The Truth About Lies …

In a recent article, I wrote about ‘living our Truth’ and what that means in terms of living authentically (http://stepoutofthemist.com/truth-or-consequences/) … but there’s another Truth that has the ability to affect our lives practically every day – the Truth whose opposite is an un-Truth … otherwise known as a Lie.

Now as we know, there are several different kinds of Lies. Some are referred to as Little White Lies, and these are apparently meant to be innocent. We also call them Fibs. When couched in this category, Lies somehow lose their seriousness. Or so we are led to believe. Because compared to other Lies – such as Whoppers – those which we call Fibs seem to pale by comparison. But do they, really?

If someone is simply trying to ‘gently guide the truth past you’ in order to conceal a surprise for you, that’s one thing. There would be no rancour or deceit in such a move. Quite the opposite, actually, since this is usually an act of love or affection.

Fibs, on the other hand – as small as they may be – are still connected to Lies. And if you are on the receiving end of one, you may not judge it to be quite so benign. For the most part, it seems that Fibs are invoked when someone’s embarrassment or awkwardness precedes the moment. Are they as serious as an outright Lie? Well, that probably depends on how charitable the receiver is. Is it easier to forgive an untruth told by someone in order to avoid humiliation than to forgive an outright deliberate Lie that’s meant to gain benefit or cause harm to you or someone else?

If it is, then the question may become “where do we draw the line?” How do we establish which level of Lie is acceptable and which is not? Doesn’t it come down to a question of trust? How can we completely trust someone who has shown they are willing to occasionally resort to subterfuge in order to achieve their objective … whether that’s the avoidance of their humiliation or the more onerous manipulation of circumstances?

Another consideration is if you are duped by someone through a Lie, does the perpetrator of the Lie hold any accountability for the results of this indiscretion? What if their Lie ended up costing you money or opportunity – or even your reputation – because you (or others) believed them? Should they get to just shrug their shoulders and say, “Yeh, my bad – sorry ’bout that …” (not that they would ever necessarily admit their culpability). Do you have any protection from that? Well, unless it’s something contractual or slanderous, you probably don’t – not usually, anyway.

So perhaps neither Lies nor Fibs are benign on any level. Each can actually be quite harmful, once told. Since we can’t project the repercussions of such fabrications after they are released, how ethical is the presumption to discount their importance? Surely a better philosophy in the process of human communication is to simply be truthful in all things – and if you cannot, then perhaps in the name of your personal integrity, that’s a good time to say nothing at all.

… and while you consider this, remember to always focus on the Good Things in Life!

 

 


Comments

The Truth About Lies … — 20 Comments

  1. I do not believe the occasional “little white lie” is a bad thing if it is not harming anyone and is actually protecting someone. Elaborate lies can turn into huge fabricated stories that are untrue and I do believe that is wrong. That being said, as a mom to two teenagers, one of the things I have taught them is to never lie to me. I would rather know the truth, as horrible as it may be, than to have them lie to me. Whatever they may have done can always be dealt with. I think most people have told little “fibs” – that is just human nature!

    • Hi, Laurie …

      Yes, I agree that White Lies can seem innocent enough – particularly when they’re meant to protect someone. But aren’t we also actually protecting ourselves from the awkwardness of having to say something uncomfortable to someone we care about? I understand what you’re saying, but I also think there is value in knowing the truth – awkward or not. People are often more resilient than we give them credit for, and if delivered respectfully and with compassion, I believe a hard truth is always better than a comfortable lie. Even if someone’s feelings are temporarily hurt … they’ll get over it, and will respect you for not taking the easy way out with them.

      Kudos to you for developing such an open relationship with your kids. I’m sure they are grateful to have a safe outlet to express themselves. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here … it’s a delicate subject, I know – and certainly has room for more than one perspective.

      Namaste,
      /L.

