Saturday, January 15, 2011

Honesty Is the Best Policy

I sat down to think about the title aphorism when I was younger.

I came to the conclusion that I agreed with the statement as written, and disliked how it seemed some teachers were using it. "Honesty is the best policy," does not mean "Always tell the truth."

There are two values of always that I heard used for this interpretation. One: whenever you think of something that is true, you should communicate it to the best of your ability. This may include insults that are untrue, as it is true you have thought them. This is rude. Two: Everything you say should be true. This is unhelpful.*

So I chose to follow what I believe the statement means, rather than how I have heard it used by people trying to get me to be a good girl, because that way is useful and the other is not. I had trouble communicating this for a while because it seemed so obvious to me that that is what a policy is: Something you need a good reason to move away from.
"When in doubt, tell the truth."
--Mark Twain
I hesitate. Nothing has given me any useful information about this, but everyone is so scared; it must be important. I may not pull the trigger, but I'm directing. Whatever happens, I'm responsible.

"Red or blue!" a voice barks over crackly transmitter.

It's hitting me. Everything. I'm certain, for once I can't hide behind error, because I know what button he wants to hit. He wants blue. But is it right? Is that what I should do?


I don't know I don't know I don't know. There's no help I can see from picking one or the other, It's a coin flip, no matter what I do, no matter whether I choose red or blue.

So I assume the worst. I assume that I'm going to choose wrongly, I'm destined.

Do I want look back, years from now, and realize that I destroyed my life because I chose to lie?

I hit the orange button on the side of the communicator and shout, "Blue!"
Or, if you prefer to see how my mind worked through it:

Situation: Someone asks you, "T or F?" This is all the information you have. You know that T is the true answer, and F is false, but you have no idea which will benefit you, anyone you care about, etc., etc. But you do know that one of them will cause a clearly positive outcome. So you make your choice.

The chart that appears in my head:
Going by the T or F choices gives you coin flips, so your choice doesn't matter. So let's look at the +/- rows. The universe is secretly trying to screw you over, and you will lose no matter what. This isn't necessarily true; it's just how you're putting your mind together to limit yourself to that row. All things considered, I'll look back mournfully on the truth easier than a lie.
* e.g. "Do you think I can do well enough to get the part?" asked right before an audition. The true answer is 'I'm not sure,' and silence will communicate 'No.' So you lie, at the very least in the moment, because it is what a good friend does.

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