Is lying ever acceptable?

In a recent meeting for worship we were asked whether lying was ever acceptable. It led on to a fascinating and stimulating meeting for worship in which Friends shared their experience from family, educational, and work lives about the challenges we face in upholding the Quaker testimony to truth.

Our Advice 37 is unequivocal :- Are you honest and truthful in all you say and do? Do you maintain strict integrity in business transactions and in your dealings with individuals and organisations? Do you use money and information entrusted to you with discretion and responsibility? Taking oaths implies a double standard of truth; in choosing to affirm instead, be aware of the claim to integrity that you are making.

Can we all say that we fully follow this Advice or are there some situations in which lying is acceptable for the greater good? An example cited was of a terminally-ill family member who didn’t want to know the full extent of his condition. Ultimately, what is our witness to God in these situations?

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