Make a promise to yourself that you will not be someone else’s prey.
Sun Tsu, in his book “The Art of War” says ‘that if you are weak you must appear strong, if you are strong appear weak’. You want enemies to make bad decisions therefore you deceive them whether by direct lies or not. My father told a story from WW2. I don’t know if he was involved in this battle or not. He said when the Americans looked across the river, they didn’t see many German soldiers. They saw some, but it was mostly empty fields of long grass. The American commander made the decision to attack at that place. He discovered at the cost of his men’s lives, that the German commander had hidden most of his troops in the long grass. The enemy commander didn’t lie but be deceived. The German was strong but appeared weak. That is how to treat enemies. That is how everyone treats their enemies.
Predator and prey alike use deception. Tigers and polar bears are very strong. They still wear camouflage so they can get closer to their prey. Zebras and deer are not strong. They wear camouflage to hid from their predators. It is a law of nature that we deceive both predators and prey. If someone is deceiving you they consider you one of those two. If you are not a predator to them you are prey.
Deception in the news
One area where people use deception instead of lies is in journalism. News organizations lie on occasion but they don’t like to. They know they will pay a penalty when the lie is discovered. People will rightly decide that they can’t be trusted. If they can, they deceive instead of lie.
I read an article on global warming that used deception. Global warming as a major political issue is now 34 years old. Some of the predictions made 34 years ago should have come true by now. The actual rise in global temperatures is well below what was predicted by the people who claim we need to de-industrialize to save the planet. To defend the accuracy of the predictions the writer said the temperature was tracking the lowest models. It was a true statement but deceptive. What the writer did not say is that the lowest model was the one projected by Russian scientists. Russia is a cold country that produces a lot of oil and gas. It is in their best interests to not be concerned about global warming. The predicted rise in temperatures due to CO2 by the Russian scientists is very low. It may be a cause for concern but it is not planet threatening. The writer spoke the truth. The actual temperature was ‘tracking’ the lowest of the models but the lowest models also show that CO2 is not much of a concern. The models that predicted a temperature rise that would cause catastrophe were all wrong. By concealing that fact the writer was treating their readers as prey.
Another article I read that deceived was about genetically modified organisms. The writer said ‘studies coming out of Europe indicate that GMOs did this or that harmful thing’. There probably were some not very well designed studies done in Europe that showed some harmful affects. So the statement was probably true. It was still deceptive. When someone knows that the truth is on their side they cite a specific study so that the reader can look it up and read it. When they know their evidence is very weak they use hard to disprove statements like ‘indications are’. That writer too, considered their readers as enemies to be deceived.
Unfortunately I think most journalists view their audience as prey. I think most of them became journalists because they saw it as a powerful position. If you read an opinion in a pamphlet handed out by proselytizer for an ideology you would be on your guard. The same message delivered by a news organization is much more effective. It is wise to be on your guard all the time.
To be on your guard you need to be knowledgeable. Another example of ideological deception in the realm of politics is how people use history. You need to know history to know why it’s a deception. When Russia was a communist country people of a left wing or socialist bent had a hard time criticizing it. That habit has remained even after Russia threw off communism for crony capitalism. Even now, people will defend Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine by saying that Russia was invaded by Europe twice in the twentieth century. For good measure they may go back to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in the nineteenth. They may say directly or just imply that Russia has a right to their bad behavior because they are just trying to have safe boarders. If you don’t know history you will not know why you are being deceived.
By using ‘safe boarders doctrine’ to defend the Russians they are also justifying a large percentage of all wars ever fought. ‘We need safe boarders’ was the doctrine of the Prussians. Prussia was the German state that conquered some and cajoled the others to make Germany. Saxony was one that was conquered. My ancestors were Saxons. They hated the Prussians and emigrated to America.
Those who say the Russians are entitled to safe boarders don’t mention that Europe also might want safe boarders. Russia has been invading Western Europe since Peter the Great. (1672-1725). They don’t mention that before Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 the Russians had sent an army into Europe to fight Napoleon in 1805. They don’t mention that before the German invasion of Russian in 1915, Russia had invaded Germany in 1914. The part of Russia that Germany invaded in 1914 was Russian Poland. By the ‘safe boarders’ argument the Germans had a right to invade Russia too. They don’t mention that both Russia and Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Russia also invaded Finland in the winter of 1940. For some reason the apologists for Russia don’t mention those facts. They don’t necessarily lie. If they lie it is when they are presented with these facts and they need to give reasons why they don’t count.
Don’t be someone’s prey
Make a promise to yourself that you will not be someone else’s prey. Once you know all the facts make the decision that seems best to you, but know all the facts. If someone is trying to keep you from having all the facts that’s a sign you are dealing with a predator. Think of a car dealer who wants you to make a decision today. They know that if you leave their lot and look around you are much less likely to buy their car. If you do buy it, you are much more likely to negotiate a better price.
