The Good Person Test: “Have you ever told a lie? No matter how trivial.”

According to the script at this point if the person says, “Yes,” which they invariably shall, the interviewer then tells them that they are therefore a liar. This can be played any number of ways, generally the interviewer will try to get them to “admit” that they’re a liar by asking them, “What do we call people who tell lies?” “Well, liars.” If the person for some reason says that they’ve never told a lie the interviewer either dismisses or laughs at them.

There are number of grossly disrespectful assumptions being made here. One, wrapped up in their definition of “lie”, seems to be that any misrepresentation, no matter how minor or trivial, makes you a liar. Except that this is only the case for grade school children—and even they quickly forget the slight of being told something that was untrue. Why? Because the social animals that we are carefully shape our speech in order to communicate our boundaries.

Only a person who is consistently dishonest (pathological), inflicts injury with dishonesty, or commits fraud gets to wear the label “liar.” This is because everyone knows full well that the thresholds of what each of us consider to be honesty vary greatly between different people, different situations, and even differing levels of veracity. Furthermore, back to the boundaries issue, to be social animals we cannot always be fully honest with one another; there are social situations which exist where we are forced by protocol to dance around honest answers.

For this type of emotional blackmail to work for the Good Person Test must assert that nearly every use of deliberate misrepresentation must be the worst kind.

Some of the people who use the Good Person Test appear to know this well enough that they try to make a loophole for it, stating that discretion isn’t lying. Which means pretty much most people aren’t in fact “liars” because they’ve therefore never really told a “lie.” But they cannot hold to this definition because it makes this entire part of the script moot. And everyone who listens to it should know this.

Is lying always immoral? Let’s take the case of Anne Frank. We have a case where a reigning authority is searching for particular people whom you have every reason to believe are innocent and the direct result of their capture will be their horrible torture and deaths. Do you lie in order to protect them from a horrific fate? Does telling the truth therefore make you culpable for their horrible torture and murder? In this case it would appear that lying is extremely moral; but also telling the truth would be distinctly immoral.

Perhaps moral acts aren’t as simple as singleton script stanzas without nuance.

The Good Person Test is once again attempting to put a hook into natural social behavior. It makes the assertion that “all lying is bad/immoral” and therefore people should be eternally condemned for it—but then it fails to explain why. Like every other step of the Good Person Test it attempts to leverage guilt over telling lies as a reason of calling someone guilty of breaking an asserted “law.”

The worst part about this portion of the Good Person Test is that it’s then leveraged as a pathetic attempt to weaken the resolve of the person answering questions. Specifically I am going to call out a very singular abuse of social and extroverted individuals. If the interviewer is capable of getting them to admit that they’re a “liar” through manipulative semantics they then pull this line out of the script on the next question:

“But how can I believe you? You admitted you’re a liar.”

This is abusive. It is an uncalled for disrespect of the person who has taken their time to answer these questions, it is set up for emotional blackmail, and a deliberate denigration of a peer—no amount of jocularity or false irony added to this line make it any less inexcusable. This specific line mocks the good faith that anyone answering these questions—it is beyond the pale in its contempt of the audience.

Finally, this question does damage to the very fabric and core of what it is to be social and loving creatures. It deliberately ignores and dismisses all the truth that a person may have told in their life; and instead places an unlikely and unexplained weight only to lying while all actual honesty feather-light in comparison.

In our interactions with other people do we want to dismantle, damage, and disrespect them because they can and have told lies in their lives? What kind of test for a “good person” fails to weight based on good done and instead gives even minor wrongs a greater strength. This is sociopathic.

This is a test immoral in its own right. It is trying only to puncture the self-esteem of an otherwise good, honest individual by baldly exploiting the weaknesses of every social animal; and then uses that puncture in order to get unsupported and knowable false claims of guilt accepted.

Next: “Have you ever stolen anything, even something insignificant?”

Previous: “Have you ever been angry at someone?”

