08 November 2005


RAINA. You were not surprised to hear me lie. To you it was something I probably did every day--every hour...

BLUNTSCHLI (dubiously). There's reason in everything. You said you'd told only two lies in your whole life. Dear young lady: isn't that rather a short allowance? I'm quite a straightforward man myself; but it wouldn't last me a whole morning.

RAINA (staring haughtily at him). Do you know, sir, that you are insulting me?

BLUNTSCHLI. I can't help it. When you get into that noble attitude and speak in that thrilling voice, I admire you; but I find it impossible to believe a single word you say.

- George Bernard Shaw, Arms and the Man

Every time it happens, I'm shocked all over again. I'm naive enough to be shocked every time I hear a nonprofit professional lie casually to funders, journalists, colleagues from other organizations, or random visitors.

When a colleague tells what I know to be a lie (i.e., in my presence, but to a third party) I don't know whether to be amazed by his or her trust that I will condone this, or to be insulted by his or her estimate of my intelligence. Do liars really think that I can't draw the obvious conclusion, which is that if they lie to others then they'll cheerfully lie to me?

And these are the people who are dedicated to serving noble causes. Maybe they think it's ok, because it saves trouble and it gets the job done. After all, if we're the good guys, then it's not really lying when we lie. Right? Well, maybe that's true when terrorists hold a gun to your head and ask for the secret code. But "we're the good guys" is not an excuse for lying about how many clients you're serving or why you're twenty minutes late for a meeting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good point. A colleague who tells lies to other people and expects you to back him up will also lie to you when he thinks he can get away with it.