Can one tell a lie if it helps someone or stops someone from being hurt? This is a question many people ask and argue as a justification for telling a lie or lies.
Growing up in the UK with a Punjabi background, lying had always to me seemed acceptable, as long as it didn’t harm anyone; I mean does a white lie really harm anyone? Examples being:
Oh I can’t attend the event today because I’ve got family around (when you haven’t and just feel a bit tired and lazy)
Yeah I’ve done the work, but forgot it, I’ll get it to you tomorrow! (when in actual fact you’re going to go straight home and start it tonight)
Many people will see these as small lies with no bad intentions, the main thing that is happening here is that the person is just looking to avoid embarrassment. However do lies; even so called ‘white lies’; have a negative influence on us as people and our character?
In Sikhi, the concept of Truth is a fundamental principle. It is the base of a GurSikh (Sikh of the Guru). Sri Guru Nanak Sahib Ji (the First Sikh Guru) said that Truth is the highest virtue of all, but yet Truthful Living is higher. The whole point of this lesson from the Guru was to tell us that just talking about Truth isn’t good enough. We must accept this concept and apply it in our Life, we must live a life of Truth; people must meet Sikhs and leave knowing that this GurSikh (Sikh of the Guru) only ever speaks the Truth!
If you as a GurSikh, a person that tell the world that he/she believes in the Sikh Gurus, who gave their lives standing up against oppression and for the truth, and you tell lies, becoming untrustworthily, then what does it tell the world about you as GurSikhs and what does it say about your Guru? Truth isn’t just worth living for, it’s worth dying for; like Sri Guru Ajran Sahib Ji’s Shaheedi (Martyrdom of the Fifth Sikh Guru); Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji’s Shaheedi (the Ninth Sikh Guru); the Four Sahibzadas (Sons of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Sahib Ji the Tenth Sikh Guru) and many other countless Shaheeds (Martyrs).
Can the concept of telling ‘white lies’ ever really be justified? What does any form of lie lead to? Usually more ‘white lies’ and then more and then more, you must continue telling more lies to make sure that the original lie you told doesn’t get out! How can that ever be good? What will that do to your spirituality?
Truth has many meanings, but for Sikhs the fundamental meaning of Truth is VaheGuru (God), if we deny the truth then we deny VaheGuru.
Another example that was given to me which justified it being ‘ok’ for someone to tell a lie was by a Muslim friend of mine. He said to me:
“It’s ok for Muslims to lie if our life is at risk. If someone has a gun and says he’s going to kill me if I’m Muslim, I’m allowed to say I’m not Muslim; to save my life!”
An extreme example of when it may be ok to tell a lie, but a valid one many may say.
I disagreed with him and was very disappointed to find that people that claim to believe in VaheGuru (God, Allah, etc.); the Truth; can argue for a situation when they can deny the truth and tell lies. For me, if people that have full faith of VaheGuru can tell lies, can we really be upset when people lie to us?
Back to why I was disagreeing; if you believe VaheGuru (Allah, God, etc) is the truth and have total faith in your way of life, regardless of being Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jewish, etc. why would you ever want to deny that? Surely if someone has a gun to you’re head and is going to kill you for speaking the truth, surely that is a death worth dying? You are given an opportunity, by VaheGuru, to either; accept his existence and say ‘Yes I’m a GurSikh’ get shot and die or deny him and say ‘No I’m not Sikh, I just don’t cut my hair, don’t shoot me please!’ live and always know that you denied God’s existence and lied to yourself.
I don’t know about you, but I would rather die for something I believe in; rather than live lying to myself! A life of a lair isn’t worth living.