Index: The Good Person Test is immoral

7 thoughts on “The Good Person Test: “Have you ever told a lie? No matter how trivial.”

  1. hello! very neat assessment but i am a little confused. the definition of a ‘liar’ still stands: ‘someone who lies’, in the same way that a ‘murderer’ is ‘someone who unlawfully kills another person’. this isn’t to tangent a debate about what murder is… but to cease dancing around a very concrete, indisputable meaning. if you lie, you’re are a liar. a pathological liar, someone who lied in the past, maybe just when you’re girlfriend asks if you noticed she’s gained a few pounds: one in the same. it is an all-encompassing definition. this is what the question should be: do you consider it part of your identity to be a liar? and if not, how because everyone lies or has lied at some point?

    so my mind took anne frank’s case and paralleled it with this condition. tell me what you think. let’s say there’s this kid who wants to obey his dad and not even out of obligation, let’s say he likes him. it gives him joy. he’s pleased to do it. but then one day, out of the blue, the dad tells him to steal food for dinner. what does he do? whatever he decides, it has become a moral dilemma to either disobey or to steal. (i added the ‘for dinner’ detail to draw some sympathy… maybe it blurs the lines of morality for some people. but whether it’s for dinner or for dessert, the kid will begin wedge and develop into one of the moral camps of his father, mother, himself, maybe movies, friends… i’d like to hope for something more faithful and grounded than those options). so anne’s moral ‘dilemma’ (right. lie to protect her family or comply/submit to a clearly evil and destructive authority. come on) is multi-faceted, but it boils down to where allegiance was tied to, and who’s influence she came under.
    really tho, the anne frank scenario seems more like an exception than a rule of thumb. in the spectrum of cases where people choose to lie, let’s get real. i feel like it falls more under the category of selfishness, shame, pride, etc.

    and lying can never be considered moral. that’s easy. i don’t care what culture is accepting of or whatever circumstance tells you. if anything, it only reflects on how immoral the culture and people are. i’ll use my family for the sake of example. it is the ‘norm’ to dance around questions, and yeah, even acceptable at times to blatantly lie about feelings or intentions. no one explicitly states what they mean or want.. but it’s all good because this is all under the guise of pseudo-caring for the other person. please.
    i don’t care if i’m a ‘social animal’ — on a date, visiting relatives, a politician, a CEO — lying under a social setting justifies nothing. it is a tool in that circumstance, used to maintain someone’s rep by masking their true character. preserving ego. preserving status. trying to impress. trying to hide. so what, if it’s accepted? if it works? still wrong dude.

    the conclusion i’m getting from these mini-tests of being a good person is that no one is inherently good. it actually doesn’t take much to recognize people kind of suck all levels at being moral. whether you justify what is moral by your company or background, what i’m wondering is not about justification but guilt. why do you not feel guilty about lying and why are making so many excuses?

    I hope you don’t read my intention as one to disrespect, manipulate, abuse, blackmail, etc. i really enjoyed reading your paradigm of thought. from it, this is my trailing belief. humans are not naturally loving creatures at all. they are very weak, extremely selfish and kind of stupid.

    and it would seem hopeless, but it’s not. it all depends on where the person puts his stock. is his identity and worth founded on his own life achievements and wisdom? yknow, that plus and minus spreadsheet that tallies all the good works and bad, all your thoughts and intentions and feelings… if you bring it to an objective analyst (um not you …or your mom) to count em up, i’m betting the returns are negative.
    maybe a person’s stock is in his family or friends or church maybe his profession, and just in all those people he surrounds himself with and believes whatever they think about him. one word: limited.

    ah either way, interesting blog to stumble on. this is my first entry to read and it’s stirring up a lot of thoughts already. tons more to say, but i know i wrote too much already. cheers.

  2. @nom nom

    “hello! very neat assessment but i am a little confused.”
    “ the definition of a ‘liar’ still stands: ’someone who lies’, in the same way that a ‘murderer’ is ’someone who unlawfully kills another person’. this isn’t to tangent a debate about what murder is… but to cease dancing around a very concrete, indisputable meaning.”

