Site Map Header

Ottawa Citizen Atricles Tab
Ottawa Citizen Logo

June 19, 2011

Question: Is lying sometimes justified?

 Let us turn the question around by first establishing the importance of truth-telling. The Bahá’í writings have given the highest priority to truthfulness. Consider this remarkable statement from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the son and successor of the Prophet-Founder Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892): “Truthfulness is the foundation of all the virtues of the world of humanity. Without truthfulness, progress and success in all of the worlds of God are impossible for a soul. When this holy attribute is established in man, all the divine qualities will also become realized” (Tablets, vol 2, p. 459).

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement is heavily packed but one key idea comes to mind. Most crimes, or even lesser evasions of responsibility, involve lying. Denial of the truth is usually the first defence of the criminal. Consequently, were the truth always told, crimes would greatly decrease; criminals would always confess; justice would be more easily dispensed. Imagine the increase in peace and security at all levels.

Perhaps the greatest lie is one the one that we tell to ourselves about ourselves. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement implies truthfulness about oneself, i.e. knowing and facing oneself as a human mix of virtue and vice. Those who choose the path to God must be willing to take a serious character inventory, and resolve to overcome those weakness that have delayed moral and spiritual progress and happiness. This personal inventory can be successful only if and when we are willing to be truthful about ourselves. The task is, of course, a most difficult and subtle one because subjectivity has difficulty understanding itself. But knowing oneself, as the oracle at the shrine of Apollo at Delphi commanded, is a worthwhile exercise because it leads to self-improvement.

Truthfulness, then, is a perspective or an attitude toward all life. It is not restricted merely to verbal truthfulness. It involves, as Bahá’u’lláh exhorted, “to look into all things with a searching eye” (Tablets, p. 156). This suggests scientific inquiry as much as avoiding the verbal falsehood.

To answer the question more directly: A doctor might give a patient a hopeful prognosis just to encourage him, even if he were not doing well. Even life-threatening illnesses demand a judicious mixture of truthfulness and hope. - Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen June 19, 2011
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Home     Contact   Site Map    Web Support

© The Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Ottawa, Canada 2011