  2. Great post Lily-Ann! Yes, this is definitely a hot button. This reminds of a conversation we had last Sunday. A friend, who is also an attorney, had come back from an ABA meeting and didn’t care for the presenter’s recommendation, “make requests from your client very narrow, so you don’t come across something that is damaging to your client.” Yes, this is a gray area, especially if you are acting in a representative capacity. Being in my integrity is essential, and this is the only real non-gray area for me.

    • Hi, Erika …

      I would think that in a legal environment, the truth becomes an even more valuable commodity – and as an attorney, I can’t imagine you being comfortable litigating or defending without confidence that you know the whereabouts of every potential weapon against you.

      Recently, I’ve had some conversations on this subject, too, and I’ve been pretty surprised at the variety of opinions coming forward. For example, not everyone is bothered by what they define as a white lie … but even more curious – not everyone’s definition of a white lie has been the same. And to me, therein lies the danger.

      So it seems that this is one hot topic that will never achieve consensus, and that’s okay with me … I’m entirely satisfied that it has at least struck enough of a chord that it got people thinking and talking about it.

      Thanks for taking the time to weigh in on it … I appreciate your comments.

      Namaste,
      /L.

  3. Is there a lie that isn’t a lie? I’ll have to think about this some more, but the first example I have is the lie of omission. Two adults meet and fall in love. Is it a lie to not tell your partner about all your past lovers. What if the new beau wants an in-depth list? I don’t believe full disclosure is always best. Quite frankly, I might question a companion who would, but that’s another question.

    I’ll let you know if I have any more thoughts.

    • Hi, Cathy …

      Although not everyone seems to agree, in my opinion there is no lie that isn’t a lie. In situations as delicate as the one you outline, my response would be to respectfully decline to answer. Such information would be a betrayal of an intimate trust between you and your past lovers, and quite frankly, nobody’s business – anymore than the intimate details of your current love would be the business of a future love. I would rather stand firmly on that ground than to lie about (or even enhance) my previous romances – regardless of how or why they ended.

      As grown ups, we get to say No when questions or requests go against our integrity or moral fibre. I’ve been placed in situations where demands have been made of me, as in “I want to know [something]!!” … and my response is always the same – “You can want to know – that’s your right … it’s a free country. Doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you.”

      Yeh, it never goes over well at first, but I stick to my guns and it soon becomes apparent that to press me is futile … so the next choice is theirs. (My cousin told me I’m a hard-ass … and on some issues – like confidences – I suppose I am. And I think I’m okay with that.)

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts …

      Namaste,
      /L.

  4. Hi Lily-Ann ~ wonderful post. You broached a subject that is not an easy one to speak on and you did a great job in explaining that a lie, is a lie, is a lie!

    I agree with your perspective even though I am guilty of telling the fib or little white lie to avoid hurting someone and because it is easier than telling the hard truth.

    Thank you for creating this “look at self” moment and our relationship with truth. Truth: it is better to say nothing or plead the fifth than to lie. All untruths hurt either you and/or others.

    Best,
    Lyndah

    • Hi, Lyndah …

      I certainly have told my share of fibs in the past – and that’s partly how I’ve reached my conclusion about how damaging they can be. I had a recent conversation on this subject, and had occasion to ask “have you ever told that convenient white lie to a friend to ‘protect them’ and had them later discover that you knew the truth all along? Has it ever happened even one time that they were grateful for your deception – or did they expect more from you??” And that is a question to filter all ‘harmless white lies’ through, in my view – because that will reveal the stark reality of being thusly ‘protected’ by friends who you’d expected would instead have your back.

      Certainly food for thought, isn’t it?? A controversial subject, for sure.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I always enjoy your perspective.

      Namaste,
      /L.

  5. Hey Lily-Ann,

    an interesting topic to ponder on. To be honest, I have three teenage kids and as a result am subject to constant lying 24/7 – lol.

    I assume they’re lying whenever their lips move, and I’m not usually disappointed. For my part, I much prefer to just ‘out with the truth – and to hell with the consequences’. But to be honest, I often feel that I made a wrong choice. Maybe in such circumstances, ‘silence is golden’ should be my guiding light.

