With Great Dishonesty Comes Great Responsibility

I don’t know if you’re familiar with Fatal Attraction, but the title gives away the plot, really, once you know that it’s a thriller movie and it’s where the term ‘bunny boiler’ comes from. I find the best quotations come from the unlikeliest of places, or those that resonate with me do, anyway. In Fatal Attraction, there’s a moment when Glenn Close is basically getting dumped by a married man, and he’s giving her some vague, aimless excuses full of dishonesty as to why they can’t be together. She replies with “Please don’t justify yourself. It’s pathetic. If you told me to fuck off, I’d have more respect for you.” And Michael Douglas says “Alright then. Fuck off.”

I was brought up around a lot of honesty and a lot of lies, as I think we all are. My mother told me all the time that I must always tell the truth, never lie, never be dishonest. All children lie, though. I remember eating the entirety of my older brother’s advent calendar chocolates and lying about it. Given that I was a tactless fat child, and probably had chocolate smeared all over my face, I was obviously caught out. Honesty is a strange thing though, because it’s one of the few things I’ve never properly known how to feel about. My parents were dishonest all the time. “Father Christmas is real”, they said. “The tooth fairy leaves you money”, they said. “Of course it’s normal for a boy to have a Polly Pocket”, they said. While these are clearly ‘white lies’, and are of no real importance, it does pose a question of whether lying is ever ok, and in some cases, if it’s better to lie.

Lying can obviously be done with good intention. The other week, my mother asked me how I thought the am-dram play was that she performed in. The play itself was dreadful, but her feelings would obviously have been hurt if I’d told the truth (so I will just publish my condemnation instead). It’s such a strange moral dilemma, because I was lying to the woman who raised me to never lie, and yet it’s obviously better that she wasn’t being offended. They say ‘ignorance is bliss’, and I think that’s totally right. But there’s a difficult contradiction in knowing that ignorance is bliss and wanting to always tell the truth. If one tells someone else the truth about something one knows will make them feel bad, is it better to leave them unaware, or is it better to make them feel bad and keep oneself feeling good about being honest? Surely the latter comes with an element of selfishness?

I would say I am ‘pro-dishonesty’. It’s not that I enjoy lying, or that I lie about everything, but lying can be helpful. I don’t lie about important things, like my romantic relationships or health or anything, but in situations where I know it’ll be beneficial. Like telling my mother I enjoyed her play. To keep other people feeling good in situations where they would feel bad if I told the truth and where it wouldn’t affect them later on. I suppose the moral battle here is between the want for people to feel happy and the right for them to be aware. In my experience, I’ve found that awareness and unhappiness pretty much come as a set, so I feel fine with telling people what they want to hear, as long as I’m sure it’s purely beneficial.

It’s difficult to say that honesty has an element of selfishness to it, because I hold it as a strong virtue when considering important things like relationships. I have several friends a lot brasher than I, who will freely tell our other friends when they don’t like their clothes or their hair. If another person is happy with how they look, then I am happy with how they look. My standard is happiness. However, I do have opinions on (for example) clothes and hairstyles like everyone else does. I am still a normal(ish) human, after all. But I wouldn’t give such extreme opinions on that sort of thing – not because I don’t have opinions, but because I care more about the happiness of a person than what they’re wearing. When my brash friends describe themselves in a Jessie J or Tulisa-esque way – “I’m just being honest, that’s who I am” – is that something to brag about? Maybe it is, about important things, but when it’s something essentially meaningless, like an outfit, is there really a point?

Glenn Close does make a good point in Fatal Attraction though. If I was being broken up with in a half-arsed, dishonest way, I’d rather be told to fuck off too. I suppose it’s different when emotions are really involved. Where my heart is concerned, I’d rather know an exact truth, but otherwise I’m happy to live with blissful ignorance that I’m certain some people must give me. Honesty can be bad, just as lying can be bad, and I suppose it’s up to us as individuals to know when it’s ok to do one or the other. I will always fight for my right to be dishonest, though. When dishonesty is used for good.