When Is Lying Okay?

Olivia Petti

Lying-most of us do it everyday whether we are aware of it or not. We lie to control a person’s response and we lie to protect ourselves from the fear of the unknown. But when is it really acceptable to lie? When is lying okay? Some people take an extreme stance, like not lying at all. Take 18th century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant for example. He believed lying was never okay, no matter the situation. Even if it’s life or death. The answer to this question is split in the views of most Americans. In an NBC News article they mention a poll “In the AP-Ipsos poll, 65 percent of those questioned said it was sometimes OK to lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, even though 52 percent said lying, overall, was never justified.” (Americans Conflicted 2). Lying is sometimes acceptable because it can save someone from serious harm, but it can also unnecessarily complicate your life.


 The first supporting point that lying can sometimes be okay is that it can save someone from serious harm. Brad Blanton, a psychotherapist, gives the example of a situation that is a life saving lie – lying about hiding Anne Frank. Blanton is asked the question “Aren’t certain lies worse than others?” (Ballinger 5) during an interview. He responds saying “Yes, but we shouldn’t manipulate the truth except for rare times—if you’re hiding Anne Frank in your attic because her life is in danger.” (Ballinger 5). Now Brad Blanton is not the type of person who goes around lying all the time, it’s actually quite the opposite. Blanton believes in Radical Honesty, which is the belief that you should never lie except on very rare occasions (Ballinger 5). So it is acceptable to lie when it is in a life or death situation.


Another justification for why lying can only sometimes be allowable is that it over complicates your life. In the article “Teens Do Their Share of Lying” they interview teens trying to find out why they lie. They found out that teens lie a lot. But what is the aftermath of all that lying? In the same article author Loretta Ragsdell talks about how they interviewed a college student named Sabrina. She admits to lying way too much as a teenager. But now that she is in college the freedom allows her to have no need to lie (7). So that means she can just go on with life as normal, right? Well actually she says “But now I have to remember the lies I told when I was in high school because sometimes my mom asks about a person or thing I said I did back then. I really have to rack my brain to remember. The worst thing I could do now is to have her find out about lies I told when I was a kid; she would never trust me again.” (Ragsdell 7). By telling the truth now she could risk having her relationship with her mom broken. Instead she opts to continue lying to her mom which leaves her struggling to remember the lies she told and probably contributing to stress. Psychotherapist, Brad Blanton is familiar with this idea. In an interview he is posed with the question “Why is it so terrible to withhold information, especially if it means not hurting someone’s feelings?” (Ballinger 5). He gives a response similar to the teenagers real life scenario. Blanton says “Because it keeps you locked in the jail of your own mind. You have to remember what you told each person. You have to think about what the person’s reaction might be, and you start manipulating information to control the outcome. Delivering the truth is easier, takes less time, and is less stressful.” (Ballinger 5). He suggests telling the truth to prevent yourself from the stress of lying. Evidently some lies only stress you out and complicate things more than telling the truth.


Many people believe that you should never lie. 18th century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant took this absolutist stance on lying. An article about his philosophy states “A lie, even if it does not wrong any particular individual, always harms mankind individually, “for it vitiates the source of law.” Even worse, it harms the liar himself, by destroying his human dignity and making him more worthless than even a small thing.” (Bok 4). Basically Kant believes lying harms everyone including the liar. Now while that is a valid point, if you never lie you can end up ruining relationships or even causing someone serious harm. Let’s go back to Brad Blanton’s example of a situation in which it is permitted to lie following Radical Honesty. He claims you can lie about hiding Anne Frank in your attic. If Kant were the one hiding Anne Frank she would most likely get discovered and killed. But not only that, he could get in trouble for hiding her. In this situation the cons largely out number the pros. This proves it unreasonable to always tell the truth.


Lying can keep someone safe from serious trauma. But lying can also complicate  all aspects of your life causing you a lot of unnecessary stress. This makes it evident that lying is sometimes justified. Lying affects your quality of life. Lying all the time can ruin your quality of living. But in some situations if you don’t lie you may also be harming your quality of life. Lying is not as simple as it once seemed when you were a kid, it is actually quite intricate. So the next time you go to lie think of this: will this lie improve or deteriorate my quality of life?


Works Cited


Ballinger, Barbara. “Brad Blanton: Honestly, Tell the Truth”. RealtorMag. May 2010. 4 November 2019. <https://classroom.google.com/c/NDEyMTI2NjU0NTRa/m/NDY5NzA4OTU4MzZa/details>


Bok, Sissela. “Rejecting All Lies: Immanuel Kant”. 4 November 2019. <https://classroom.google.com/c/NDEyMTI2NjU0NTRa/m/NDY5NzA4OTU4MzZa/details>


“It’s the Truth: Americans Conflicted About Lying”. NBCNEWS.com. 11 July 2006. 4 November 2019. <https://classroom.google.com/c/NDEyMTI2NjU0NTRa/m/NDY5NzA4OTU4MzZa/details>


Ragsdell, Loretta. “Teens Do their Share of Lying”. Austin Weekly News. 25 March 2009. 4 November 2019. <https://classroom.google.com/c/NDEyMTI2NjU0NTRa/m/NDY5NzA4OTU4MzZa/details>