Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Where to Draw the Line

It has often been said that "Honesty Is the Best Policy". I could be talking about the fiscal policy of the United States government, the ethical code of conduct which all CPAs are bound to uphold, or any organization's general policies. But, I'm not. I am talking about the underlying policy of all policies, honesty. Honesty should form the backbone of any well thought out policy. The question that has come to my mind is this: when it comes to individuals' daily actions with each other on a personal basis, is honesty always the best policy?

I had lunch with my friend Debbie the other day. She told me that she learned as a young child not to trust adults when she found out that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were myths, fabrications, or, in her young mind, lies. Adults had lied to her, and because of this, she didn't believe anything adults told her for years.

My 15 year old niece is a vegetarian, a very picky eater, and lactose intolerant to boot. Needless to say, she is very thin, which concerns my sister. She won't "eat anything with eyes" as she puts it. To get her to consume more protein, several years ago my sister told her daughter that shrimp don't have eyes, which for quite a while, my niece believed. She loves shrimp, and ate it for several years, but was really mad at her mother when she recently found out that shrimp do in fact have eyes. When does the greater good trump a little white lie, especially when it benefits our children?

I am currently a volunteer at an after-school program for middle school students that runs from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. The kids are supposed to do homework for an hour, and then they have "enrichment" activities for an hour, not necessarily in that order. In one of the activities, they read an advice column in which a young woman wrote that when they were first dating, she had lied to the man who eventually became her husband. At the time the young woman wrote the letter, the husband and wife had been married for several years. The question to the advice columnist was: Should she confess to her husband that she lied to him before they were married, or just keep her mouth shut? Of course, the subject of the lie can be a very important factor in forming an opinion. Let's just say for the sake of brevity that the lie was about another person, however, no one was hurt by the lie she told.

The young people had many different responses to the question, and brought up interesting issues for discussion, including this one: If you were the husband, what would you do if you found out that your wife had lied to you and had not come clean before you were married? Would it matter what your wife had lied about, or would the simple fact that she lied to you and had not told you before you were married destroy your trust in her and ruin your marriage?

I am curious to know my readers' opinions....and to see if anyone in fact actually reads what I write in cyberspace.

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