Ethical Lying

I was reading something the other day and the beginning of one chapter had a quote – I forget who said it – that said “Happiness is the harmony of thoughts, words, and actions.” Or something like that.
This struck a chord with me.

Within reason, I believe that is one defintion of happiness. But then I find myself saying “within reason,” which seems odd.
Because, I guess, there are times when you have to pretend to be in a better mood than you really are (when you arrive to work at 6 in the morning after 4 hours' sleep). Is this lying? Is this a disharmony between thoughts, words, and actions? Or is it just a necessity of customer service? I couldn't go through life always saying exactly what I think and feel or I'd end up unemployed, friendless, and homeless.

Is lying by ommission, or stretching the truth to spare someone's feelings “wrong”? If someone gives you information that you believe is important to another person, with a particular detail or two that seem unnecessary (they would cause the other person some sort of pain or discomfort), is it okay to omit the painful details as long as the general idea is transferred?

I'll make up a scenario. Suppose a co-worker told you that a particular project you were working on needed to be done two weeks in advance. S/he mentions, also, that it will be difficult to finish the project because your third team member is notoriously slow. You don't have to acknowledge that this was said out loud, but you feel the same way. You were disappointed to find that this third person was put on your team because s/he is always late for work, late to meetings, late to turn in paperwork, etc… So when you report back to the third co-worker about the new deadline, you needn't admit that you and the other employee feel the third is dead weight, right? It seems like that would just be mean.

But this is what I mean about disharmony. It's “wrong” to tell a person the whole truth if it's hurtful? Then again, in my fake situation it would seem important to let your team member know there are concerns about his/her work ethic.

Hmmmm . . .


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