The Truth About White Lies

Someone posed this question to me recently- “Is changing the contact details and name/gender of an ex considered cheating?” I asked her to elaborate.

“ I found out Jay (her husband) changed the name of his ex-girlfriend Jean to “Andy” in his phonebook and that they are still in touch. Do you think he is cheating on me, Daph?”

I casually told her, “Technically no – but if he has nothing to hide, there shouldn’t be a reason for him to change her contact details”.

I do hope I said the right thing.

She finally confronted him and he swore there was nothing going on. He explained to her that he didn’t want to upset her with the truth - he still wanted to remain friends with his ex. She snapped back saying she wouldn’t have a problem if only he had come clean with her. Suffice to say, she didn’t buy his story and he came to unload to me.

I shared my thoughts with him and he told me that sometimes a white lie is to prevent the other person from being hurt. I told him gently, that the fact he hid the truth from her had caused her more pain, hence her insecurity and anger.

Sigh. I hate being put in the middle.

So when is it okay to tell a white lie?

We all have fibbed at least once in our lifetime. What more telling a white lie. Everyone tells a white lie on occasions, the question is why?

According to one blogger, stretching the truth is a natural component of human instinct because it’s the easy way out. Some white lies save relationships, some ease hectic situations and others buy us time.

I honestly feel if we aren’t hurting another person or breaking the law, these innocent white lies sometimes make life more pleasant.

The blogger adds that white lies can also absorb potential friction between our varying personalities and vacillating moods as we nudge into one another on the quest through our daily routine.

I asked a friend whom I’d considered quite an angel, if she had ever told a white lie. Her answer (which on a hindsight, could be her white lie to make me feel ‘better’) was this, “ Yes. Of course I’ve told a white fib. Who doesn’t stretch the truth right? It’s a diplomatic approach and a well-intentioned untruth.”

Now, allow me to make myself perfectly clear that I’m not one for lying or for telling people it’s okay to lie. Having said that, fudging the truth once in a while might actually be healthy when it comes to managing interpersonal relationships. I won’t lecture and tell you why telling the truth is highly important – we all know that the fundamental foundation of a strong relationship is based on our ability to rely and to trust those who are most dearest and closest to us. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s discuss some reasons or exceptions to why telling the truth, and nothing but the truth, might actually not apply in some cases.

Firstly, when the whole truth tears the person down and makes them feel horrible about themselves- We are not ‘obligated’ to tell the whole truth if it hurts someone’s feelings. “ Yes darling, you look gorgeous in that white dress” when she actually looks awful.

Or telling your 3 year old that her cupcake taste delicious even though it looks and taste nothing like the dessert you are more accustomed to.

And how about passing pleasantries like “Oh it’s okay…I don’t want to trouble you” or “I’m fine, it was just a small knock on the elbow”. Mild false truths make it easier for people to get along with and are primarily harmless in most cases.

But going back to the Jay and Elaine issue mentioned earlier, did it seem more of shielding the truth from her, than telling her a white lie? Was he wrong to have done what he did?

I won’t be the judge for this as matters of the heart can be complex and tricky at times. But I believe the major difference between a white lie and a hard lie is that a hard lie usually protects oneself, whereas a little white lie is said to protect someone else.

I think the easiest way to see if what you are doing is more for personal gain or for harmless,thoughtful pleasantry is this: Put yourself into the shoes of the other person. Would you appreciate it if the tables were turned?

For example, would Jay feel the same way if Elaine changed the details of her ex-boyfriend and shielded the truth from him as to ‘not hurt him’?

My mother told me that karma bites you when you least expect it. So I guess in everything we say or do, be thoughtful and think if this is the same type of treatment you want bestowed on yourself.

Daphne Iking once got caught for stealing a blueberry from the local supermarket. She told the shopowner that the berry was going to fall off anyway, so she might as well save the lady from cleaning up the mess. She got away but that incident scared her and since then, Daphne doesn’t like berries.Follow her tweets on @daphCLPT.