Every time you tell an obvious white lie, the person is forced to reevaluate how trustworthy you are, causing serious damage to the relationship.
Why All Your Little White Lies Aren’t As Harmless As You Think
White lies can be imbued with arrogance. Their choice may be entirely different to yours. Though white lies can have the benefit of preventing hurt feelings, as adults we should be fully aware that life is tough, and sometimes pain is required in order to learn and grow. They remain for a lifetime. Telling the truth requires none of this.
Truth, on the other hand, is like swimming with the current. The soul that resides in your fleshy ensemble is beautifully unique, giving rise to one-of-a-kind expression and behaviour. Lies impede your originality, slowly turning you into a boring conformist , living a life that everyone else is happy with aside from you.
Routine liars are likely to experience this unnecessary, guilt-ridden discomfort whenever they lie, with each deceitful sentence being accompanied by a jolly good bit of mental self-flagellation.
Telling the Truth ...and When It Is Permissible to Be Less Than Honest
Bad habits are easily formed. One small white lie, seemingly harmless, leads to another white lie, eventually assembling an unstoppable 2-tonne snowball of destructive deceit. Indulging in wrong-doing becomes quickly comfortable, making other types of immoral behaviour effortless.
snowberhpuzzlen.tk Slowly but surely, your once grand character is warped into that of an unloveable scoundrel, with whom nobody wants to take on a lovely dinner date. Honesty is the glue that holds society together, and lying the crowbar that can pry it apart. With enough people lying, nobody can truly trust anyone, and society crumbles into non-cooperative anarchy, Mad Max style.
Given the complexity of our world, it can also be difficult to predict the full effects of a lie. Every situation contains a plethora of factors and outcomes that cannot be determined and calculated by our paltry brains. Lying, white or otherwise, can have far-reaching and devastating effects on our lives. White lies are a short-lived solution, with the potential to diminish your integrity, and the integrity of society as a whole. But what could be wrong with truly "white" lies? First, they are still lies.
And in telling them, we incur all the problems of being less than straightforward in our dealings with other people. Sincerity, authenticity, integrity, mutual understanding — these and other sources of moral wealth are destroyed the moment we deliberately misrepresent our beliefs, whether or not our lies are ever discovered. And while we imagine that we tell certain lies out of compassion for others, it is rarely difficult to spot the damage we do in the process.
By lying, we deny our friends access to reality — and their resulting ignorance often harms them in ways we did not anticipate. Our friends may act on our falsehoods, or fail to solve problems that could have been solved only on the basis of good information. Rather often, to lie is to infringe upon the freedom of those we care about. A primal instance: "Do I look fat in this dress? Responding honestly to the subtext would not be lying.
But this is an edge case for a reason: It crystallizes what is tempting about white lies. Why not simply reassure someone with a tiny lie and send her out into the world feeling more confident? Unless one commits to telling the truth in situations like this, however, one finds that the edges creep inward, and exceptions to the principle of honesty begin to multiply.
Very soon, you may find yourself behaving as most people do quite effortlessly: shading the truth, or even lying outright, without thinking about it. The price is too high. A friend of mine recently asked me whether I thought he was overweight. In fact, he probably was just asking for reassurance: It was the beginning of summer, and we were sitting with our wives by the side of his pool.
However, I'm more comfortable relying on the words that actually come out of a person's mouth, rather than on my powers of telepathy, to know what he is asking. So I answered my friend's question very directly: "No one would ever call you 'fat,' but I think you could probably lose twenty-five pounds. Neither of us knew that he was ready to go on a diet until I declined the opportunity to lie about how he looked in a bathing suit.
Back to our friend in the dress: What is the truth? Perhaps she does look fat in that dress, but it's the fault of the dress. Telling her the truth will allow her to find a more flattering outfit. Let's say she is also thirty-five years old and single, and you happen to know that her greatest desire at this moment in life is to get married and start a family. You believe that many men might be disinclined to date her at her current weight.
