Brooke Wilkens: Lying is Acceptable When it Solves the Problem of Not Fitting In

Lying is acceptable when it is done in order to solve the problematic situation of attempting to fit in with others. Lying always has repercussions, no matter whether they are positive or negative, so when there is an issue or complication that needs to be solved, as long as the repercussion that results from this lie is positive in the sense that it solves the problem, then this is acceptable. These repercussions stem from either the hardships that people experience that result from these lies, or the benefits that are often the initial intent of these false statements. In order to determine whether or not a lie is acceptable, it is necessary to first evaluate if there is a beneficiary from this lie, and if the benefit is positive or negative.

If a lie is positive and affects someone in a good way, and solves the problem of assimilating to a new place, friend group, or simply getting to know new people, then this lie may be deemed acceptable. An example of a lie such as this is if a child lies about something they like to do in order to fit in with the other children around him/her. The problem in this example is that the child does not fit in with his/her classmates, and the lie that solves this problem is the child saying that he/she prefers something in order to follow the majority and be more like them. If this lie, however, leads to a person being hurt or something detrimental happening to them, then this lie may not be deemed acceptable. For example, if this child is observing other children being mean or even bullying another child, and even if this child does not believe this is acceptable to do, they join in with the group of children in the act of bullying, then this is not acceptable because someone is experiencing/continuing to experience a hardship. Also, an important question to answer is whether or not it is acceptable to lie in order to get ahead in life and solve the problem of not fitting into one’s career. This may be applied to politics, professional careers, schoolwork, and even simple interactions with others. This question is difficult to answer because what if not lying, and not fitting in is even more detrimental to a person’s feelings and identity when compared with going through with lying? In order to solve the problem of not fitting in and assimilating to different environments, it is acceptable to lie when the outcome of these lies are not detrimental to others or oneself.

A study done on elementary school students found that children’s abilities to lie began to develop and become apparent as early as 3 years of age, and develop rapidly as they grew older (Talwar Gordon Lee). Because this trend of lying is beginning at such an early age, it is crucial to think about why this problem of lying, and supporting the falsifying of comments, is becoming so normal. If the stigma against lying decreases as people grow older, who is to say that lying is bad at all? Because lying has become so normal and frequent among children, studies have shown that many children have begun lying in order to assimilate to new environments, when meeting new people (both adults and children) and overall, to fit in with other children who do not already accept them.

Lying in order to fit in is also very apparent when it comes to the issue of bullying. Some children lie in order to brag about stories that they wouldn’t usually have to tell, while others lie in order to make themselves seem less vulnerable to bullies and other mean children. In the essay written by Robert Thornberg, “School Bullying as a Collective Action: Stigma Processes and Identity Struggling,” the main idea is that when bullies are putting their “victims” down by using their mean words and physical gestures to shut them out, there is not always a universal conclusion to whether or not this is moral or acceptable. In the essay, one child claims that, “If you are different, you will be teased,” (Thornberg) while another victim of bullying is perplexed about why they are bullied, saying, “If I can change myself, if I can prove to them that I’m just like them, they would stop being mean to me. They would think I’m okay and let me be with them.” (Thornberg). In these interviews, the bullies think that they are completely justified in their actions because their victim is “different” and “weird” (Thornberg). After conducting research and interviews with these students, Thornberg found that bullying “could not be reduced to individual characteristics of the bully and the victim, but indicated a group process that created, manifested and maintained normative orders that imposed what was ‘normal’ and not open to question among the peers,” (Thornberg). If a child lies about certain aspects of himself/herself in order to get along better with their fellow students, and seem more acceptable in this sense also, then these kinds of lies are acceptable because they are contributing to the solving of this issue of bullying and the division of this child from the rest of their peers.

Another study found, however, that children at younger ages are not skilled liars, or lie-tellers, which may also lead to them trying to relate more closely with others, and therefore lead them to forming more false stories with the objective of solving their social problems. Lying in order to fit in does not solely apply to young children. There are often older students, and even adults who lie about their performances in their extracurricular activities, community service, careers, and schoolwork. In cases concerning slightly older students, Richard H. Gramzow, a psychologist at the University of Southampton in England found that a majority of the students who lied to their peers about their academic performances and grade point averages actually lived up to these enhanced self-images of themselves. When these students projected a certain image of themselves to others because they felt the need to fit in and seem different than they actually were, this led to the reality of these successes occurring, possibly because the lie was so appealing that the students realized they truly wanted to work towards this goal. This shows how lying does not necessarily always lead to detrimental relationships and less authentic identities. This form of lying in order to fit in does not significantly affect the people being lied to, and it positively benefits the “liar” by leading them to new aspects of their lives that they no longer need to lie about, while solving their problem of not fitting into the level of education where they wish to be.

When it comes to lying and giving false information, this may immediately seem like a bad, dishonorable thing. In reality though, lying may not be a very bad thing after all. Lying has been shown to result in solving a problem that negatively affects people if it were not told.