    Except it’s not as concrete as you want to make it. A liar is someone who is ether liying or tells an excess of lies to the point at which there word is suspect. To define it any other way causes the word to lose any meaning.

    Also, and I hate to side track but, you claim that “‘murderer’ is ’someone who unlawfully kills another person’.” This would imply that thinking about murder CAN NOT be considered murder. Just wanted to point this out, because it will likely be part of an upcoming post.

    “ if you lie, you’re are a liar. a pathological liar, someone who lied in the past, maybe just when you’re girlfriend asks if you noticed she’s gained a few pounds: one in the same.”

    Well no, it’s not the same; it’s very clear that some lies are worse than others. A lie which effects no one, say a tall tale is harmless when compared to a lie which kills an innocent man, like lying about a murder. There is a very distinct and clear scale on which we can place lies, and some of them (contrary to what you try and claim below) may even be good.

    “it is an all-encompassing definition. this is what the question should be: do you consider it part of your identity to be a liar? and if not, how because everyone lies or has lied at some point?”

    Because the majority of what I say is the truth so far as I know. While I may on rare occasions lie, in general I do not, and as such you can believe what I say. Would I label everyone a liar as you say we should then I’d have no way to differentiate between a pathological liar, and some guy who told a few tall tales. Such capabilities are required in order for both proper communications between people and for us to cooperate at all. YOUR definition does not in practice.

    “so my mind took anne frank’s case and paralleled it with this condition.”

    So your mind created a second analogy.

    “ tell me what you think. let’s say there’s this kid who wants to obey his dad and not even out of obligation, let’s say he likes him. it gives him joy. he’s pleased to do it. but then one day, out of the blue, the dad tells him to steal food for dinner. what does he do? whatever he decides, it has become a moral dilemma to either disobey or to steal.”

    Yes it would be, and there is no ‘correct’ answer. To fuzz the lines even more you could claim his family is utterly poor and can’t afford food (a very reasonable postulation for many places even today) the boys mother is sick and dieing. Personally preserving life is paramount in my mind, and the thief of food would not be wrong per say, as the boy’s mother will likely die with out it. Of course

    “(i added the ‘for dinner’ detail to draw some sympathy… maybe it blurs the lines of morality for some people. but whether it’s for dinner or for dessert, the kid will begin wedge and develop into one of the moral camps of his father, mother, himself, maybe movies, friends… i’d like to hope for something more faithful and grounded than those options).

    But there is nothing more grounded then reality. To pick faith, which is fundamentally departed from reality is also far from grounded. Faith will not provide if reality if fundamentally opposed to it. No matter how much faith the boy has has no matter how much he prays, no god or gods will save his dieing mother. That is unfortunately verifiable via empiric observation.

    “so anne’s moral ‘dilemma’ (right. lie to protect her family or comply/submit to a clearly evil and destructive authority. come on) is multi-faceted, but it boils down to where allegiance was tied to, and who’s influence she came under.”

    So, your saying weather her allegiance is to other people or some hard and cold ideological reasons which if she had ‘faith’ in would result in her death. Correct? I think the choice is obvious, the decision which preserves life is the better one, but of course you may disagree. To you life may be worthless and only ideology is important. If that’s the case I would never want to be in this situation with you. It’s clear that your missing the point of this arugment, namely that moral absolute are damn near impossible to work out in ALL cases with out some exseptions.

    “really tho, the anne frank scenario seems more like an exception than a rule of thumb. in the spectrum of cases where people choose to lie, let’s get real. i feel like it falls more under the category of selfishness, shame, pride, etc.
    and lying can never be considered moral. that’s easy.”

