Truthfulness​—Expected Only of Others?

“I HATE lies, and I hate being lied to!” exclaimed a 16-year-old girl. Most of us feel the same way. We like to think that information given to us​—whether by word of mouth or in written form—​is truthful. But do we tell the truth when we pass information on to others?

In a survey carried out in Germany, the vast majority of the respondents felt that “lying on minor issues in order to protect oneself or to protect others from harm is permissible, yes, even necessary so that people get along with one another.” And one journalist wrote: “To tell the truth and only the truth at all times is a noble ideal but boring.”

Could it be that we prefer that other people speak the truth yet feel that we at times have good reason not to speak the truth ourselves? Does it matter whether we tell the truth or not? What are the consequences of speaking what is not true?

Damage Done by Untruth

Consider the damage that untruth can do. Falsehood breeds distrust between marriage mates and among family members. Unfounded gossip can damage a person’s reputation. Cheating by employees raises operating costs and results in more expensive products. False claims on tax returns rob governments of needed revenues to provide public services. Fabrications by researchers ruin promising careers and tarnish the reputation of respected institutions. Dishonest get-rich-quick schemes divest gullible investors of their life savings or worse. No wonder the Bible tells us that among the things that are detestable to Jehovah God are “a false tongue” and “a false witness that launches forth lies”!​—Proverbs 6:16-19.

Widespread lying can cause damage both to individuals and to society as a whole. Few would dispute that fact. Why, then, do people deliberately tell what is untrue? And is every untruth a lie? We will consider the answers to these and other questions in the next article.

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Falsehood breeds distrust between marriage mates