When I decided to create a blog I committed to myself to write once a week. In a business mastermind group, one of the attendees asked me, do you really have fifty two ideas. That day I started a list of blog ideas. These ideas were formed from elements of my story, Is This Me? One of the biggest issues for the main character was a choice to omit sharing two key pieces of information from close friends and family. Of the about twenty topics that went on that page, writing about lying felt the most daunting.
Most likely each of us has lied before. Who, as a teenager, hasn’t lied to their parents about why they were late, or whether they’d finished their homework? I looked up several articles on lying and when it may be acceptable to lie. Lying is considered by almost all to be wrong. It was interesting to me to read why that is. I think we innately know but it is hard to put into words. A BBC article on ethics and lying cataloged why lying is wrong, beyond it just being morally wrong, for a society. The reasons include: it diminishes trust between people, alienating people from each other, it treats those who are lied to as a means to achieve the liar’s purpose (think Adolf Hitler), and when a person is lied to they can’t make informed decisions (again Hitler). So lying hurts society because it creates distrust, harbors manipulation, and keeps people from making the best decisions.
Beyond hurting others, lying, even telling white lies causes stress, erodes self-esteem, and distances us from those we care about. In an article for Oprah Magazine Martha Beck writes, “… the truth almost always sets us free. But not all situations demand the same level of openness.” Her rules are: #1 be truthful to yourself, #2 be as truthful as often as possible to a loved one, #3 the more honest you are with acquaintances the better the relationship, and #4 if you want to kill a relationship, lie.
I created a protagonist who lies, and lying may be one of the worst character flaws. The question then became, would a reader like her? Could they relate to her? How could she be described so she would be likable? What facts could I include in the story so that she seemed like a good person? Would a reader assume that someone with good relationships with family and friends be a morale person in general? If you agreed with Martha Beck then it might be true.
Until next time,
You can read more of the BBC article at http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/lying/lying_1.shtml. You can read all of Martha Beck’s article at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/05/when-is-it-ok-to-lie_n_5227369.html.