Tuesday, June 01, 2004

On the subject of truth

Many years ago (circa 1991) I heard a talk which changed the way I thought about the whole issue of truth and honesty. It was given by a man called (if memory serves me correctly) Trevor Waldock at a UCCF (Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship) event. One of the four fundamental principles of UCCF is 'a commitment to truth' and the talk was more or less about how to work that principle out in daily living. For example, if you are anything but fine, why do you automatically respond to the question 'How are you?' with the response 'fine'? This is an untruth.

I was faced with one of those should-I-be-truthful situations last night. Some months ago I went through one of my wife's cookbooks (at her suggestion) and stuck post-it notes beside all the recipes that I thought sounded good, or interesting, or worth a try. Last night my wife cooked one of the 'worth a try' recipes. It was OK but, to be honest, I wouldn't choose to eat it ever again. There are many other things that I would rather eat.

After I'd finished eating (and I'd had a second helping because I was hungry), I thanked her for the time and effort she'd put into cooking the meal and trying something new. What I didn't say was 'That was lovely', because the meal wasn't to my taste.

It became clear that this response to the meal was inadequate in her eyes. I tried to explain that I did appreciate the time and effort, but on the whole the meal simply tasted too much of Tahini (sesame seed paste) for my liking. But I seemed to be simply digging a bigger hole for myself...

Essentially what she wanted me to do was lie to her and say that I thought the meal was lovely.

Now, I don't necessarily think that having the occasional secret in a relationship is a bad thing, but withholding some truth from someone is a very different matter to deliberately presenting falsehood. I don't want to lie to my wife. But, in certain circumstances, she clearly wants to be lied to.

I'm not sure I agree with the concept of a 'white lie'. Indeed, 'do not bear false witness' is one of the fundamental principles of most religions, including the one that I adhere to. So what should I do in situations like this one?

If anyone has any advice, please let me know!


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