    Nice concept Lily-Ann :)

    All the best,
    Paul

    • Hi, Paul …

      LOL! Yes, you’re probably quite right! Silence is often so very golden!

      But seriously, I think that sometimes when we feel the awkwardness or discomfort that can be associated with a hard truth, it’s easy to think a fib would have been preferred – but if we’re being honest (at least with ourselves, if to nobody else), a fib would be more to avoid feeling our own reaction than to protect the person we’re lying to … but it’s frequently more convenient to justify it as a noble act, in order to not appear selfish.

      There are many nurturing ways to express a hard truth to someone without being brutal about it. On such occasions, I would find the most kind and loving way to deliver my truth, whether it makes me feel awkward or not. Then I would make myself available as part of a support network to offer them help as they process their reaction. After all, opening someone’s eyes to a harsh reality doesn’t make us responsible for that reality. But to lie about their harsh reality would indeed enjoin us to it, without making any attempt to help them improve their position. To me, that’s not a lot different than leaving them to flap in the wind while I look the other way. True friends shouldn’t prefer to do that, in my view.

      I know not everyone would choose this approach, and we each get to make those decisions for ourselves. For me, though, when I’m placed in a situation where a response is both warranted and expected, I have to admit that I will choose staying true to my integrity over your hurt feelings every single time.

      Thanks, Paul, for taking the time to read my post and leave a comment. Drop by anytime …

      Namaste,
      /L.

  6. This is definitely a very sensitive subject, I agree. I do, however, feel there is a way to step around what “our truth” is when it comes to opinions. For instance, my daughter is at an age where words and thoughts about her can have a huge impact. I am very sensitive to this and try to teach her that what others think about her is not only none of her business but it simply does not matter nor does it make her who she is. This includes the accolades as well as the slander. She had a friend who got braces and was very unhappy with the way they looked and when she asked my daughter what she thought she told her they looked fine – that most kids their age wore them and they came in all kinds and colors. Later my daughter said they did look very different and they would not have been the ones she chose for herself. If she had of said to her friend she didn’t like them it could have caused her self-confidence to cave even further. It was only her opinion anyway and instead of stating that, she chose to help her friend sink into this new experience knowing she was fine no matter. I was proud of her for being so considerate as to help her friend find her way into this part of her life with a little more ease and security. These kids can be really rough on each other and the hurtful comments that get slung at them from time to time can be devastating to a developing soul. So, if deflecting the attention to the greater part of the situation as a way to bring the soul of the friendship to the forefront then so be it….

    • Hi, Dawn …

      I can certainly understand why you would feel the way you do. Our adolscent years are incredibly volatile and therefore difficult to find emotional balance within. It is very much to your credit that you’re raising your daughter to be confident and self-assured, and I’m sure she will grow up to be a strong woman. When she was in a position to express an opinion to her friend, she was sensitive in doing so – but I’m not sure that your example quite captures my point, which is that a lie is a lie is a lie. Saying someone’s braces look ‘fine’ when they’re not necessarily the ones she herself would have chosen is very different from, say, assuring a friend you didn’t know her husband was having an affair, when in fact you were the front-desk clerk at the hotel where they checked in for the night.

      I think I know what your point is, though. Expressing a deliberately softened opinion to make someone feel more comfortable is something people do all the time – and is what I would file under “gently guiding the truth past” someone. The truth, in your example, is that your daughter wouldn’t have chosen those braces for herself. It doesn’t become a lie to say something looks fine, just because it isn’t what you might choose. But even so, it was a very kind act on your daughter’s part, and you have a right to feel proud of her compassion.

      Thanks for expressing your thoughts on this … it’s a complex subject, for sure, and one without a totally black or totally white position. I’m glad to hear so many opinions on it.

      Namaste,
      /L.

  7. Hi Lily

    An interesting article about a difficult subject. I used to work for an accountant so lying was considered “normal” – along with “creative accounting.” Thank Goodness those days are behind me!

