White lies are a slow painful death of the self.
By definition, white lies means, “a harmless or trivial lie, especially one told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.” The idea relies on the premise that the only way you can hurt someone is by sharing with them information that would lead to them becoming upset. It also relies on the idea that only you get to decide what is considered trivial. First, white lies discredit you. Say, you agreed to do your friend a favor but you never planned on doing it in the first place. Or you exclaim “This is the best gift ever!” when you just want to stash it in the back of your closet. What if that same friend watches you fake a smile only to turn around and badmouth the situation? It begs to question, how do you define your friendship?
Also, what I deem trivial might actually be a big deal to you. Telling your spouse that you bought something on clearance to only see that the bill was 30 times more can be your proclamation to financial independence and their ticket to investigating where else are you fibbing. Telling your child that there is no spinach in the tomato sauce while they see green squiggly bits may lead to your child paranoically forking through each bite over the green things instead of teaching him that spinach actually doesn’t taste like much when mixed in the sauce.
When we teach our children to express something they are not truly feeling in order to be polite, we are teaching them so many wrong concepts about relationships. When is it okay to express our opinion? What about honesty? Is it context-dependent – meaning that we are honest not because it is a character trait but because it is useful in some situations and not in others? Is it that black and white- either you lie and keep the other person happy or you tell the truth and everything goes awry?
Who Is Responsible?
Are we truly responsible for another person’s feelings? Believing this can get us in a mess of relationship drama. If I’m responsible for your warm and fuzzies- that puts a lot of pressure on me to focus on you to keep you feeling something that is not constant. Who is always happy? How am I supposed to know what makes you happy? I can guess based on some history we share, on some common sense, but inevitably, your happiness is yours and it relies on your state of mind, not my gifts and words. They help, undoubtedly, but it doesn’t rely on them.
It’s an upswing battle that leads to the casualty of the relationship and your identity. Can my sole purpose in life be to keep your negative feelings at bay? If I am taught as a child to put everyone’s feelings above my own for the sake of keeping the peace and being polite, when do I get the chance to figure out what I like and dislike, what makes me feel … anything? No wonder so many of us have a hard time figuring out what’s going on inside our minds and hearts.
White lies are an attempt to stall the consequences of the truth. If your spouse makes the same meal the same way and you sneak an Alka-seltzer before bedtime but you congratulate her for its superb taste, you will spend your life with indigestion. If you justify the lies as a way to keep the peace with your co-worker, significant other, friend, family, child- when will they ever get to know the real you? Isn’t it worth it for them? Isn’t it worth it for you?
Do we have to swallow our true feelings to please the other person? Do we have to go on an honest binge and share our raw feelings? No, I am not condoning that. There is ruthless honesty and there is compassionate honesty. Can you thank the other person for their gesture and if they happen to ask for your opinion, decide whether to offer it or not? When you are able to share how you feel you build trust with the other person. And isn’t that what we all want? To be known, appreciated, trusted, and able to trust.