    Well, no it’s not. The case above actually shows that very well. Even if you consider the datum to be an ‘outlier’ it still has to be considered why you moral model (I.e. moral standers) fail in this case to produce the most good. You haven’t addressed the criticism and merely tried to hand wave it away. Sorry but that doesn’t work. That is unless you also believe that pure submission to authority and is right in all cases including the death and suffering of people.

    “ i don’t care what culture is accepting of or whatever circumstance tells you. if anything, it only reflects on how immoral the culture and people are.”

    Blatant assertion with out backing evidence or argument. Fundamentally what your saying here is it’s wrong because YOU say it’s wrong, and YOU say it’s wrong and that you are fundamentally opposed to even discussing the logical implications of your reasoning (or lack there of).

    “ i’ll use my family for the sake of example. it is the ‘norm’ to dance around questions, and yeah, even acceptable at times to blatantly lie about feelings or intentions. no one explicitly states what they mean or want.. but it’s all good because this is all under the guise of pseudo-caring for the other person. Please.”

    Lieing isn’t always right, all that Amerist is trying to show you is it isn’t always wrong, and that it’s far from a valid criteria to judged someone on. Given your very rough example, it’s quite possible it’s wrong for your family to do what they do. However there might be underling reasons why they are doing it that you aren’t aware of. Judgeing others, even your own family, is a very difficult thing to do even with all the information, to do so so haphazardly indicated a strong emotional need to vilify at lest some of what your family is doing for some reason or another.

    “i don’t care if i’m a ’social animal’ — on a date, visiting relatives, a politician, a CEO — lying under a social setting justifies nothing. it is a tool in that circumstance, used to maintain someone’s rep by masking their true character. preserving ego. preserving status. trying to impress. trying to hide. so what, if it’s accepted? if it works? still wrong dude.”

    In many case, yes, but not in all. In fact it’s offten times far more easy to cause more damage with the truth then with a lie. Consider this example, you are in charge of a small city, out side your city there was a massive leak of hazardous matteriale. Now the fumes, vapors, or other dangerous agent will reach your city in a matter of hours. You have to order a full scale evacuation, but if you tell people this, and the reason behind there will be mass panic and many many people will die due to the massive amount of disorganization and fear that such an announcement WILL cause. On the other hand you can quietly tell the people, section by section, that there was a minor gas leak and that they need to leave there home due to the issue. The result would be that the vast majority of the city will slowly and carefully be evacuated before people realize what the actual harm was. Of course this is just a concted example, but again it highlights the point that lieing and deception may not always be the wrong choose. Other more real examples may include a downed bomb with nuclear armaments on board. Now you can evacuate the sounding area by telling people the jet is leaking hazardous full or may can conventional weapons which pose a threat. Or have half the state (including people who wouldn’t even be effected) panic and try to flee causing more damage and injury then would other wise happen.

    Lieing to prevent panic and further injury does work, and it does prevent the loss of life. You want to say it’s ALWAYS wrong then what your saying by proxy is that preserving life and preventing injury is at best secondary.

    “the conclusion i’m getting from these mini-tests of being a good person is that no one is inherently good.”

    That is what your suppose to get. I and other disagree with this assessment for empirical and physical reasons. After all humans can’t be all bad simply because society could never hold together if we where. That it does is proof in contradiction to this statement.

    “ it actually doesn’t take much to recognize people kind of suck all levels at being moral. whether you justify what is moral by your company or background, what i’m wondering is not about justification but guilt. why do you not feel guilty about lying and why are making so many excuses?

    I don’t feel guilty because it’s not always wrong, because I do my best to live the best that I can and minimize harm. I try to bring up EXAMPLES to show people why it’s not wrong because people consistently berate me other wise when I can show them that it’s not. Fundamentally people don’t listen to all the argument we make so we have to make new ones, and sometimes analogies to try and get it through. Still, one thing I’ve learned is if someone is not willing to listen you can never actually talk with them.

