Shots of Wit

A regular posting of witticisms, aphorisms, and general musings by Clifford Cohen.

Living a lie…

Live or die, but don’t live a lie.

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This is an easy one to misinterpret. Living a lie is not always the same as lying. There are circumstances in which lying is a moral obligation. In WWII, in Nazi occupied territories, Jews were often faced with the choice of either lying about their identities or risking being murdered. A decision to lie was supported by the importance placed on preserving a human life. On the other hand, living a lie entails the acceptance of a lie as being intrinsically “right”, such that the lie justifies certain behaviors and becomes a part of a person’s permanent identity. The above distinction between living a lie and lying is critical, insofar as a person can emerge whole from an “acceptable” lie when circumstances permit them to once again assert their true self, whereas a person who has integrated a lie into the very core of their being has little hope of such redemption—ever. So, do not convince yourself that you agree with something that your conscience tells you is wrong. Do not deny your feelings or convictions just because society has repudiated who you are or what you believe. Assert who you are as long as you can…and then when such action becomes futile or dangerous, make a conscious decision whether to continue the fight or to live to fight another day. Either decision is valid. But if you choose the latter, don’t find refuge in mindless conformity. Instead, tell a lie—but never believe that lie—and wait patiently for better times.

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