This is more for a question than a rant, as I'm hoping to start a dialogue. I don't know that there's a right answer, but I'd like to collect a few viewpoints here, or on my twitter @beardedskeptic.
So when is it okay to lie? I refuse to take any absolutist standpoint on this, as there are extreme situations on either side, but where is the line? Of course, if a lie can save a life (gun to head), by all means lie. However, lying as a matter of course is no way to get through life. A common theme I hear is that it's okay to lie in order to protect someone else.... from what, though? Violence, obviously. Hurt feelings, maybe. That's the sticking point, and that's where it breaks down for me, because it's been yes in some cases and no in others.
The nature of the white lie is a curious thing... For friends generally I'd rather say "That dress is not for you, let's try this other one" than to tell them they look great if it's not the best showcase of their physicality. That one's pretty easy. What about when you're asked "How are you?" Society demands that you respond in the positive in order to give the questioner a happy escape. Perhaps it depends on the context in which the question is posed. Generally, it seems though that when the question is posed, the questioner hopes that the questioned will politely skirt around the real answer. I wonder if that's a failing of society or a failing of individuals.
I think the next time I ask someone how they are, I'll inquire a little harder and see if I can't get a meaningful dialogue going on that subject. Maybe folks don't talk about self-improvement enough because they're scared of the stigma that admitting weakness brings, and I'd love to see that change.