Are white lies just a euphemism for things we cannot face?
We tell a kinder, softer version of a lie because we don’t want to hurt another person’s feelings.
We stretch the truth for something so trivial that it cannot be a lie, but all the while we are digging ourselves deeper into denial.
Why not just tell it like it is? We think we are not hurting anyone, but we are only prolonging the pain.
Think of the person on the receiving end who finds out months later that you did not attend her party because you were at another party and didn’t want her to know. All those months she believed you were not feeling well, and then she finds out in truth you were at a concert with another friend. You try to deny it, but there you are on a Facebook post.
Think of how hurt she must feel. It would have been less painful to hear the truth straight away than to have told the white lie because you were afraid you would hurt her.
Now on top of the lie, she has the added innuendos that you don’t like her, that she is somehow to fragile to hear the truth or that you think she has poor taste in catering. It just complicates things, and a simple thank you for the invite but I cannot attend would have spared all this pain.
We tell white lies about:
- reasons for canceling plans
- our feelings for a romantic partner
- preferences in food, color and music
- another person’s problem with alcohol, weight or drugs
- the number of calories we consume
It starts with something of seemingly little importance but before we know it we find our selves in denial. We have turned our head on something at the time we felt was slightly uncomfortable to deal with and now all that discomfort we sought to avoid has climaxed and now we have to confess to our own discomfort with telling the truth.
There is no way around it. A lie, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, is still a lie. Lies are wrong, not moral, but if told to make someone feel better then it is considered a kindness thing to do.
A lie is never a good thing, no matter what it is about or who it is directed toward. It is better to deal with problems straight away, since they always have a way of coming to the surface when we slip up in conversation or get spotted in a place we said we wouldn’t be.
In the moment we may tell one in order to make another person feel less rejected or find comfort their own struggle with addiction. Or maybe we just use them to not admit that we are cheating.
But there are ways to handle the discomfort without lying. A simple “no thank you” works when declining an invitation. There is no need to say what you are doing, where you are going. If the person asks, just say you have another engagement.
Ask for help. Maybe we don’t know how to handle the situation, it seems overwhelming—a friend is drinking too much, you are cheating on you diet, you cannot pay a bill. There is always a way to find a solution, to be proactive.
Do not wait. If you know you don’t love your partner, the relationship will not work in the long run, or if you have gotten in too deep financially. Don’t avoid the issue as it will only grow bigger.
Tell the truth as soon as you know or as soon as possible to minimize the harmful effects.
There is nothing innocent about a white lie, because when we tell them, we are really lying to ourselves.
There is no softer way to tell it, there is no avoiding the issue. Call it like it is—denial.
Author: Jane CoCo Cowles
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Wikimedia Commons