When Honest People Lie

I consider myself an honest person.  When I’m given too much change or undercharged for a product, I speak up.  When I find a lost wallet, I turn it in.  If a bill payment is credited to me in error, I call the company to have it reversed.  If I make a mistake, I admit it, even when it’s embarrassing, or means my husband gets to gloat that he’s right.  I can even let a friend know that the skirt she tried on isn’t doing her any favors.  But when I’m put on the spot with no tactful exit in sight, I lie.  Before you label me a “hypocrite” and close this post in disgust, please hear me out.

I recently went to celebration of a child’s first communion and confirmation (on hubby’s side of the family).  I followed my hubby to a table where three other women sat, two of whom I recognized from previous gatherings.

As we ate, the young woman I didn’t know, who was in her early twenties, began telling of her journey as a Catholic in vivid detail.  My hubby went back for seconds (and thirds) and the girl continued her story.  I got up at one point to check on the kids and came back with more food.  One of the women had left, but the girl didn’t seem deterred.  A few minutes after I returned, my hubby’s aunt excused herself, leaving me alone to participate in the conversation.  (Not a good place for me, if you recall).

Girl:  “I bet they couldn’t wait to leave.  You’re probably looking for an excuse to go, too.”

Me:  <sheepishly glancing at my empty lemonade cup, which I had downed like an eight-ounce shot> “You’re funny.”

Girl:  “Am I funny, or am I right?”

Me:  “Oh, uh, funny.  I’m not going anywhere.”

That was enough for her to continue.  I felt guilty because I had lied.  I really did long to wander off somewhere to observe, but I wanted to avoid hurting her feelings more than I wanted solitude.  She was a nice girl, even if I wasn’t impressed by her “knowing more about Catholicism than many cradle Catholics.”  (I don’t think that knowing the ins and outs of any religion necessarily symbolizes a personal closeness with God.  An opinion I thought best to keep to myself.)

I’m not alone in truth-fudging for the benefit of others.  Yes, lying can be altruistic.  It’s forcing fostering kindness in the face of an increasingly rude society.  I’ve been on the receiving end of padded lies.  See for yourself:

Lie #1

Chiropractor:  “Did you work from home today?”

Me:  “Yes.  How did you know?”

Chiropractor:  “You’re not dressed up.”

Me:  <glancing down at my ill-fitting workout style clothes and remembering my unwashed hair held back in a claw clip. “Oh, yes.  I probably shouldn’t have left the house looking like this.”

Chiropractor:  <she shrugged, but wasn’t facing me> “You look comfortable.”

I snickered because I immediately grasped the hidden meaning behind her innocuous words:  “I wouldn’t walk my dog wearing that.

 Lie #2

Friend:  <after listening to my latest story idea> “You are so creative.”

Another chuckle, because I know the comment masked the words that couldn’t be said:  “You are so frighteningly bizarre, you should probably be locked up.”

I hate to rely on the “everyone does it” argument to defend my own lies…but, well…they do.

Do you have any “kind lies” you’d like to share?  I hope so, because they are so much fun!

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29 thoughts on “When Honest People Lie

  1. carldagostino May 17, 2011 / 6:41 AM

    If the liars convention is set up and attended by liars how would they ever meet? No one would actually know the where or when or even if the convention was being held.

    • jannatwrites May 17, 2011 / 4:52 PM

      Even liars can’t pass up free food and drink. They would never lie about that 😉

  2. suzicate May 17, 2011 / 6:42 AM

    I am a hypocrite as well. I’ve been known to tell little white lies because I don’t know how to tactfully tell the truth in some situations without hurting someone’s feelings. It doesn’t make it right, but it is what it is. Now, I’m wondering if I’d rather have someone tell me a little white lie to spare my feelings or lay it on me…hmmm, guess the answer depends on the lie or the tactfulness of the truth!

    • jannatwrites May 17, 2011 / 4:54 PM

      I think it does depend on how the truth is told, or if my opinion is solicited. If someone asks me what I think, I’m obligated to tell the truth as nicely as possible. I normally don’t offer my opinion, if it’s not positive, unless I’m asked.

      Welcome to the ‘white liar’ club, SuziCate 🙂

  3. Tim Weaver May 17, 2011 / 6:49 AM

    I really love your posts.

    🙂

    Ok, that’s not a lie.

    But I would have told that Catholic girl, when she said “I bet they couldn’t wait to leave. You’re probably looking for an excuse to go, too”,

    “I wonder why that is?”

    But then, again, I am a rude SOB.

    • jannatwrites May 17, 2011 / 4:58 PM

      Now I don’t know which is a lie, Tim – that you love my posts or that it wasn’t a lie. I’m so confused 😉

      This person was a friend of the family, so I didn’t want to be too harsh. It was kind of funny at the end, I did tell her that I didn’t understand half of what she was talking about because I’m not Catholic. She said that when she meets people of other religions, she asks all the questions she can. I told her that I don’t.

