Lying is an innate behavior, which is commonly used by many people. The ethics of lying are widely debated and culturally disputed. According to Zarathustra’s teachings as outlined in the Gathas, lying is morally wrong. I believe that although lying is not the best course of action nor the right sense of judgement, there are occasional circumstances where it proves to be more effective than the truth.
The writings of the Gathas and the words of Zarathustra inspire one to do good and choose a morally right path to follow. These religious hymns were written by Zarathustra to express his respect and devotion to his God. He also beseeches Ahura Mazda to bestow the gifts of the Good Mind (Vohu Mano), Truth (Asha), and the Spirit of Benevolence (Spenta Armaiti) on his followers so they can live a pious life.
The main reason the Gathas were created was to encompass the writings of Zarathustra and the teachings of Ahura Mazda into one collection of works for Zoroastrians to follow. One of the most important messages outlined in the Gathas is the proper use of the Good Mind. If one lies, they choose to defy Vohu Mano as well as negate to follow the teachings of their prophet.
Although lying is a moral sin according to most, there are instances in which lying is essential to a singular person or group of people. For instance, parents lie to their children about Santa Claus and how he gives presents to every child on Christmas. This lie could be potentially harmful to the child’s psyche if “Santa” does not procure presents for them by Christmas morning.
Adults tell this lie in order to excite their children with the opportunity to see a magical figure who gives them gifts each year. This, in turn, makes every child, no matter their social class, hopeful that they will be cared for during the holiday season. Another example of lying for the benefit of another is the common saying “everything’s going to be alright.” I have had this phrase repeated to me by multiple people. In times of crisis or panic, it is easy to lose a sense of security and comfort as a child. For me, the situation worked out and circumstances got better, yet this assumption is not always correct for others.
It is easier to lie to children because of their impressionable age and naivety. When someone tells them that they will be alright, they are forced to accept that as they have no other frame of reference to think otherwise. And if a child is in a bad position somewhere, the best thing to do is to give them hope. As people grow up, they lose their childlike sense of wonder and the ability to believe in impossible things.
This is due to their encounters with the real world, which put their childish ideas into perspective. It is best to impose a strong sense of security to let children be children and believe that everything is okay before they have to grow up and experience the tough world for themselves. If children are lied to, it gives them more hope, but keeps them sheltered from the truths of the outside world. It is also good to remedy lies told to impressionable children when they were young by revealing the truth to them when they get older.
An example of this as pertaining to me is that when I was younger, I was extremely terrified of sharks. We were on vacation in Hawaii, but I didn’t want to go snorkeling. My mom lied to me by telling me that there had been an electric barrier built into the ocean floor so that no sharks could get close to the beach. I bought this fib and decided to snorkel, even though the lie could have had potentially damaging effects if I had decided to snorkel past the reef.
Years later, my mom told me that she had lied to me and while I was extremely mad at her, I understood why she did it. Sometimes, children need to be nudged to get past their fears and terrors. This lie certainly helped me get past mine at that time, even though I will never wade deeper than my ankles into the ocean again.
There are also instances where lying is morally indecent. For example, if someone commits a wrongful act, the easiest thing they can do is to lie about it. Instead, they should own up to their actions and be dealt the rightful consequences. Even though they may feel that lying is the best choice for them, they will feel tremendous guilt as a result of their action. When a crime is committed and laws are broken through lying, this immoral act is a sin that must be paid for with due process of law.
Although the act of lying is immoral, in some instances it helps rather than harms the recipient or donor of the lie. The three tenets of the Zoroastrian religion are Good Thoughts (Humata), Good Words (Hukhta), and Good Deeds (Huvarshta), which are heavily represented in the Gathas. Vohu Mano, the Good Mind, helps to prevent one from immoral acts, thoughts, and words. Even though many believe that lying is a result of the aforementioned, I believe that small alterations to the truth don’t harm, yet instead help most people.