Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tell Me White Little Lies

Tell Me White Little Lies

A lie is a lie is a lie, right? Yes and no. We talk about lies as being good lies and bad lies. How do we separate the lies that are good from the lies that are bad? Why do we call them white lies, but a lie is a lie and not a black lie. How do we differentiate between the two? How do we justify one lie that is good and one lie that is bad? When do we in the course of marriage communication weave together a fabric of lies so tight that suddenly, we don't recognize the truth that exists between us because we've sugar coated it with so many lies that we may not even recognize the truth?

White Lies
White lies, we say, are lies that cause no harm. They are lies that we tell to keep someone else from harm. They are the little lies we tell to avoid a disagreement or to sooth over troubled waters. It can be as simple as saying you did swing by the bank, but you didn't. You know you will be going by in the morning, so it can't hurt, right?
The white lie is the one where we tell our husband you forgot to get something out for dinner, when the truth is - you just don't feel like cooking. It will be easier for him to pick something up on the way home. The white lie is the one you tell when you go out shopping and spend a little too much, but don't mention it especially if the subject never comes up.
A white lie is not supposed to hurt someone, it's supposed to protect him or her. But lies, almost all lies, are not about protecting someone else - they are about protecting yourself.
A Lie By Any Other Name
That's the problem with lies. Little lies are easy to tell and soon they become bigger and bigger. Eventually, your lies weave so tightly, you forget what was the lie and what was the truth. The bottom drops out and sooner or later you are caught in a lie. When you get caught in that lie, people get hurt. Because when you lie, you are protecting yourself from the antipathy, disappointment and even the anger of others. But your lie takes away someone else's choice - and that is the crime.
When you tell someone a lie, you are taking away from him or her, the right to make an informed decision. You are taking away from them their right to make their own choices. We can justify lies to our children, because we don't let them make choices. But we teach them over and over and over again not to lie - they have to tell us the truth so that we can make the best decisions for them, so we can be informed and so that we can trust them.
If this is true for our children, why would we ever lie to our spouses, our friends or our loved ones?

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