An acquaintance made two statements about the same event. The statements are incompatible. One is probably true. But it’s impossible that both are true. Only question is which statement is the lie and which the truth, and that’s not answerable.
But no, this is not some version of that conundrum in which you have to figure out how to act on a statement made by someone from a tribe of liars and you might get eaten by alligators or something if you don’t guess right.
In this case I don’t much care which statement is true and which false. The specific matter is minor. Nothing is at stake. No alligators are involved. My rambling brain is just piqued by the nature of the lie, which would be very different, depending on which statement is false and which true.
Let’s say that the contradictory statements are:
A. I want X.
B. I never wanted X. I said I wanted it only to help you.
If A was a lie, then it was what you might call a “white lie.” She wanted to do me a favor but knew I wouldn’t accept if she said so openly. If she lied then, she did it “for my own good.”
If B is a lie, then the lie would be told for spite. It would have two purposes. First, to bolster her own image of herself as a selfless friend; second, to try to guilt-trip me.
My question to you is which lie you would find most offensive?
You guys here surely know which kind of lie I’d consider worse. Throwing manipulative spitefulness around in the heat of emotion? Okay, not good. But understandable. Deceiving me into following her agenda “for my own good”? Oh, brother!
For the record, I believe Statement A was true. I was not in any need of her “help” at the time of Statement A and I don’t believe she was ever that kind of deceiver.
I believe Statement B is the false one. If so, good. B is just a nice, ordinary, self-serving, “so there!” kind of lie.
If you also find a “for your own good” lie to be the more offensive, tell me how long ago you started thinking like that.
For me, it was forever. As a kid, I was enraged at the idea that anybody would ever lie or hide relevant facts “for your own good” and back in those days many people did. That was, for instance, at the tail-end of the idiotic era in which cancer patients were often not told they had the disease, depriving them of the chance to deal realistically with their own health or death. But smaller “for your own good” lies were the currency of the realm in many families. I remember being told many of them and (to my utter loathing) having my mother coerce and coach me into delivering some of them myself. There was never a conscious moment of my life when I considered this proper.
Mind you, I’m talking about hiding relevant (to the receiver) information here. I’m not talking about, say, doing anonymous works of charity. (I’ve been the recipient of those — as recently as last year’s roof raiser — and I’m more than grateful. I’ve done them myself in small ways.) Nor am I talking about things like withholding information for privacy or confidentiality, keeping your own counsel, or holding your tongue or being polite when you’d really rather let go with both barrels. I’m talking about manipulating or being manipulated via false or hidden information. I’m talking about being denied the chance to deal realistically with reality.
The notion that anybody believes it’s “good” to hide the truth from people affected by it is so offensive that I can see no excuse for it. The idea that any person or thing considers itself so benevolent, but also so superior as to have the right to deceive for the sake of someone else’s “good” is just a grotesque distortion of how human beings need to relate to one another to have genuinely civilized relationships.
And of course the “good” (if any) usually ends up serving the deceiver’s purposes more than the recipient’s. Funny how that works.
There is never such a thing as a good “for your own good” deception. Ever. Not among individuals or between institutions and individuals.
Disagree with me? Then haul away. I suppose there could be rare, very tricky circumstances where a “for your own good” lie actually serves some purpose that the receiving party would perceive as “good.” Just as there are rare, very tricky circumstances were government secrecy could actually be justified (e.g. a Manhattan Project), while the usual classified-stamped document is an embarrassingly blatant affront to liberty. (Government secrecy sort of being the ultimate in “for your own good” deception.)