A friend asks for your opinion on his new hairstyle, or blog, which you don’t like. But you tell him, it’s nice. He asks if you’d go watch a movie with him this weekend, but you’d rather just lie around the house. You tell him, you have relatives coming over.
Why do we tell these little white lies? Probably, the most popular answer would be to spare someone’s feelings. After all, a white lie isn’t doing any harm to anyone, and if it helps avoid hurting someone, then why not? You’ve probably done this, and probably, will again in the future.
I’m no saint; I have done this too. Not that I’m proud of it. But, I have been trying to avoid this as much as possible. And it’s not without reason.
Firstly, I feel that by lying to someone, even when it’s a white lie, and is for the benefit for that other person, we are not being honest with that person. A person has the right to know the truth, and I feel like I owe it to them to tell them the facts as they are.
Secondly, who am I to decide what’s good or bad for them? Have they ever asked me not to tell them the truth if it hurts their feelings? Most likely, no. Would they like to hear the truth at the cost of their feelings? Hard to say. It all depends on the magnitude of the truth / white lie, and how much it can affect them. But if you did ask them what they’d rather have, I feel confident that they would ask for the truth, no matter the consequences. It probably has to do with the belief that we are capable of making sensible decisions (contrary to whatever proof we may have from the past), given the right facts. So, if they are confident enough to want to hear the truth, who am I to judge that they can’t?
Another reason: In many situations, white lies are told, not so much as to spare the others’ feelings, but rather as a quick way out, to avoid dealing with the whole situation altogether. Suppose your brother asked you to run a small errand, and you forgot about it. When confronted, you lie that you were stuck at work and didn’t get a chance to get to it. Are you lying so as not to hurt him, or to avoid the topic (for the moment at least)? I don’t like the idea of relying on lies, no matter how insignificant, to deal with every day occurrences in life. It’s not a matter of an isolated instance once in a while. If one is not careful, they can become habits.
Also, if I can’t tell the truth to those who are closest to me, whom can I tell it to? I just feel that even the smallest of lies brings just that tiniest of the tiny distance between two people. Maybe it doesn’t do that for everyone, but because I feel that it does, it actually does for me. As they say, we build our own reality.
I think at some level I believe that truth shouldn’t hurt. I’m not saying that it doesn’t, but that it shouldn’t. Truth is something that just is. It’s something that has happened (say my friend, Sheldon (wink wink), ditched me, and went to a movie with another friend), or is the way of the universe, written in its laws (I’d like to fly, but Sheldon tells me that I can’t), or is something that’s not under our control (Sheldon makes a decision, which I don’t think is right, and there’s nothing I can do to change his mind), or is relative (I invite Sheldon to my new home; he tells me he doesn’t like it. Doesn’t mean that the house is bad). [BTW, you might be wondering why I’m friends with Sheldon. Truth be told (no pun intended), it’s probably because he doesn’t lie to me. But I have to say, it’s not easy. :)]
There’s nothing that can be done about truth. So, why get bothered by it? Why let it affect us and hurt us? Just accept it, and move on. Of course, I understand that this is not realistic, and I may well be talking about a perfect world scenario. But that’s no reason not to try and imbibe the idea in one’s life, at whatever scale one can, if one agrees with it.
To repeat the popular cliche: It’s not easy. Nothing good ever is. It’s a work in progress, and I slip up. Sometimes, I’m not aware enough to realise what I’m doing. Sometimes, I’m just too lazy to put in the effort. But I feel like I’ve put some thought into it, and have an idea of where I want to be. It’s just a question of getting there, one step at a time.
The point is, truth itself isn’t hurtful. It’s how we react to it. If it hurts me, then I’m not dealing with it the right way. And despite whatever history I may have of dealing with it, I feel confident that in subsequent situations, I can handle it the way it should be, or at least, better than how I did in the past. It is the belief in these ideas, that makes me seek truth even at the potential cost of getting hurt. And it’s the same belief because of which I prefer telling the same to others.
What are your thoughts on the topic? Do you think the topic of white lies is something that we don’t need to take so seriously? How do you deal with these situations?
BTW, I’ve had these thoughts for a while, but hadn’t documented them. To give credit where it’s due, this avalanche was triggered when I saw the following pic on Facebook today, and thought I’d finally write these down.