The act of lying is something we have all been guilty of, and we will all most likely continue to fall into its seductive trap when it suits our own needs. But is lying, even those little white lies we tell ourselves are ok, ever justified?
Sam Harris has, for this week only, made his essay, Lying, available for free on his website (click here for a direct link to the PDF), prompted by his latest blog post, The Fall of Jonah Lehrer, in which the journalist has been shamed by admitting to fabricating quotes and then initially lying about it. If you happen to miss out on the freebie, it's very cheap (my ebook cost me around 2 pounds).
Upon initial analysis, few will get beyond this sentence without concocting up scenarios in which it seems not only ethical to lie, but imperative. Sam analyses these temptations with his usual wit and razor-sharp logic. Lying is a brief but riveting analysis of the types of lies one can commit and the ramifications they have.
A commitment to not lying does not mean one has to divulge all dark and personal secrets upon request, being honest about not wanting to divulge information is better than concocting a lie to save face. Indeed, being honest need not commit us to acts that only the most socially ignorant would willfully perform, but gives our relationships with others a stronger bond.
Now each time I am faced with a situation in which I am tempted to lie, I feel a pang inside my conscience. I'm not perfect, and it would be a lie to say I have not lied since reading Sam's essay when it was released last year, but each chip in the armour of lying makes me feel better about myself, and I hope I give the impression to others that if they want an honest answer from someone I can be trusted to give one.
As Sam notes in his essay:
Honesty is a gift we can give to others. It is also a source of power and an engine of simplicity. Knowing that we will attempt to tell the truth, whatever the circumstances, leaves us with little to prepare for. We can simply be ourselves.
In any case, read Lying for yourself and see what you think.