Monday, August 15, 2016

benemendacia

I've been thinking about benemendacia — untruths that it's acceptable (both socially and morally) to tell. It's revealing that we don't have a more familiar go-to word for this in our language. We have "white lie," but generally that only refers to trivial things we say to avoid hurt feelings. Modern Americans in general and modern Christians in particular have really failed in not giving our children good guidance in the telling of benemendacia.

You have to think clearly about several issues all at once, including gentleness, candor, the real definition of "love" and not just namby-pamby "niceness." As is often the case, the Harry Potter books explore these topics well, though not didactically or explicitly. Over the course of the books, it becomes clear that sometimes it's best to tell a truth, no matter how uncomfortable, and sometimes it's best to tell a truth bordered with piles of love and diplomacy, and sometimes it's best to know the truth but shut up about it, and sometimes it's best to actively conceal the truth, and sometimes it may even be best to completely mislead.

Oddly, we think that those qualifications muddy the moral waters, but it's the opposite: refusing to teach children how to think discerningly about such things, both in what they hear and what they say, is what muddies the waters for them and for all of us.

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