When we were children, our parents told us that telling the truth is good while telling a lie is bad. However, now that we're older, we see good people lie and sometimes find ourselves feeling uncomfortable with telling the truth when our moral compass is directing our hearts towards telling a lie.
There are two main factors we consider when choosing between telling a lie and the truth: the thought behind and impact of telling the information we choose to give. If someone chooses to tell a lie, that lie can fall in one of two categories: those that are altruistic and well-intentioned are moral, while those that are selfish or meaningless are considered immoral.
In a study conducted by psychologists Levine and Schweitzer, instances when lying is either considered moral or immoral were scientifically identified, hundreds of subjects were placed in senarios that involved deception, and each subject was analyzed to determine whether they judged particular forms of lying as either good or bad. Based on the results of the study, both psychologists concluded that lying is justified when it helps someone when they either might be in or get into a bad situation.
Some scenarios in which lying can be a good thing include:
- when someone's life could be or is in danger
- when pain or suffering can be delayed
- when harm can be prevented
- when national security is at stake
- when social situations seem tough or uncomfortable
Although not all lies are selfish and wrong, it is critical to think about when it is appropriate to lie. Moreover, there is no need to feel guilty about the moral lies we utter, since that feeling will most likely prevent us from thinking rationally about our benevolent objectives and intentions.