people lying and sometimes find ourselves feeling uncomfortable with telling the truth when our moral compass is directing our hearts towards telling a lie.
There are two main factors we consider when choosing between telling a lie and the truth: the thought behind and impact of telling the information we choose to give. If someone chooses to tell a lie, that lie can fall into one of two categories: those that are altruistic and well-intentioned are considered moral, while those that are selfish or meaningless are considered immoral.
Instances where lying was considered either moral or immoral were scientifically identified in a study conducted by psychologists Levine and Schweitzer, where hundreds of subjects were placed in senarios that involved deception, and each subject was analyzed to determine whether they judged particular forms of lying as either good or bad. Based on the results of the study, both psychologists concluded that lying is justified when it helps someone avoid a bad situation.
Some scenarios in which lying can be a good thing include:
- when someone's life could be in danger
- when pain or suffering can be delayed
- when harm can be prevented
- when security is at stake
- when social situations seem tough or uncomfortable
Although not all lies are selfish and wrong, it is crucial to think about when it is appropriate to lie. Moreover, there is no need to feel guilty about the moral lies we utter, since that feeling will most likely prevent us from thinking rationally about our benevolent objectives and intentions.