Truth has been a great value in our society since time immemorial. Since we were very young we were told to tell the truth, regardless of its consequences. We were even told that, if we told the truth regarding some mischief or something, we wouldn’t be punished. Many times we weren’t, though many times, the mischief was just too great to be pardoned.
In some cultures, telling the truth is not an absolute maxim, though it is encouraged. Some countries have it really bad, for, due to lies, or the absence of truth, officials are impugned and corruption runs amok, thus causing great detriment to society as a whole.
So, is there a happy medium between telling the truth and transforming a fact into what we call a white lie? As we see often, telling the truth at all costs has its costs as well. In our daily lives, there are many circumstances in which telling the truth is not really advisable; on the contrary, it is to be condemned, simply because our truth may hurt someone. We need to be aware that our value may unnecessarily hurt others.
The Buddhists say that there are 3 instances which require our awareness regarding being totally honest:
1. Is it the absolute truth?
This means that we need to be 100% sure that what we are about to say has undeniable facts attached to it. No margin of doubt should exist regarding our facts.
2. Is it absolutely necessary?
This means that unless we are making a difference for the better in people’s lives and consequently, help them in the long run, we might as well not say it.
3. Is it kind?
This means that we need to consider whether we are going to needless hurt people or, on the contrary, make them feel better. No one deserves to be hurt.
Let me give you an example. You learnt that your friend is being cheated upon. Your friend suspects and asks you. Shall you tell your friend? To decide whether you should, answer these questions:
Do you have proof? Are you absolutely sure of this fact? Is telling the truth going to make a difference in your friend’s life, for instance, is this possibly causing a fatal illness? How much are you hurting the other person? Does this person deserve the humiliation which will possibly destroy their lives?
Even if the fact is just a little thing, such as telling your friend this new haircut looks very ugly, perhaps we should guard ourselves. A white lie may be the answer to a tough question to which no answer will do.