Predators do not want you to make a decision that is in your best interests. They want you to make a decision that is in their favor. This is true in commerce, politics and personal interactions. Truth is for people you want to make good decisions. Anyone you care about is in that category. You want your children to make good decisions. You want your friends to make good decisions. To make good decisions people need as much real and true information as possible. If you lie to someone it means you don’t want them to make good decisions. It means they are not a friend but an enemy.
Truth is for friends and lies are for enemies.
In business there are two ways to increase sales. The hard way is to consistently provide a good product at a good price. The easier way is to use advertising to claim that your product is better. Needless to say most businesses rely on advertising. There are also two ways to have lots of friends. The hard way is to consistently be valuable to people. The easy way is to lie about your value. Most people choose to lie about their value.
I read an advice column a long time ago that went like this. The person wrote in and said her husband was the vice president of a bank and as part of his job he was transferred to a new town. People were very friendly and welcoming. There were lots of parties and other social exchanges. Then her husband lost his job. They liked the friends they had made and decided to stay in that town. The party invitations stopped and they discovered they didn’t have any friends there. The advice columnist said those people who invited you to their parties didn’t want to be your friends they wanted to be friends with a vice-president of a bank.
Lots of people are false friends. They are pretending to be a friend in the hopes of getting more than they are required to give to the relationship. Its a big problem that we all experience. Most of us are on both sides of that problem. We all tend to ‘suck up’ to people who are richer and more powerful than us in the hopes of getting some crumbs. We probably have people who are poorer and less powerful ‘suck up’ to us. In the story about the bank vice-president, I’m not sure who were the predators. Was it the people who pretended to be friends so they could use their friendship to influence a bank vice-president or was it the people who thought other powerful people should be their friends after they ceased to be powerful. Maybe it was both.
When Jesus said ‘Love your neighbor as your self’. Some lawyer type ask who is my neighbor. He was looking for a loophole. Jesus answered with the parable of the good Samaritan. The message in a nutshell is that your neighbors are not people in your own ideological or ethnic group. Jesus also said to love even ones enemies so the meaning of the parable is interpreted to mean your neighbor is everyone. Not everyone is capable of loving even their enemies. As a kindness to people who find that too high a bar I would say there is minimalist interpretation of that parable. At the very minimum your neighbor is someone who treats you well. The Samaritan was a neighbor to the robbed and beaten Jew. Define friend as people who treat you well even if you suspect their motives.
Are you a good person?
If you want to know how good of a person you are ask yourself how many people do you tell the truth to. Bad people don’t tell the truth to anyone. Even wives and children are enemies to be deceived. Very good people tell the truth to almost everyone all the time. If they know they are in the presence of swine, that is someone who will turn on them, then they keep silent. Jesus always told the truth even to the Pharisees. When Jesus was on trial he was silent. When Pilate forced it out of him and asked directly “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied “You have said so,”. The rest of us are between the two.
There is a teaching out there that says it is okay to lie to save someone’s feelings. This is not true. People need to know real and true facts to make good decisions. The more facts we know the better the decisions we will make. I was fired from a job for being a bad salesman. Before I was fired one of the other salesmen told me he didn’t think I would ever be a good salesman. He was right. He did me the kindness of telling me the truth. It took losing another sales job before I decided he was right though. When people lie to save someone’s feelings what they are really doing is lying to keep the person from hating them. They are treating them like an enemy. It takes a person of good character to accept hard truths without striking back. It takes a person of very good character to tell hard truths knowing that there will be some blowback.
Truth is for friends and lies are for enemies.
I don’t believe in always telling the truth. I believe it is okay to lie to enemies. I’ve never been in a situation where it was necessary but I’m open to the possibility. If I ever had to lie to save an innocent person from evil person I would do it. Most of the time I just keep silent. Telling the truth to enemies is casting pearls before swine.
I deceive too. Deceiving enemies is what we do when we keep the lights on so burglars think we are home. In the pre-cell phone era they used to teach people that if they were in a situation where they may get robbed or raped to walk confidently. It makes the robbers and rapist think you are stronger than you really are so they are inclined to leave you alone.
Truth is for people whom you want to make good decisions. Deceptions are for people you want to make bad decisions.
Is it okay to lie to someone to keep them from making a decision that is clearly not in their own best interests?
I wouldn’t. We need to have faith in people the way God has had faith in us. In the long run it is better for people to make bad decisions and learn from them. Christians are guilty of deceiving to help people make decisions that in their best interests. Christians don’t believe is extra-marital sexual relations. We don’t believe in it because it is almost always predatory. Sexual relations also promote bonding. Life long bonds are one of the things that make life worth living. To keep teenagers from having sex outside of marriage we have over emphasized the dangers of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. When contraception and anti-biotics came along our arguments went away. It is better to stick to the truth.