Are White Lies OK?

Blog 95

Almost everyone tries to be honest in their own way, however perceptions of what honesty means might vary. Some feel one should not lie no matter what and swear to honesty at any price. Many avoid telling the full truth to protect their close ones – they avoid lying, while others feel that a white lie now and again can’t hurt. Whether it is right or wrong could depend on why one would tell a white lie. Would it for instance be OK if it is to avoid hurting someone you care about or would genuine caring mean to tell the truth? Moreover, in many cases, would one not tell a lie in part out of personal comfort considerations?

I once had a ride with a taxi driver who drove through a red light. Shocked, I asked him if he didn’t see the light was red and he replied ‘it was actually not that red, but more like orange and almost a little green, that is for me taxi-green’. I had to laugh though I am not sure if I appreciated being placed in danger by his edited version of the colour of the traffic light (i.e. white lie?) of ‘taxi-green’ only because he was too lazy to stop the car. In some cases you might tell a white lie when your friend asks you if she looks OK and you answer ‘you look smashing, darling’ whilst you might actually think ‘oh dear! Must she always wear that bright pink colour’  but you know that if you view your true thoughts the answer will be “I like pink” besides, is she really asking? or just seeking your validation?.  

One of the most applied white lies in the world is probably the one when your wife asks you if you think she has gained weight. Red alert – don’t even go there. The correct answer is ‘Absolutely not darling, you look super fit!’ Try to say, ‘Yes, I believe you have gained some weight around your hips’ and you will “get it” for the rest of the week. In this case it is simple self-defence to tell a white lie. You do not want to hurt your partner and even less do you want to get terrorized for weeks due to being honest. Hm, there we go again. You did tell the lie out of own comfort considerations didn’t you? On the other hand – if you said; ‘To me, you are perfect’ she will get suspicious and start investigating the formulation that she most definitely would read as ‘yes, you have gained a lot of weight but I still love you’. Truth or a little white lie? 

Next comes half-truths about ourselves and our past – often to make ourselves feel and look better.  We all know there is no such thing as a perfect past and if you know someone that seems to have one, it is at best a well-edited version. It is human and we all do it so call it survival techniques if you must. Just like many history books are constructed to build and strengthen nation states in the same vain people construct an image of themselves that fits and makes them appear acceptable within their current context. Again, comfort, impression, acceptance and status counts and in some cases social survival can explain how you decorate your past and current life. 

Is there any such thing as white lies or are lies simply lies? While there might be circumstances defending the truth being compromised, a lie is in principle exactly that – a lie. White, grey or black lies – it does not really make much of a difference. If you in despair come up with a white lie and you are caught in doing so, it can damage your reputation and when you do tell the truth, you risk no one believes that either. Nevertheless, a certain degree of lying seems inherent in all cultures, languages and communications. This might make it human but does it make it right?




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