When Is Lying Okay?

Megan Mitchell

One day, you find yourself in a small, homey restaurant. Sitting alone with a book and a coffee, you can’t help but overhear the mumbled conversation between the girl at the counter and a gruff sounding man. You glance over, seeing her looking desperately back at you. In a moments notice, she’s on her way to your table. 

“Hey honey, I’m about done with my shift. Are you ready to leave?” She sounds scared, her voice quivering in tandem with her hands. The large man was standing close behind her, glaring. You’ve never said a word to this girl.

Now it’s up to you, you definitely are not a liar, but this girl is obviously in danger. Is it really ever justified to lie? The truth is, it is. Being untruthful is completely justified, in some circumstances, and here’s why: Lying can maintain or protect your relationships, and it can keep people safe and out of trouble. 


Lying can be the only way to keep your relationships, and make them even stronger. For example, being brutally honest could hurt someone’s feelings. If you and another person disagree on something, telling them the truth could make them mad at you. Depending on the scenario, you could even destroy a relationship. A collage of ideas from Time Magazine article concluded that oftentimes, people would rather be lied to than receive the brutal truth. “…few would welcome, searing honesty..,”(Americans Conflicted, 1). Next, if there was a time constraint, lying could be the only way to keep everyone calm. Randy Cohen, an ethics columnist, provides a perfect example. Say your spouse were about to receive a Nobel Prize, if their outfit was less than ideal, you would be dishonest and tell them they look great. (Duffy, 2) Being honest would keep them from stressing. All the time people say, “It’s gonna be fine.” even if they don’t have any idea what’s actually gonna happen. Being dishonest can be the only efficient way to keep people safe, which leads me into the next point. 

Sometimes lying can be the only way to keep someone safe, or even alive. “…we shouldn’t manipulate the truth except at rare times-if you’re hiding Anne Frank in you attic and her life is in danger,” says Brad Blanton, a psychotherapist in Washington D.C. (Ballinger 3) To build on this, sometimes lying is the only way for someone to stay out of trouble and still have any ounce of freedom. In the article, Teens Do their Share of Lying by Loretta Ragsdell, her interviews with a variety of teens give you a clear grasp on how and why teens lie. The majority of them stated that they are dishonest with their parents in order to just be themselves and do what they want for a while( Ragsdell, 7-9) Without the opportunity to lie, those teens would all suffer for just being themselves. 


On the other hand, though, always lying is never justified either. It’s all very situational. Brad Blanton gives the idea that constantly being dishonest can “keep you locked in the jail of your own mind,”(3) Continuous lying makes you overthink, and can even lead to you becoming manipulative. Spending all your time thinking about what you’ve said and who you’ve said it to can distract you from the other important things, that deserve more focus. Therefore, you have to think about when is a reasonable time to lie. 


Some absolutists, like 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, believe in the idea that lying is never the justified course of action (Bok 2). This idea, much like the philosopher himself, is completely outdated. The belief is blind the reality of how often people lie in the real world. Immanuel Kant and those who follow his ideas are completely unrealistic. Take back into consideration, the Anne Frank situation from Brad Blanton. Apply that aforementioned absolutist position. This immediately sheds light on how dangerous and unrealistic it is. Anne Frank and her entire family, along with probably the people who sheltered her, would have been brutally murdered. Sure, most people probably will not be in a position like that, but there are tons of less drastic situations where lying keeps things calm and content. 


To finalize, sometimes dishonesty is the best and only option, and is often completely justified. Recapping, this is because lying is often the only way to keep someone alive and more often out of trouble. Also, lying is completely justified when it can maintain and protect relationships. Now, think back to the girl at the restaurant. Would you lie and potentially save her life? Would you be completely honest and risk it? What if you were the girl in the cafe, scared out of her mind and desperate? Think about it, and you’ll probably agree with these ideas. 


Works Cited

Ballinger, Barbara.  “Brad Blanton: Honestly, Tell the Truth” REALTOR Magazine. 1 May 2010. 4 Nov. 2019. <http://rmo2-dev.ectostarservers.com/news-and-commentary/last-word/article/2010/05/brad-blanton-honestly-tell-truth>

Bok, Sissela.  “Rejecting All Lies: Immanuel Kant” cram.com. 4 Nov. 2014. 4 Nov. 2019. 


Duffy, Micheal; Gray, Paul; Painton, Priscilla; Rudulph, Elizabeth. “The U.S. Political Campaign: Lies, Lies, Lies.” Time Magazine. 5 Oct. 1992. 4 Nov. 2019. <http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,976641,00.html>

“It’s the Truth: Americans Conflicted About Lying” NBCNEWS.com. 11 Jul. 2006. 4 Nov. 2019.


Ragsdell, Loretta.  “Teens Do their Share of Lying” austinweeklynews.com. 24 Mar. 2009. 4 Nov. 2019. <https://www.austinweeklynews.com/News/Articles/3-25-2009/Teens-do-their-share-of-lyin>