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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Swallowing Lies: Part 2 of 5

What’s a White Lie Among Friends?

Recap of day one (with exciting capitalizations):  Lies are Sin.  Sin leads to Death.  Transitive property indicates Lies lead to Death.

OK, you say.  But surely there is some call for dishonesty when it spares someone’s feelings?  Didn’t I see the Ugly Baby episode of Seinfeld, you wonder? 

Well, first, let’s not assume our motives are always so pure.  I have a longtime friend who, in grade school, consistently advised me to wear my hair in a ponytail.  As an adult, she admitted to me that she had done that because she was jealous of how my hair looked down!  Might we, as adults, have told a friend not to wear the black dress to the party because WE wanted to wear a black dress to the party?  Yes, even grownups engage in that kind of pettiness and call it “helping.” 

But what if that dress really does make Sally look fat?  What if Claire really shouldn’t audition for American Idol?  I will be the first to agree, the truth can be super awkward.  But the more we pretend the existence of ‘white’ or acceptable lies, the more we create an atmosphere of distrust for ourselves.  

If we know we like to lie a bit, we must assume others lie to us as well.  A little creativity, though, can keep your friendships and your integrity intact.  One of my favorite things about Cookie is that he is completely artless.  He will never tell me I look skinny when I don’t.  He may tell me he thinks I’m beautiful, or something else that is both kind AND true.  But more than a shallow compliment, I appreciate it when he says, “you’d probably feel more confident if we go for a run together.”  It’s practical, it’s encouraging, and it’s true!

In the end, I don’t want to be the fabled emperor, soaking in the praise of subjects who fear to offend, as I walk around looking like a fool.  We’re using these compliments to corroborate the lie we’re telling ourselves; we’re all co-conspirators in a game that prevents us from ever making real changes.  (Moreover, if I know these pants don’t flatter, instead of asking around and forcing people to fumble for a tactful response, I could just face facts and change.)  Mightn’t it be better to know we can trust our friends, even on the awkward subjects?

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