The Microsoft Encarta Dictionaries defines the verb to lie as to: ‘deliberately say something untrue: to say something that is not true in a conscious effort to deceive somebody’ ©Microsoft Corporation 2009 (Make I put copyright before them sue me abeg).
The important thing to note is that before somebody can be said to have lied: his statement must be deliberately untrue, and it must be made with a conscious effort to deceive. *clears throat** This means that if an untrue statement is made, but in the absence of that conscious effort to deceive, it cannot be said to be a lie, even though the false statement was made deliberately. Thus, if the intention or effort to deceive was subconscious or unconscious, then it is not a lie.
Similarly, if someone makes a statement, which at the time of stating it, he had reasons to believe his statement was true, and it turns out to be in fact false, then it can be said that the person has not told a lie.
Consider the example of a person who is asked about the whereabouts of another, and he gives a location based on where he reasonably believes this other to be, he cannot be presumed to have lied.
Then the case of a girl who is expected at a party, but is sleeping at home, receives a call from her friend who asks her, “where are you”, and she replies, “I am on my way.” Can it be said that she lied? If she had the intention of putting that statement into manifestation at the time of making it, then she is justified, even if she doesn’t actually carry out that intention. Besides, the statement was not made in a bid to deliberately deceive her friend as to her location, but rather with the intention of lessening the concern on the part of her friend.
What about the case of the secretary whose boss instructs her to inform visitors that he is not around. When a customer eventually comes in asking for her boss, and she replies in accordance with her boss’ instructions, can it be said that she lied? It can be said that she fulfilled the requirement of consciously deceiving the person, but the issue of whether or not her action/statement was ‘deliberate’ comes into play. She was no doubt acting under express instructions, which can be presumed to be against her will. At law, it will be said that she acted under duress. The same Encarta Dictionary which I am relying on defines ‘deliberate’ as something carefully thought out and done intentionally. In the instant scenario, the secretary didn’t carefully think out her actions, rather, it was her boss who fulfilled that requirement, and her boss also fulfils the requirement of intention, because the original intention to tell a mistruth originated from him. It can be possibly that the secretary had no intention of telling the lie, but had no choice in the matter. Hence, she is excluded from any liability. Besides, it can be argued that her deception of the customer was not conscious, since it was not intentional.
The same principle applies where a father instructs his wife or kid to inform his creditor that he is not at home when he is in fact hiding under the bed. In fact, a kid acting under this scenario cannot even be said to be acting deliberately especially when he is below the age of 12. Neither can his action/words be said to be conscious or even deliberate because he lacks the capacity to carefully think it out, and it was obviously not intentional because it was under the express authority of his father, with the threat of sanction in case of non-compliance. That’s why sometimes we hear things like: “My daddy said I should tell you that he is not at home”.
But where a wife acts under the same circumstances, she may be liable, depending on the degree of interest she has in the matter. Where she supports or encourages her husband to make such deception, or where she has spent out of the money that the creditor wants to collect, then she has fulfilled all conditions of deliberate intention, and conscious effort to deceive.
Therefore, since deliberate intention, and conscious effort to deceive are the key factors in determining lies, anyone wishing to justify a lie not in any of the aforementioned categories just needs to show that the lie did not originate from him. Or he can train himself in such a way that he himself is unconscious to the fact that he is telling a lie. For instance, engaging the use of split-second timing i.e. answering questions immediately they are asked in such a manner that would seem to be your sub-conscious answering. When one wastes time before answering a question, there is a presumption that he has carefully thought out his answer.
There is also the doctrine of necessity. Where a lie is told to protect the person being lied to. It cannot be said in such circumstances that you are deceiving the person-not when the lie is told for his own benefit.
But the crux of the matter is that he who lies unjustifiably is going to hell. And when you try to justify an unjustifiable lie, you are going straight to hell.
I am Oluwanonso_Esq on Twitter; and that is not a lie.