Life Advice

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Health & Spirit

When is it OK to lie?

Carolyn Hax on

Carolyn Hax is away. The following is from August and September, 2003.

Dear Carolyn:

Is it ever OK to lie to someone? What if this person is a very persistent ex-boyfriend who is asking invasive personal questions? I just got busted for lying to him and know I shouldn't have lied, but, frankly, the only way to get him out of the way was to lie.

-- Tempe, Ariz.

No, that's a lie you told yourself.

Lying is OK in two general situations, to protect yourself or someone else from immediate danger -- e.g., your friend's abusive spouse asks if you know where your friend is -- and to protect someone's feelings. But even then, a strategic half-truth always beats a lie. (Person who spent all day cooking you a terrible dinner: "How did you like dinner?" You: "You outdid yourself, thanks!") Situations in which it's OK to make excuses for one's own mistakes? None.

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Lying was the only easy way for you to dodge your ex. You also could have said, "I will not answer invasive personal questions, no matter how many times you ask me." Side benefit, it would have advanced the cause of Citizens for Having the Guts to Say What You Mean.

And if he didn't relent, you could have screened his calls/ignored his emails/walked away. And if he still didn't relent, you could have asked the police about anti-harassment laws.

If you want easy, just know your bounds and enforce them. Getting caught in your lie was a hint.

Dear Carolyn:

...continued

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