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And, marriage aside, you are confident that she would be happier and healthier, and would feel better about herself, if she got in shape. A white lie is simply a denial of these realities. It is a refusal to offer honest guidance in a storm. Even on so touchy a subject, lying seems a clear failure of friendship. By reassuring your friend about her appearance, you are not helping her to do what you think she should do to get what she wants out of life. There are many circumstances in life in which false encouragement can be very costly to another person.
Imagine that you have a friend who has spent years striving unsuccessfully to build a career as an actor. Many fine actors struggle in this way, of course, but in your friend's case the reason seems self-evident: He is a terrible actor. In fact, you happen to know that his other friends — and even his parents — share this opinion but cannot bring themselves to express it. What do you say the next time he complains about his stalled career? Do you encourage him to "just keep at it"? False encouragement is a kind of theft: it steals time, energy, and motivation a person could put toward some other purpose.
This is not to say that we are always correct in our judgments of other people. And honesty demands that we communicate any uncertainty we may feel about the relevance of our own opinions. But if we are convinced that a friend has taken a wrong turn in life, it is no sign of friendship to simply smile and wave him onward.
If the truth itself is painful to tell, there are often background truths that are not — and these can be communicated as well, deepening the friendship. In the two examples above, the more basic truth is that you love your friends and want them to be happy, and both of them could make changes in their lives that might lead to greater fulfillment.
In lying to them, you are not only declining to help them — you are denying them useful information and setting them up for future disappointment. Yet the temptation to lie in these circumstances can be overwhelming. When we presume to lie for the benefit of others, we have decided that we are the best judges of how much they should understand about their own lives — about how they appear, their reputations, or their prospects in the world. This is an extraordinary stance to adopt toward other human beings, and it requires justification.
Unless someone is suicidal or otherwise on the brink, deciding how much he can know about himself seems the quintessence of arrogance. What attitude could be more disrespectful of those we care about? While preparing to write this book, I asked friends and readers for examples of lies that had affected them.
Some of their stories appear below.
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I have changed all names to protect the innocent and the guilty alike. Many people shared stories of family members who deceived one another about medical diagnoses. Here is one: My mother was diagnosed with MS when she was in her iate 30s. Her doctor thought it was best to lie and teii her that she didn't have MS.
He toid my father the truth. Meanwhile, my mother went to the library, read up on her symptoms, and diagnosed herself with MS. She decided not to teii my father or their chiidren because she didn't want to upset anyone. One year later, when she went to the doctor for her annual checkup, the doctor told her she had MS. She confessed that she knew but hadn't told anyone.
My dad confessed that he knew but hadn't told anyone. So they each spent a year with a secret and without each other's support. My brother found out accidentally about a year later, when my mother had breast cancer surgery. The surgeon walked into the room and essentially said, "This won't affect the MS. Rather than feeling grateful and protected, I felt sadness that we hadn't come together as a family to face her illness and support each other.
My mother never told her mother about the MS, which meant that none of us could tell friends and family, for fear that her mother would find out. She didn't want to hurt her mother. I think she deprived herself of the opportunity to have a cioser relationship with her mother. Such tales of medical deception were once extraordinarily common.
In fact, I know of at least one instance within my own family: My maternal grandmother died of cancer when my mother was sixteen. She had been suffering from metastatic melanoma for nearly a year, but her doctor had told her that she had arthritis. Her husband, my grandfather, knew her actual diagnosis but decided to maintain this deception as well.
After my grandmother's condition deteriorated, and she was finally hospitalized, she confided to a nurse that she knew that she was dying. However, she imagined that she had been keeping this a secret from the rest of her family, her husband included. Needless to say, my mother and her younger brother were kept entirely in the dark.
A Brutal Liberation
In their experience, their mother checked into the hospital for "arthritis" and never returned. Think of all the opportunities for deepening love, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding that are forsaken by white lies of this kind. When we pretend not to know the truth, we must also pretend not to be motivated by it.