    “I hope you don’t read my intention as one to disrespect, manipulate, abuse, blackmail, etc. i really enjoyed reading your paradigm of thought. from it, this is my trailing belief. humans are not naturally loving creatures at all. they are very weak, extremely selfish and kind of stupid. ”

    Actually humans are naturally cooperative to a point (a large point in fact). In the end we are social animals, and like all social animals we cooperate with each other to get things done. Sometimes this is selfish, sometimes it’s not. Love is nothing more than a strong mental and emotional connection with another person or persons and yes, humans do naturally love one another and care about each other.

    I think in general humans are actually quite strong, capable and intelligent entities. However due to our emotional state it’s easy to confuse, make other people confused, and get them to think with their ‘heart’ as opposed to their head. It’s arguably the main reason why people act so selfishly at times and why they insist on believing Bronze Age mythos instead of reality. A small few cling to a fantasy and draw others in. It’s not that humans are dumb, we simply aren’t natively wired to handle abstract concepts, and fundamentally reality itself. At times it seems sad, but more and more I find people opening up and learning. More and more people are embracing other parts of humanity, and why we will never have utopia (such a concept is actually logically inconsistent, I do believe we will all work towards a better tomorrow, because if for no other reason then it’s better for ‘me’.

    “and it would seem hopeless, but it’s not.”

    I’ve never thought life was hopeless, quite the opposite really. Life is whatever I or you make it.

    “it all depends on where the person puts his stock. is his identity and worth founded on his own life achievements and wisdom?”

    Fundamentally everyone bases there life off of their own identity and ideas, though often times these ideas are molded into us from birth, we always have the ability to reevaluate our self’s, our life, and our ideas. Most people don’t and in general are discouraged from doing so by others, and by things they hold ‘higher’ then them selfs.

    “yknow, that plus and minus spreadsheet that tallies all the good works and bad, all your thoughts and intentions and feelings… if you bring it to an objective analyst (um not you …or your mom) to count em up, i’m betting the returns are negative.”

    Thoughts and feelings are irrelevant in the end, what matters is what you actually do (though I’ll give you the intention of your action’s part).You have the most kindest of thoughts and dreams, and enjoy the thought of helping people, yet if you carelessly destroy others you will still be labeled a monster. On the converse you can think the most horrid thoughts about people and things, yet if you bring people to gether and help them you will be labeled a hero or saint. Thoughts are irrelivent, and so are feelings what matters is what you acutally do.

    Fundamentally if what you say is true then how is it that society is able to hold together? If the sum total of human achievements is negative, then we should see an increase in death, destruction and decay. On a wide scale we don’t. Humans are living longer, better and easier lives than they ever did before. People are helping each other more than they did in the past, and dispite what you hear on the news there is far less suffering in the world today then there was 50, 100, or even 1000 years ago If what you where saying was true then this shouldn’t be possible. You have such a bleak outlook about humanity (and yourself) I hate to say this, but I feel very, very sorry for you :(

    “maybe a person’s stock is in his family or friends or church maybe his profession, and just in all those people he surrounds himself with and believes whatever they think about him. one word: limited.”

    What’s your point? We are finite beings of course we are going to have physical limitations if nothing else. Nothing we believe in will change that we are physical beings and have physical limitations. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. All people and things have some limits. Yet still despite the finite we have an infinite number of options and chooses that we can make.

    “ah either way, interesting blog to stumble on. this is my first entry to read and it’s stirring up a lot of thoughts already. tons more to say, but i know i wrote too much already. cheers.”

    Feel free to post them, ether I or others will respond.

  3. “Also, and I hate to side track but, you claim that “‘murderer’ is ’someone who unlawfully kills another person’.” This would imply that thinking about murder CAN NOT be considered murder. Just wanted to point this out, because it will likely be part of an upcoming post.”

    Well played, sir. I wish Ray Comfort were turning over in his grave.

  4. @Tim

    Thanks, I often times go back a while after I’ve posted and noticed gaping grammatical and spelling errors, sometimes to the point where my meaning actually becomes lost. I’m glad to see that at least something of my ideas survived my veracious onslaught against the English language.

