I think one of the hardest things for a lot of people is to know what to do when somebody they’re close to is obviously lying about something. Do we let them save face and refrain from calling them out on it, or do we call them onto the carpet and confront them about their dishonesty?
The line is a fine one. Here’s how I look at it, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I personally think that if the lie is a lie with the sole intent of not looking stupid, careless, or senseless, let the person save face. Don’t call them out on it. It doesn’t help anything.
If the lie is something that drastically affects a greater situation, if it is genuinely insulting, destructive, harmful to another person, or potentially life altering, call them out on it.
Think about the reason most people try to save face in the first place (usually with a white lie). Something didn’t go as planned. Something fell through. Somebody was mistaken or wrong. Somebody forgot something. Somebody was hoping for or expecting a better result. Somebody feels better believing something to be true about themselves, the people around them, or their situation.
Let’s be honest about why any person would tell a lie about something that to you or me might seem overly trivial. It almost always boils down to that person acting on some fear of rejection (we almost all do, believe me.) The person feels that if she admits to a mistake, you will think she’s stupid. The person feels that if he doesn’t have a good reason for things not to go as planned, you will think he’s incapable. Simply put, most people try to save face because they don’t want to be judged harshly or unfairly. They don’t want to feel worthless. They don’t want to feel rejected.
So why call them out on it? What does it really matter, and what are you going to achieve by doing so? You’re going to achieve a state of awkwardness, is what you’re going to achieve. You’re going to achieve hard feelings. You’re going to achieve somebody feeling worse than they did in the first place. You’re going to achieve somebody feeling rejected. Was it worth it? If you know or suspect the truth anyway, why does it matter?
Frankly I don’t think white lies are always so big a deal. Heaven knows I’ve told one or two of ‘em in my day. And judging by the poll I’ve had running this week, just about all of us have. Sometimes, when the winds of life blow discouragement or failure our way, it’s how we feel just a little less worthless. It’s how we feel a little less pain from the blows that failure has dealt us. And usually, even if we stand among the most honest, those little fibs will come out before we realize our lips are even moving.
Maybe you’ve never told a white lie in your life. I hereby dub thee Honest Abe and commend you for your integrity. But to be dubbed thus, you have to have never told anybody you felt fine when you didn’t, that you liked what they were wearing when you actually hated it, or that their haircut wasn’t a complete disaster even thought it most certainly was. You also have to have never told somebody the food they prepared was great, even when it tasted like burnt dog crap, or told your child that the tooth fairy would be coming to take that newly pulled tooth.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying everybody should go around lying about everything and that we should all be okay with that. I try my best to be honest in 100% of what I do. All day. Every day. And to everyone. Most of us do. And even though we try, most of us tell the occasional white lie, too.
I’ve declared my admiration for my then-wife even when we were in the thickest of our struggles. I’ve told Noah that Santa Claus exists. I’ve told a salesman that I wasn’t interested, even when I was. I’ve even [gasp] told somebody I was stuck in traffic when I wasn’t.
But when to call somebody out? There are times when it’s a must, even when it causes friction or hurt feelings between the parties involved.
I believe we should never let another person’s reputation be damaged by a known lie. Ever. It is wrong. Every single time.
I also believe we should never let immoral things take place or go under the radar because we didn’t want to call someone out on their dishonesty. We shouldn’t let people bare false witness against others, we shouldn’t let people suffer for the crimes or shortcomings of another, and we certainly shouldn’t let one person’s deceitfulness stop another person’s progression or advancement.
But the pointless little white lies? The ones that we just know are lies and we want so badly to put our “friends” or “loved ones” in their places? Let ‘em go. You’ll have far more friends than enemies if you do. And let’s be “honest”. There’s going to be a time when you need them to return the favor.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
PS, what do you think? Do you think it’s okay to let the white lies go? Do you tell white lies once in a while? Do you think there is no distinction between white lies and lies?