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Flat-out Lie, Fabrication, or Caring Imagination?

By Rajesh C. Oza Email By Rajesh C. Oza
December 2012
Flat-out Lie, Fabrication, or Caring Imagination? SATYALOGUE
with PostModern Gandhiji (PMG)

An advice column offering the Mahatma’s perspective on modern dilemmas


Dear PMG,

It’s been tough getting a job since I moved from India with my husband who is a doctoral student. I’m a literal person who believes in the Gandhian philosophy of truth-telling. Unfortunately, I did not work in India, so on my resume I wrote “N/A” in the experiences section.

My husband’s friends tell me to stretch the truth and include some experiences, but I just can’t do it. Shall I give up my values, tell a little white lie, and get a job, or shall I just give up a couple of meals every day? What has me asking this question is that the doctoral stipend is not enough to make ends meet for a married couple.

Dear Friend,

“A man of truth must also be a man of care.” (M. K. Gandhi)

The simple, absolutist response is, “Do NOT ever lie.” That said, life in a social context is more complex and requires sophistication. Please do not confuse the word “sophistication” with “fabrication,” which itself is a synonym for lying; instead think of a sophisticated person as one who is in careful and caring dialogue with others.

Perhaps an everyday example will get us started. If a casual colleague walks past you in the hallway and asks, “How’re ya’ doing?”, and you are feeling under the weather, overworked, and ready to change jobs, are you compelled as a Gandhian to share all of your feelings in the name of truth-telling? No. You can simply reply, “Doing okay. And how are you?” The reason for not sharing the whole truth is that you understand that the other person is not interested in your complete feelings; she just wants to acknowledge that she saw you and be acknowledged in return.

Similarly with job applications, we look to be in caring and careful alignment with potential employers. We never fudge our applications, but we do highlight those experiences that are congruent with the employer’s needs.

When I was in college, I worked in fabrication for a printed circuit board company. I put that experience on my resume and interviewed for a summer job with a company that had advertised for a semiconductor fabrication technician. Since semiconductor fabrication was different from PCB fabrication, I knew little about this area except that I could quickly learn about semiconductors and would work harder and longer than anyone else. The company gave me the job and within a month wanted to promote me to supervisor.

Work (like food) is necessary; and necessity is the mother of invention. This doesn’t mean you invent (fabricate?) lies, but it does mean that you meet others where they are by discerning how your experiences align with employer requirements. So, you may not have worked in India, but you could look for work that could employ the particular talents, skills, experiences, and personality traits you have, and highlight that match to your prospective employers.

Beyond the job search, caring and imaginative alignment serves us well in all of life.

[Dr. Rajesh C. Oza serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at raj_oza@hotmail.com.]


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