Though we teach our children to be honest, I recall the flush of adrenaline and horror when I heard my child utter a truth about a complete stranger in line at the grocery: “That man is really fat.” With a quick intake of breath, a strong grip around her shoulder, and while praying the man suffered from remarkably poor hearing, I whispered into my child’s ear, “Let’s talk about this when we get to the car.” 

And thus, it began. What was an inflexible lesson about always telling the truth quickly became nuanced, contradictory, and confusing. Yes, always tell the truth. But we don’t have to tell the truth when it may hurt someone’s feelings. Yes, always tell the truth. But some things are private.

We figure out early in life that the blanket admonition about telling the truth seems to have some pretty big holes in it. No wonder we find telling little white lies so easy. 

One challenge with white lies is their subjective nature. The fib-teller chooses truth be damned, whether to protect someone’s feelings or to avoid an uncomfortable situation. But our hackles are justifiably raised when truth is sacrificed to protect the fibber from getting into trouble or for other selfish motivations.

A seemingly harmless, self-serving little lie may create problems and complications you do not anticipate. A story may later need more lies to explain or support it. Small fibs can quickly morph into big, fat, bold-faced lies. Before you know it, a tangled web has been weaved. Once the lie is uncovered, people are left confused as to what is true and what’s not. Sometimes a small untruth can set you on a troublesome path that may be challenging to correct.

I have learned my lesson on this one. A friend asked me to accompany her to an art show reception. I didn’t really want to go, but rather than tell her I wasn’t interested, I chose to save her feelings by telling her I needed to stay home and nurse a headache. Then another friend called and invited me to be her guest at a highly anticipated new restaurant opening. I accepted immediately! And who else do you think was at said restaurant event? Friend number one, present to witness my miraculous healing and ravenous comportment. My selfish little white lie intended to save feelings ended up hurting feelings and our relationship. John Lennon’s words rang true that night: “Being honest may not get you a lot of friends, but it’ll always get you the right ones.”

Intentional or not, white lies can easily be misused and abused, creating uncertainty in our relationships. Truth cannot be hidden or avoided. Ultimately, what is fake will be revealed. So, as a general rule, avoid the temptation to tell little white lies. Instead, speak the truth with love and respect. You will be happier, and your relationships healthier.

I’m here if you need me. Until then, y’all behave.