The Counsellor's Corner
A couple of months ago I wrote a column on a case in Santa Ana which had resulted in a hung jury, voting ten to two for acquittal in a case where a father had repeatedly taken the belt to his child for lying to him.
That column engendered several letters, one which took me to task as the reader concluded that my belief in the inappropriate of the use of the belt meant that I condoned the child lying. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I believe that in almost all cases, it is not right to lie. Be it a child or an adult, in almost all situations telling the truth is important. This value should be imparted to our children and should be adhered to by society.
That being said, however, there are circumstances where lying is not only the appropriate thing to do but it is the logical, reasonable, and moral response.
My first example is the situation of a woman who is attacked by a would-be rapist. If that woman has two choices; not put up a struggle and end up raped, or alternatively, telling the would-be rapist that she has a sexually transmittable disease, which may lead him to change his mind, what should she do? Of course she should tell the lie.
A second example brings us back to Nazi Germany. There is the famous story of Anne Frank and the family that hid her. Going back in time, if the family that was hiding Anne Frank heard a knock at the door and learned that it was a group of Nazis wondering if the family had seen Anne lately, the appropriate response is, of course, "No." Do you tell the truth and give up Anne Frank's location and insure her death? Of course not. Do you not tell the rapist you
have something he might catch and, therefore, resign yourself to being raped? I think these are easy decisions to make.
I believe that people get themselves into trouble when they advocate absolutes and inflexible positions. It is one thing to oppose lying; it is another to believe that means one should never lie. I think that the words "always" and "never" are dangerous and I believe that a certain degree of flexibility is important in order to survive in this world.
The gentleman who wrote the letter also indicated that it was clear to him that God was on the side of the father who took the belt to his child. I'm not quite sure how this gentleman became privy to where God stands on a particular issue. Assuming God's existence, I would not profess to know how He, She or It would stand; however, I have a hard time thinking God would be in favor of the belt.
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Charlie Unger is a criminal defense attorney in the Glendale law firm of Flanagan, Booth & Unger. Mr.Unger has obtained his doctorate in psychology and writes a bi-monthly column on legal and psychological issues.