Home » Letters » Chat On Truthfulness

Question: Sometimes I lie to protect my privacy.
Answer: Perhaps you should just say you’re uncomfortable with the topic or change it?
Question: Sometimes it’s because I don’t wish to discuss a matter.
Answer: You can use the method above, or say you hope to discuss it another time (when you are more ready)?

Question: Sometimes it’s for the sake of the asker, as they might be hurt or affected upon hearing the truth.
Answer: Perhaps you can reveal the part of the truth that is okay at the moment, instead of lying? And reveal the rest when appropriate.
Question: Sometimes, lying becomes an effective way to answer, and to stop any further questioning.
Answer: The main problem with lies, even if they are white, is that they can still lead to eventual loss of trust. Imagine one day, when you want to share the Dharma with the person and the person just doesn’t trust you anymore. That would be unfortunate.

Question: Sometimes, another says something with incorrect information, and I simply continue with the conversation without correcting them.
Answer: If you correct the person politely, I think it will be appreciated.
Question: Sometimes, when I feel the other party is not really interested to know the truth, I might lie, as by telling the truth, the person might feel obligated to show concern, or feel awkward if they are actually not concerned.  One common example is when someone asks, ‘How are you ?’ Usually, our response is ‘Fine!’, a very politically-correct, non-offending answer.
Answer: Yes, this is very common. I usually say something along the line that ‘Life is okay’ or ‘Life is bearable’. It’s honest but doesn’t reveal excess needlessly.

Question: Sometimes, I just say, ‘I don’t feel like talking about it.’
Answer: When you say it while smiling with appreciation, it usually works. The smile helps to dissolve any tension too.
Question: Most of the time it works. When it doesn’t, I lie to give an answer the person is satisfied with, so that they stop asking!
Answer: I think repeating the above works. Sometimes, you have to say the same words in the same manner a few times before the person realises it’s no use to keep asking to get a broken record reply. It helps to drive your message home too. Remember to smile with loving-kindness!

Question: Sometimes I wonder if I’m lying if I don’t tell the whole truth.
Answer: Saying only what is needed is okay – as long as what is not said will not be harmful.
Question: Is concealing the truth also a form of lying?
Answer: If truth is concealed to benefit or protect others, and not to cover up evil, it’s usually okay.

Question: If someone lies to me, most of the time, I would just keep quiet and go along with the story.
Answer: But this is somewhat uncompassionate as it lets the person create negative karma. You can ask questions skilfully and without animosity to urge the person to automatically correct his own words.
Question: However, if we are in an argument, I might blast what I know at the person.
Answer: This sounds like harsh speech? It’s possible to resolve the matter without anger.

Question: Subsequently, I won’t trust the person any more, and would question the person more for everything he/she says.
Answer: It would be better to encourage the person to be truthful the very moment caught lying.
Question: If the person double-speaks, I’ll ask to clarify.
Answer: This is skilful. It urges the person to be more mindful with intentions and speech.

Question: Ultimately, it’s the law of karma at work.  If I’m not truthful to others, how do I expect others to be truthful towards me?
Answer: Good point!
Question: But I also tend to think – If others are not truthful towards me, how can they expect me to be truthful to them?
Answer: Being a beacon of truthfulness and sincerity can eventually attract those who are similar. Meanwhile, the less truthful tend to karmically attract the less truthful.

Question: Very often, it’s when others betrayed your trust, that you lose your trust in them as well.
Answer: Just because someone lost our trust doesn’t mean we have to lose the person’s trust. We don’t have to ‘stoop to their level’, so to speak. Like the lotus, may we be untainted by the defilements of the world, to blossom pure. As taught by the Buddha in the Dhammapada:

Conquer the angry man by love.
Conquer the ill-natured man by goodness.
Conquer the miser with generosity.
Conquer the liar with truth.

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