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Yokohama: Is it ever OK to lie? If so, when and why?

by Paul Nehls

Leanne Poon, 30
Recruiter (Canadian)
I don’t believe in white lies for the sake of preserving somebody’s emotional well-being. Either they find out the truth eventually and the damage is worse than it would’ve been if one hadn’t lied, or they never find out but one has to always be careful of what to say around that person. Providing selective information is better than lying or making up stories.

Andrea Boco, 26
Student (Spanish)
Of course it’s OK to lie sometimes. Everybody does it. It’s OK to lie when you don’t want to hurt someone. Some minor lies — like the English expression, “white lies” — are not a problem. For example, “No, that dress doesn’t make you look fat” is all right.

Michiko Yamamoto, 41
Nurse (Japanese)
Even if you are really hurt by something, a common lie is where you don’t show anger but instead run or hide from the situation by lying. Instead of making matters worse by being negative, hide your feelings behind falsehood to keep the situation or relationship smooth. I would say uso mo hōben (circumstances justify a lie) when a lie doesn’t hurt anyone.

Alex Oke, 35
University teacher (British)
My philosophy is “Do no harm.” An example: If I’m late and someone’s upset and asks for a reason, I’ll lie to make them less angry — I’m in less trouble, they’re happier, no harm done. If a student tells me they’re late because they overslept, I’d rather they’d come up with a reason that doesn’t imply they just didn’t care enough to wake up and come in on time.

Fuminori Koide, 39
JHS teacher (Japanese)
Telling lies is not a good thing; it has a strong negative image and it is not normally acceptable. However, if I do actually lie, it is usually not for me but to protect someone else — for example, to protect someone who is experiencing bad things, I would lie to keep that information secret from others.

Winson Yip, 20
Student (Hong Kong)
It depends. Sometimes lying as a joke and making fun of others can be entertaining, but you may have to apologize. Sometimes people think you might need to lie to colleagues, but I hope people around me can tell me the truth. If someone is doing something wrong, you need to point it out. Telling the truth then is important.

Interested in gathering views in your area? For details, please email community@japantimes.co.jp.

  • Charlie Sommers

    To see what trouble always telling the truth can get you into I suggest that you read “The Misanthrope” a 17th century comedy of manners written by the French Writer Molière. Telling nothing but the truth may not always be a wise thing to do.