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Are white lies acceptable? - Dhamma Wheel

Are white lies acceptable?

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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Stiphan
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Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Stiphan » Wed Jul 14, 2010 11:10 am

"A white lie would cause only relatively minor discord if it were uncovered, and typically offers some benefit to the hearer. White lies are often used to avoid offense, such as complimenting something one finds unattractive. In this case, the lie is told to avoid the harmful realistic implications of the truth. As a concept, it is largely defined by local custom and cannot be clearly separated from other lies with any authority."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lie#White_lie


So are white lies acceptable?

PeterB
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 11:13 am

A white lie is not always about the speakers best interest as they see it. What would you do if a Nazi officer asked you in 1942 if you had any little girls called Anne Frank in your attic ?
I hope that you would tell a big whopping lie in recognition of a deeper truth.

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Stiphan
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Stiphan » Wed Jul 14, 2010 11:18 am

Let me give an example. Someone gives me a gift for my birthday which I don't like. A white lie would be to say to the giver that I like the gift. Is such a lie acceptable according to the Dhamma? Isn't telling him "Sorry but I don't like your gift!" offensive, in which case the white lie is the better option?

PeterB
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby PeterB » Wed Jul 14, 2010 11:28 am

Yes. With all of the precepts we have to ask what is the principle they are pointing to. Not just a literal interpretation of translations of terms pertaining to guidelines laid down 2500 years ago.
This requires thought, calm rational thought to tease out those principles. To assess whether our words are conducive to a greater truth. In the case you have just described the important issue is not a literal voicing of mere facts, but an expression of gratitude that someone has given us a gift at all. The important issue is not to please some imaginary clerk who is recording our actions in the Big Book of Kamma, its to act with an eye on that which is our and others real best interests. And that is not always clear. It requires thought and reflection.

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Annapurna
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Annapurna » Wed Jul 14, 2010 11:33 am

http://www.schmuckzauberei.blogspot.com/

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Stiphan
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Stiphan » Wed Jul 14, 2010 11:51 am

Yes it was helpful Anna.

I was just giving an example. Another example: a woman asks her husband "Do I look alright this evening?". If he thinks she actually doesn't, what should he say?

See, I'd like to know whether white lies are ever acceptable. :smile:

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Alexei
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Alexei » Wed Jul 14, 2010 1:05 pm


Anicca
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Anicca » Wed Jul 14, 2010 1:21 pm


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Annapurna
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Annapurna » Wed Jul 14, 2010 1:29 pm

Ah, so.

Well, in the case of the husband, I would be elegant with her and tell her something like:

"Please don't ask me how you look, because I am biased. I think you look stunning in everything." ;)

But you asked about general white lies.

Like I said before, a harmful truth is not good at all.

I'm forever thankful to a doctor who, when I asked her if I can leave in 2 weeks, for my birthday, she hesitated for a moment, but then said:

"Yes.".

I lay back down, happy, smiling, and thought:

"I can hold out for 2 weeks longer, but not for 3."

Had I known it would be 9 weeks, I would have been crushed, and that would have harmed my healing process.

This was one of the few times when people lied to me, and I was thankful, because they didn't lie for their own gain, but for mine. They gave me 'medicine'.

Forgive me when I quote the Dalai Lama in a Theravada forum once again, but he said something to the effect, that a white lie, if it avoids harm, is allowed, and then he laughed, and said:

"You gotta know the rules very well, so you know where you can break them." ;)

:heart:

Hope that reply was helpful, Stefan.



Anna
http://www.schmuckzauberei.blogspot.com/

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Stiphan
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Stiphan » Wed Jul 14, 2010 2:05 pm


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OcTavO
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby OcTavO » Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:51 pm

I used to find "white" lies acceptable but the further along in my life I get, the more I find truthfulness to almost always be the best course of action. But I think Annapurna's reminder that the other facets of right speech must also be in alignment is invaluable. If a nazi asked if a girl was hiding in your attic during ww2 for example, it's clearly not beneficial nor with a mind of good-intention that you reveal her presence.

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SDC
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby SDC » Wed Jul 14, 2010 4:15 pm


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Sobeh
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Sobeh » Wed Jul 14, 2010 4:33 pm

I wonder if white lies are a form of attachment to rites and rituals, in this case 'social lubrication'.

Mukunda
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Mukunda » Wed Jul 14, 2010 5:38 pm


Mukunda
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Mukunda » Wed Jul 14, 2010 5:53 pm


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Annapurna
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Annapurna » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:01 pm

http://www.schmuckzauberei.blogspot.com/

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kc2dpt
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby kc2dpt » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:08 pm

- Peter


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Annapurna
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Annapurna » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:27 pm

http://www.schmuckzauberei.blogspot.com/

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Stiphan
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby Stiphan » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:36 pm


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SDC
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Re: Are white lies acceptable?

Postby SDC » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:36 pm



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