My children have caught me telling lies, and as a volunteer religious ed teacher, this is truly embarrassing.
Lori Curley: But I have been thinking it over, and I now have what I believe are exceptions to the Ninth Commandment.
1) It's okay to lie if the person you are lying to is unreasonable. This is known as the "evil dictator" lie.
2) It's okay to lie if it does no immediate harm to anyone and the lie is told to keep some program (like welfare) in place, or to get the liar some benefit (like a cheaper movie ticket or a part-time job). This is known as the "you asked for it" lie, or "YAFI," for short.
About "Evil Dictator" Lies:
A perfect example of an evil dictator is my son's English teacher. The woman demands that he read 90 books of 200-page length by May, handwrite drafts for hours that could be typed in minutes and complete poster projects that keep the whole family up at night screaming at each other about Shakespeare's use of ghosts. When my son fails to complete a task for her, it is perfectly okay to lie to her. "Besides," I tell him, "you are working on your creative-writing skills."
About YAFI Lies:
There are bosses who deserve to be lied to, not always because they are evil dictators, but because they are conduits in a long chain of superfluous programs. Like the manager at the supermarket who demands to know, "Did you ask each customer if they wanted to participate in the shamrock drawing?" This guy is asking for a lie. He does not want the truth. ("No, sir. I think that is a waste of my breath.")
We use YAFIs the most. When the man in the booth asks, "How old are you?" only a foolish (or tall) 13-year-old tells the truth. No one ever gets caught in these lies, because the people in charge don't care. They're like the kids who guard admission to the public pool or public beach -- they do not care if you lie to them. They would rather not get up and follow you to your chair where you supposedly left your tag. They want your lie; they get paid to believe you -- and make no mistake, that is not easy.
The police put up with lies, too. But you know they want them. They have no desire to haul one more jackass in for smoking pot or having a bag of weed in the car. When they ask, "Do you have any drugs in the car?" they want a YAFI: "No, sir, we are just enjoying the music and missed that stop sign."
Warning: There are YAFI-lie pitfalls. Having to accept lies all day can make you angry and cynical. As a teacher, I know this firsthand. Every semester, I have to portray sympathy at the passing of yet another grandparent. Sometimes eight or 10 die in the same week, always close to a pertinent due date. I persevere because some day I hope to be honored at the Oscars. A cut will display me on the big screen: "That is so sad, such bad timing .... Take as long as you have to."
NOTE: It is NOT okay to lie to make someone feel better (a.k.a., the "white" lie).
White lies make people feel better about how fat, ugly, slow, stupid or worthless they are. I try never to tell them. If I meet a person who needs a lie to make them feel better, I try really hard to find something, anything truthfully positive to say, because I think telling a friend who has become dangerously overweight that she "looks fine" is not okay. She may need to hear something positive, but that lie is not good for her. It may be okay with Moses for you to tell these lies, but I teach my children to find the good, true comment to make. ("Your sweater is really yellow.")
When I first shared these exceptions with my children, I worried that I would see an increase in lies, but so far, it has only increased their sensitivity to evil dictators and stupid systems that surround us. Moses would be proud.
|Lori Curley, champion mother of two middle-school teenagers, resides in South Orange, N.J. She holds a Masters in Education and has been teaching writing at the college level for seven years. But can she find a job as a high-school English teacher? Or will she pull her hair out first?|