  5. Amerist, I don’t understand your point. If someone lies then they are a liar. Lieing is bad so being a liar is then therefor bad. It seems like your just try to make excuses for lieing. Know that God will not tolerate such excuses come judgment day. I’ll pray for you!

    Nom Nom, excellent point my friend! We need to get the fire going here to help talk some sense into the atheists!

    I’m sorry End, but I just don’t get what your trying to say. Are you really saying that lieing is ok? REally? Lieing is wrong. PERIOD! No if ands or buts and anyone who says otherwise is wrong. and it’s simple if you lie you are a liar. I don’t see how you can think otherwise? Everyone is a liar and everyone is accountable for it in the end. Please understand that we Christians aren’t the ones saying this. God is! End you know your name is very appropriate. We will all meet our end and then it is appointed once for a man to face judgment. All this is laid out in an amazing book called the Bible. Have you ever read the Bible End? Because I implore you to read it understand it and believe in it before you make the final payment.

  6. @What

    “Amerist, I don’t understand your point. If someone lies then they are a liar. Lieing is bad so being a liar is then therefor bad. It seems like your just try to make excuses for lieing. Know that God will not tolerate such excuses come judgment day. I’ll pray for you!”

    What? Did you even read what he wrote?

    “Nom Nom, excellent point my friend! We need to get the fire going here to help talk some sense into the atheists!”

    No comment.

    “I’m sorry End, but I just don’t get what your trying to say. Are you really saying that lieing is ok?”

    In SOME cases yes, but not in all.

    “REally?”

    YEs.

    “Lieing is wrong. PERIOD!”

    Ok, and I suppose you’ll try and actually refute the points I made in my previous post? Or are you planing on just asserting your right with out any backing what so ever? If that’s the case, then I’m going to assert that your a pumpkin.

    “No if ands or buts and anyone who says otherwise is wrong.”

    Nice argument pumpkin. Lying is wrong because you say it’s wrong, and you say it’s wrong because you are master of the universe… Please. Give me an actual argument or evidence. Until then you are left with the fact the in some case lying can produce more overall good then telling the truth.

    “and it’s simple if you lie you are a liar. I don’t see how you can think otherwise? Everyone is a liar and everyone is accountable for it in the end.”

    Great! So everyone is a liar, and I can’t trust the word of anything any one says because they are liars. So clearly I can’t trust your word as you are a liar and I can’t trust the word of bible as it was written by the hands of man, all of whom are liars as well… In fact I can’t even trust my own words as I’m a liar. So clearly I must be lying when I say I exist! *Poof-EndGame Vanishes in a puff of logic*

    “Please understand that we Christians aren’t the ones saying this. God is!”

    No, YOU are saying this. You are the one typing on the keyboard and producing these symbolic structures we call sentences. These are your ideas which may or may not have derived from a god or gods. You have yet to show that these ideas are from god so I’m inclined to assume the negative and that they are purely human ideas. If you really think that someone else is saying or writing these things then in all honest you probably need mental help as this is a sign of Dissociated Personality Disorder.

    “End you know your name is very appropriate. We will all meet our end and then it is appointed once for a man to face judgment.”

    Everyone dies, I’ll give you that because we have evidence for it. However we have no evidence for an afterlife or this judgment you speak of. I doubt you could even come up with a half way coherent logical argument for it that doesn’t presuppose your version of Christianity is correct.

    “All this is laid out in an amazing book called the Bible. Have you ever read the Bible End? Because I implore you to read it understand it and believe in it before you make the final payment.”

    No, I haven’t read it. After all it’s not like it’s shoved down my throat every ten seconds by a Christan such as your self… Oh wait.

    Personally one of my favorite fables in the bible is Numbers 16, it’s the one where the Abrahamic god kills a whole bunch of people for complaining. Got to love that god, he kills children and not afraid of anything.

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