Here I am, an advocate of trust and building relationships based on trust, thinking about lies. I am not talking about lies that cover big, life-altering secrets. I’m not talking about lies that cause people needless pain. Nor am I talking about lies that eat at our souls or are just a small part of a complicated web of prevarication. (I really like that word – prevarication. It reminds me of things I like, like vacation, recreation, and circumnavigation. Also coagulation, but don’t get me started on things that start out thin and get thick, like gravy. I am afraid of those things. )
What I am talking about are little white lies, lies that are created to spare people’s feelings, to make uncomfortable situations feel a little bit better. Little white lies. They sound pretty harmless, don’t they? They are little, the opposite of the webs mentioned earlier, where one little lie leads to a slightly bigger lie, which leads to a slightly bigger lie, until, if you follow the trail, you get to a whopper lie, the kind that can change a life and not for the better. So, by the virtue of their name, little white lies are little, although not always insignificant. They are also white. I am not sure what that has to do with anything, but I picture a candle casting pale whitish light to illuminate a shadowed corner, showing that there are no monsters or spiders. In my house, though, the candle is likely to illuminate a dust bunny or two.
So these lies, these little white lies, are simple, are often relatively meaningless, and usually cause no real harm, at least on the surface. But, despite this, they are lies. They are not true. And I believe that anytime we do not tell the truth, there is the potential to damage relationships. Which once again, leads me back to trust. And American Idol.
In a few days, the 9th season of American Idol begins. I am not a huge American Idol fan. I have never voted, and it is not likely that I would buy tickets to the tour or even download a song. But I like it okay. One important truth about me, if you don’t already know this, is that I really only like music that I have heard before. So I’m a big fan of Michael Jackson night and Top 40 from the 80’s night.
American Idol starts with several days of auditions. And several days of truly awful singers. Truly awful singers who someone, probably someone they trusted, told them sounded good. What were they thinking? I’m really not much of a singer. Actually, I can sing – whatever the person next to me is singing, especially if you don’t mind approximate lyrics and, as Randy would say, a little pitchiness. But even I can tell that many of the singers are truly horrid. I think about them, the horrid singers, smiling shyly but proudly as they state with certain, “I am the next American Idol!” And I think to myself, “Why didn’t someone tell them the truth? Why didn’t someone, someone who loves them unconditionally and thinks that they are the best person in the whole world, why didn’t one of those trusted people, tell them the truth?” I wonder.
How many times each day do we tell little white lies? Usually, as I said before, we tell them to avoid conflict, to avoid disapproval, or to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Sometimes everything turns out okay. The not-so-flattering outfit is changed, the not-so- delicious dinner is removed from rotation. No one is worse off for the lie.
But sometimes, even though we don’t mean to, we do cause harm. We inadvertently hurt those we love, those who trust us to tell them the truth, because we try to spare their feelings. Or we hurt ourselves, and in the process, hurt our relationship. Little white lies are easy to tell; they are often much harder to apologize for. And sometimes, however little and white they are, they do hurt.
And so I challenge you today to turn over a new leaf of honesty. Think about the little white lies you tell every day. Think about the possible consequences. Think about who might get hurt and who will be spared. And then I challenge you to take a risk and tell the truth. It might be scary at first. It might cause some hurt feelings or discomfort. But in the long run, I think that telling the truth is always the best option, and our relationships will be all the stronger for it.