Is it ok to lie in this case?

A guest in the building where I work asked if I knew where coffee cups were.  I did, and was headed that direction. I lead her to a cabinet of 30 or so coffee mugs, many of which had been donated to us to help us cut down on waste.

When she saw them, she asked if I had any styrofoam cups. I said that I did, but I’d rather she use one of these, and I would be happy to wash it afterwards.  I explained that was why we had these.

She stood there for a moment, said she didn’t have a preference,  then asked again if I had styofoam.  I again said I did, and again suggested a reusable cup. Again I offered to wash it afterwards.

She finally said she would really rather have a styrofoam cup.

Would it have been ok, do you think, to deny having styrofoam for her to use a reusable coffee mug?

12 thoughts on “Is it ok to lie in this case?

  1. Ok big surprise, I’ll be the stick in the mud and say no, for several reasons. One is the Biblical mandate to integrity and not lying. Hard to get around that one. So you have that whole something coming between you and God thing to deal with.
    Secondly you have to deal with the integrity and witness we bear to others. Whether we think the “fish bowl” is fair, it’s a reality.
    And it seems you did all you could. You offered a viable “green” alternative and even offered to be a servant so she didn’t have to wash the cup. She obviously didn’t wish to do this. It was her choice, though perhaps a poor one. And we don’t know the reason why she wanted styrofoam. She may be environmentally unware. But she might be a germ-a-phobe and couldn’t deal with drinking from a cup someone else used.
    If it’s that big an issue, I would say just remove the styrofoam cups. Although I don’t know what you would do with them then

    • If I were the only one to say what supplies we used, we probably would not have any styrofoam.

      I have also realized that I could say that we don’t have styrofoam available to her as an option without denying that we have styrofoam. Just because it is there (mostly for large groups), doesn’t mean anyone anytime can or should use it.

      • “I could say that we don’t have styrofoam available to her as an option without denying that we have styrofoam.”

        I was going to reply with something along these lines.

        You don’t have to lie. Just say, “Yes, there are styrofoam cups in the building, but if you want to drink this coffee, these are the mugs for it.”

  2. If you feel that strongly about nobody using styrofoam, why are there styrofoam cups available at all? It sounds a little weird that she prefers styrofoam (nothing tastes as good in styrofoam!) but maybe she either didn’t trust how clean your “perma-mugs” were or maybe she wanted to be able to carry her cup of coffee out of the building.

    I guess I’m not answering your actual question though.

    • A co-worker mentioned that she might not trust our cleaning ability/skills. To which I would gladly observe that the factory that created and bagged the styrofoam did not hermetically seal the containers or even double-secure them (as, say, tylenol began to do after the scare)

      From now on, I’ll offer to let people take the cups.

  3. Thank you for your “green” witness. I did notice you did not offer the option of taking the mug with her. Was that a viable option in your situation? Would it have made a difference? I also noticed (at least in the abbreviated conversation you posted) you did not share your reason for why you would rather she use a mug, instead of styrofoam. Just curious why you chose that conversational route? Again – I’m grateful for your “green” witness. I am currently sitting at my desk drinking a diet coke from Chick-fil-a (in a seriously large styro cup). Ouch!

  4. Really, Steve? The old situational ethics question? I have to agree with Brian’s earlier post in principle. To lie in order to protect a ‘green sensibility’ is clearly a violation of biblical precepts. There is no clear biblical precept to be ‘green’. Yes, we are to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us, but not at the expense of truth. Is it not clear that truth should prevail here as opposed to one’s desire to be ‘less wasteful’?

    • “There is no clear biblical precept to be ‘green’. Yes, we are to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us”

      How is that not a biblical precept?

  5. without getting into the whole cup debate… I really think the only time it’s “okay” to lie is when the truth serves no purpose but will hurt someone’s feelings.

    For instance if a child asks if you like their drawing and it looks like the dog did his business on contruction paper with glitter sprinkled on top… I think it’s fine to say “that’s lovely!”. But even then, I usually find a way to skirt around the issue without compromising my so-called integrity saying something like, “well, you certainly went all out, didn’t you!”

    Obviously, for many many reasons the truth is always best… what if this person found out you lied about the cups… how embarrassing would that be?

  6. Lying to her about the styrofoam is so trivial that it probably wouldn’t be the worst thing that happened to her that day if you had just said, “Nope. Just these.” And it’s nice of you to spend the time explaining it to her and offering to wash the cup when she was done. But none of us know what was going through her head at that moment. She could’ve simply felt more comfortable if she didn’t have to worry about breaking it or walking away with it or just causing you to be put out. In any case, she was obviously more comfortable with a disposable cup and when you do some impact calculus on it, her one cup might not have the same effect on the universe that her day with you guys could have had. Being comfortable is the first step to being part of experiences and conversations and friendships that change people’s lives. Even though it’s not preferable, is it so awful?
    (However, you should also keep in mind that I don’t run an organization or church or anything besides myself, so I might be missing an important aspect to the situation, haha).

  7. I don’t think it would be OK to lie. But it WOULD be OK to not buy any more styrofoam cups, while letting them be used until they run out. Then purchasing maybe some sort of recycled/recyclable disposable cup for people who prefer them? I think the idea that she might have been germophobic is a valid one. It’s not a rational thing, but I completely understand not wanting to use communal mugs. Although I think it’s weird in that case to specifically ask for “styrofoam” and not just “disposable.”

  8. This is an out-there idea, but once I saw a video of people with OCD. One lady actually HAD to use soft-textured cups like styrofoam because one of her compulsions was that she HAD to click her teeth so many times on the edge of the cup every time she took a sip. She had chipped all of her teeth badly and the only way the damage was controlled was by using the soft sided cups/glasses. A remote chance in your instance, but just an example about how we should do the best we can and realize we don’t know all the whys and wherefores of such a situation.

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