May 19, 2001
What's the Harm?
Several people have raised the question with me today of what the harm was in duping people if they were left feeling good. And that question boggles my mind.
The harm is in the duping.
I am sure I'm not the only human being who ever learned the tale of the young shepherd who cried wolf. Remember? He very foolishly cried out that a wolf was attacking, when no wolf was around. But lots of people came to help. He pulled this stunt again. People began to catch on---that whenever he wanted attention, or a break from the ordinary, he would announce the presence of the wolf. And you know what comes next: one day a wolf really did show up. And no one would come to help when the shepherd called out.
So what's the harm to the victims of a lie, even one that leaves them feeling good? Well, the harm is that they've wasted time and emotion on something that was not real, without knowing ahead of time that it wasn't. Sometimes they've wasted money, too; perhaps money they really needed to keep for themselves.
I read a lot of fiction, that's called fiction from the outset. Do I ever cry over a storyline in it? Yes, because I'm a very tenderhearted person. But at the end of the story, I am not angry that the author made me cry, because the author has told me from the beginning these characters are fictional, no matter that the writing may make them seem to be real, flesh-and-blood people. Am I ever so moved by something I know to be fiction that I go do something good? Yes. But certainly not for the sake of someone who was never real.
And what's the greater harm? That harm is that once people learn they've been the victims of a dupe, the next sad story heard may go unheeded because there are bad memories from this one. Think back to the shepherd.
So why am I digging through layers of ugly to try to get to the truth of something I suspect is a dupe? To punish the persons perpetrating it. To make others think long and hard before doing something so repulsive. Because it makes me angry that people I care about are grieving over something I believe with my soul to be false.
I am not digging because I want to make victims of it feel foolish. The victims here have acted out of love, and as a wise friend told me long ago, responding with pure love is never wrong.
What is wrong is asking people to love a lie.