Is Honesty Really the Best Policy?

So your best friend comes out of the change-room in a hideous outfit and asks “do I look good in this”? OR you get pulled over by a police officer after a quick drink and they ask “have you been drinking tonight”?

WHAT. DO. YOU. SAY? Is honesty really the best policy?

The short answer is a very convoluted and twisted “yes”. The long answer is, well, long.

You obviously don’t want to hurt your friend’s feelings, nor do you want to go to jail for a DUI. So the real question is: should you force out that no? A “no, you look terrible” for that friend that asked how they look? Let’s meet at the fork in the road here. Say you go left with the option of ‘No’. Where does this end up?

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Your friend is now heart broken, after you’ve crushed her self-esteem and will now live life as a hermit avoiding all human contact — well, that’s the worst case scenario. They feel bad, you feel bad, and this whole ordeal is getting pretty awkward in the change-room with all the tears and what-not.

So let’s go the other way: you lie and say “yes, you look pretty good”, thus they buy the horrible outfit and wear it out. So now you not only have to deal with being seen next to those clothes, you have to deal with the outcome of when some stranger makes a nasty comment. Trust me, those looks your friend was getting weren’t the good kind. Now your friend feels bad, you feel bad for them and your BFF questions your fashion judgment, wondering why it is you lied to them in the first place. So either way, both scenarios can potentially end badly, but you only lied in one of them. Kind of like ‘take the lesser of two evils’ sort of thing.

In the police situation, the hint is that if they are asking you a pointed question, they more than likely already know the answer. The tell-tale signs of driving whilst under the influence are pretty obvious, especially to those officers trained in the area (those who would be pulling you over).

So say you say “no”, they whip out a breathalyser and that little lie can get you in big trouble. Alternatively, you say “yes, I have had a bit to drink”. Officers appreciate honesty and depending on your driving license status, you might be just fine to continue on your way, you might not.

Seems pretty black and white, right? Now for the grey. What if the people asking you the question want you to lie?

It’s going to be hard to stay truthful when people would rather hear the lie. Don’t understand what I mean? Example time. The police officer pulls you over with a busted tail light, and asks “you were just on the way to the mechanic to get that fixed, weren’t you”? Now what happens with the fork in the road? That Yes-No sign is spinning and you might as well play Russian Roulette with the outcome. This ending is now up to you. You can be honest and say “Actually, I was just going to leave it,” or, “Yes absolutely, Officer. It will be fixed before you know it.”

In the end they are just trying giving you a second chance. So whether you choose to walk down that no-lie pristine path of righteousness, think about the awkward situation you can put other people in when you do tell the truth. And when it comes to the law, maybe you really should go get that tail light fixed. In the end they are just there to help you.

Now you know one complex answer to “is honesty the best policy”. It is entirely up to the individual, and that individual needs to think of the consequences of either side of that well-travelled forked road before a decision is made.

So maybe next time your friend asks “Do I look good in this?” and you don’t like it, break it to them nicely. Not everybody is cut out for the hermit life.

– Melina

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