Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Pants on fire

When regard for truth has been broken down or even weakened, all things will remain doubtful. —St. Augustine, On Lying
Tonight, the Christian Ethics class at King of Peace will focus on lying. One form of lying even made the 10 Commandments, "Thou shalt not bear false witness." Yet the lie still has a long and storied history as each generation has struggled with those cases where the truth can harm. Then once the door is open to an acceptable lie, how many others slip through?

Think one should never, ever lie? What about an E.M.T. working on a car accident victim with some significant injuries who is also at risk from shock. The victim asks about a fellow passenger who the E.M.T. knows to be dead? Does the E.M.T. tell the truth, risking the health of the patient? Perhaps there are cases where a lie could do more good than harm. What are the acceptable boundaries? Are any lies white lies? Does that make them OK?
Liars usually weigh only the immediate harm to others from the lie against the benefits they want to achieve. The flaw in such an outlook is that it ignores or underestimates two additional kinds of harm—the harm that lying does to the liars themselves and the harm done to the general level of trust and social cooperation. Both are cumulative; both are hard to reverse. —Sissela Bok, Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life


  • At 4/13/2005 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ah, the lie...I would love to say that I don't lie because of faith...but to be, well...honest… I don't lie because of pride. I don't feel I should have to lie about who I am or what I have done. However, on a social level I understand the complexity. A terminally ill four-year-old. Telling a child with no concept of death the truth will only scare the child and not allow for peaceful last days, and in the end, telling the truth will not change the outcome. Drawing the line is where the issue becomes fuzzy. If you can justify it once, you can do it twice. I firmly, firmly believe though that a lie should never be told to avoid personal consequences.


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