What to Do When Honesty and Loyalty Conflict?
My good friend Steve C. posted the following on his Facebook page.
Two items on the “virtues” list are Honesty and Loyalty. But I don’t recall reading anything that explains what should happen when those two are in conflict.
Two examples. If Loyalty would require lying about Hillary Clinton when Honesty would damage her, which takes priority? If Loyalty would require lying about Donald Trump when Honesty would damage him, which takes priority?
My uninformed guess is that Honesty should win, even though disloyalty can be extremely painful.
Honesty vs. Loyalty
My first thought when I read Steve’s question was that honesty is more ridged and unyielding than loyalty.
But on further reflection I can surmise that there is considerable flexibility in both. I can be loyal to someone even if I disagree with his or her opinion.
On the other hand, I might not be totally honest with that same friend when I know being honest might be painful.
So is there any instance where I can be both — loyal and honest?
I think I could be loyal to my friend in most instances. Rob a bank? He or she was having financial problems. I’ll donate to the legal defense fund.
Have an affair with my wife? Not so much.
There Are Limits.
The problem with this question seems to be that there are limits to both loyalty and honesty.
If I’m under oath in a courtroom then my limits are very restricted. Hurt feelings or not I’m obligated to tell the truth or face serious consequences.
If I’m taking a lie detector test the machine may rat me out if I stray too far from the God’s honest truth.
My loyalty might also have its limits. My business partner turns out to be a crook so my loyalty might end at that point otherwise we might end up sharing the same cell.
Some Final Thoughts
I guess in the end, the old saying “Let your conscious be your guide” might be the only workable answer.
Where are Socrates, Plato, or Einstein when we really need them? Somewhere there must be a philosophical one size fits all solution to this quandary.
Which one wears the white hat and which wears the black hat? Or are we looking at two gray hats?
Inquiring minds want to know. What’s your opinion?