The Problem with “White Lies”

The Problem with "White Lies"

White lies are lies that are harmless and trivial. At least, that’s what the dictionary says.

But I disagree with the dictionary, if that’s allowed.

I tell white lies often. So often in fact that I don’t always realize I’m doing it. I (white) lie when it’s convenient, comforting, and easier than being honest. I tell a few different types of white lies on a regular basis:

-I exaggerate or embellish events that happened to me to make them sound more interesting or dramatic.

-I give unnecessary and untruthful compliments to people, like “I love your bag!” When really, I don’t love your bag; I just want you to like me. So, I compliment you.

-And, my personal favorite, I tell half-truths.

Half-truths occur when everything you’re saying is indeed true, but you strategically leave out a crucial piece of information, so the person you’re talking to only hears part of the story.

The Half-truth is my favorite because my legalistic side tells me that technically I have been truthful. Then, I go home and my heart tells me I lied.

That’s exactly what happened to me the other day when I was talking to the owner of the building I work in. Our alarm system was down, and I had a sneaking suspicion it was my fault. I had been the one to set it the night before, and I had had some struggles. There had been some beeps. And then, there had been a loud siren sound. I knew I had done something wrong and sure enough, the next day, our building owner explained to me that it was broken.

But instead of confessing to him the struggles, beeps and siren sounds, I simply said, “Well, I hope I didn’t break it,” smiled as charmingly as I could and looked away.

Typically, this would not bother me. After all, I didn’t lie. Did he really need to know all of the details of my shenanigans with the alarm system? No, but for whatever reason, the truth about my half-truth would not leave me alone that night.

It kept me up as I tried to sleep. It occupied my mind as I tried to shop at HomeGoods. It didn’t even pipe down after the glass of wine I drank. Fine! I told myself. Tomorrow, when I see the owner, I will tell him the whole truth.

Sure enough, when I walked into my building the next morning, the owner was hovering right outside my office talking to the receptionist. (Isn’t that always the way?) It took a couple minutes, but eventually I told him the entire story, including the parts I had conveniently left out the day before about the beeps and the reentering of doors and that when I joked about being the one who broke it, I actually meant I was 85% sure I was the one who broke it.

I told him all of this, and guess what. He didn’t care at all. In fact, he just laughed and said he didn’t think that would have broken the system, then walked out of my office. My telling him the whole truth made no difference to him. But it made a difference to me. It made a difference in me.

A smile crept onto my face, a weight that had been on my shoulders when I was walking around HomeGoods completely disappeared. I felt so much better, and this got me thinking, maybe sometimes we need to tell the truth only for ourselves, only for our own souls.

No matter how tiny our white lies are, they affect us. With each one we tell, lying gets easier and easier, and the truth gets harder and harder until our realities are skewed in such a way that confessing you maybe tampered with a security system on accident feels like an impossible thing to say.

I don’t want to live a life where lying, even white lying, is the norm and the truth is hard to find and hard to say. If my story is boring, let it be boring without the embellishment. If I meet you and don’t like your purse, let me say nothing about your purse. And if I know I’m telling you only part of the truth, may I stop myself and tell you the whole story.

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5 thoughts on “The Problem with “White Lies”

  1. I have been really blessed. It’s better to tell the truth and have peace in your heart than tell a lie and feel uncomfortable for a long period of time which may even be days or months.

    Like

  2. This was an excellent post to read. I find that embellishment comes with a writer’s territory, but it doesn’t make it okay in our day to day interactions. Bravo for speaking truth!

    Like

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