    Rather than tell an outright lie, someone could “find another way to put it” or soften their opinion. Finding another way to put something, or sliding the truth past someone takes some thinking time, so it’s probably quicker to tell a lie. Not acceptable, but quicker.

    I’ll be back
    Shan

    • Hi, Shan …

      Welcome to my blog … I’m pleased you stopped by. This topic has proven to be a complex one, for sure. It has sparked much debate over the years, and I’m sure will continue to challenge the limits of our conscience for a good many more.

      For me, truthfulness is the least complicated approach to any interaction, but that doesn’t discount the value of a thoughtful or compassionate delivery. It is never my goal to hurt someone, or tear them down in any way … but on the other hand, neither do I want to mislead them or allow them to be deceived, just to avoid my own moments of awkwardness. I’ve been on both sides of that coin, and in my experience hearing the truth – even if it hurts – has always been best in the long run. Otherwise, it’s a lot like someone giving deliberately faulty directions to a person who is lost … it may make you seem helpful at the time, but ultimately, what good did it do?

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on this …

      Namaste,
      /L.

    • Hello, Milan …

      Yes, I know what you mean … and it’s a sad but true statement. Still, I like to think that if we don’t give someone a reason to lie, the chances are better that the truth will be their preference. It won’t always work that way, I agree – but all I can do is make it easy for them to be truthful, and then hope for the best.

      Thanks for dropping by and sharing your comment …

      Namaste,
      /L.

  8. Hi Lily-Ann,

    I have been told that little “white lie” is still a lie. No matter how you slice it, no matter how you make it fancy, it is still a LIE. However, I dunno if I practice not telling white lie at all. Coz if this is going to save someone’s life, I would prolly do it for the sake of it.

    For instance, if I have a couple of soldiers hiding in my house and a Nazi army is looking for them, to save their lives I would prolly tell a lie. That kinda thing.

    In the bible it says, “Thou shalt not lie.” So where do I base my truth on this? Is telling a white lie really a sin or what. This subject is very controversial. As a person, I’m always truthful and honest. But like the example I mentioned before, I would never voluntarily tell a fat person she is fat…just because I want to be honest. I think this is cruel.

    Anyway, I finally got a chance to comment on your blog. This is what I have been wanting to do for days now. Thank you for sharing us your thoughts.

    Have a lovely week ahead.

    Angela

    • Hi, Angela …

      In the example you mention, certainly those are extreme circumstances of life or death – and like you, I would not hesitate to lie to protect a life. I think I wouldn’t, however, lie merely to protect someone’s feelings. If someone is fat, as in your example, and they ask me if I think they’re fat, I’m going to find a kind and loving way to let them know that their weight problem is apparent, and that perhaps we could both stand to lose a few pounds so let’s do it together. I wouldn’t see how lying to them would be helpful … because sometimes people are seeking permission to continue harmful behaviour, so that they can abdicate accountability for it – e.g. “Well, Angela said I’m not fat, so why am I being so hard on myself? (Pass the cookies, please?)”

      I think I understand what you’re saying, though, and of course I wouldn’t just blurt out “You’re fat!” … but to not answer honestly is to enable them in their harmful behaviour, and that makes me complicit in any health issues they develop as a result of it. So instead, I would always find a constructive and supportive way to be honest in such situations.

      I’m pleased you were able to make time to stop by and leave a comment on this article. I hope to see you again.

      Namaste,
      /L.

    • Hi, Ang …

      Thanks for this – I know that not everyone sees it the same way, but that’s okay. It’s a conscience thing, I suspect. But for me and mine, truthfulness is just so much easier … and more respectful. I don’t advocate hurting someone, of course, but it’s rarely the truth that hurts – it’s what the truth reveals that does the hurting, and whatever that might be, denying it won’t change it. Knowing the truth and choosing to overlook (or forgive) what it reveals is very different from not knowing the truth and being betrayed by it. And that’s the point I keep coming back to. At some point in time, the truth will always out … and then the untruthful become complicit in the betrayal through their fib – so who wins, in such a scenario?

      It’s good to see you again …

      Namaste,
      /L.

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