  4. Debbie May 17, 2011 / 7:30 AM

    I would have made any excuse to get away from that know-it-all girl (sorry!). I just don’t think some people think when it comes to what they tell, to whom, and on which occasion. And you’re absolutely right in saying that knowledge of religion isn’t anywhere near the same as a personal relationship with God! As for those little white lies, I don’t usually go there, unless I’m backed into a corner (“what do you think of my new hairstyle?”)!

    • jannatwrites May 17, 2011 / 5:04 PM

      I was going to use the kids as an excuse (but of course that was the one time they weren’t even fighting). Then when she made that comment, I felt bad.

      If someone asks me what I think of something, I won’t say I like it if I don’t. If a friend asked me what I thought of her new hairstyle and I didn’t like it, I would say something like, “I liked better.” However, I wouldn’t approach the friend and say, “You shouldn’t have gotten your hair cut like that.” I would simply say nothing. I would be more uncomfortable if this happened with an acquaintance.

  5. J. P. Cabit May 17, 2011 / 7:48 AM

    Oh no, I do that too, 😦 sometimes when I’m on the spot, it’s almost as if I don’t even think about it…it just pops out cause I don’t want to be rud. But given some time, and not the possibility of hurting somebody’s feelings beyond repair, I am usually pretty honest. Painfully so sometimes.

    No specific instances coming to mind, but I know those “truthish’s” are there somewhere…

    And about your story, I don’t think that was quite a lie…after all, you weren’t going to go anywhere, were you? Not trying to be that “Whispering reasoning,” I’m just making conversation, lol 😀

    • jannatwrites May 17, 2011 / 5:10 PM

      Actually, Seph, I planned to fill up my empty cup and not return (all under the guise of ‘mingling’). Yes, I was willing to abandon ship and leave my husband there to deal with it. During the entire conversation, I listened for any sound that could be the kids fighting, but of course, this time they got along fine.

      For me, how truthful I can be depends on how well I know the person.

      I’m glad you stopped by, I haven’t ‘seen’ you for a while 🙂

  6. Tori Nelson May 17, 2011 / 8:09 AM

    The description of your trapped-in-conversation experience made me cringe because I have been there TOO many times. I attract the rambling gabbers because I am always the only one in the room unable to say “I really don’t want to talk to you”.

    • jannatwrites May 17, 2011 / 5:12 PM

      We must give off some kind of vibe, Tori. The funny thing is that my hubby’s family is notorious for saying exactly what is on their minds, but no one said anything (to her face, at least.)

  7. Addy May 17, 2011 / 8:49 AM

    Very interesting topic Janna… I do have to agree that I too would like to be as truthful as possible but you do have to “act” on certain occasions… Most of my lies are directed to phonecalls that I don’t want to answer either by saying that “the signal is bad, I’ll call you” or “I had put my phone in silent so didn’t hear the call…” 😉

    In my opinion, we all have to lie on certain unavoidable occasions but nevertheless can we put a show or what???

    Best Wishes,
    Addy

    • jannatwrites May 17, 2011 / 5:17 PM

      I’ve lied about ‘missing’ phone calls too, because I’m not always in the mood to talk. But I usually pick up anyway because if I don’t, I’ll have to call the person back anyway.

      I’m a terrible liar, so I do try to avoid “whoppers”. My lies are usually more of an omission type (silence instead of speaking up.)

      Thanks for sharing your views on lying, Addy. It is fun to get others’ perspectives on the topic!

  8. nrhatch May 17, 2011 / 11:11 AM

    People may view us as “nice” when we lie and tell them what they want to hear, but I don’t think it’s “kind” to do so . . . because our dishonesty allows them to be dishonest with themselves.

    If we want to be kind . . . we must be honest.

    • nrhatch May 17, 2011 / 2:46 PM

      Except with tiny tots . . . and allowing them to believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. 😀

      • jannatwrites May 17, 2011 / 5:24 PM

        Hahaha! Like the addition of the “kiddie lies”. I do engage in those without any guilt.

        I do see your point, Nancy. Reading the comments has made me think more about instances where I lie (or refrain from comment.) This happens most often with people I’m not too familiar with or those who get offended easily – especially if my opinion isn’t solicited.

        Even if I didn’t know a person well, I would speak up if doing so would save them from embarrassment (their skirt isn’t covering them when they bend over) but not so much if it’s something minor (they told the same story twice already.)

        Thanks for sharing your views on the topic. Your honesty is appreciated. Really!

  9. crumbl May 17, 2011 / 11:40 AM

    Men have to lie as a matter of course. It’s self defense. The alternative is moving into the dog house (much to the annoyance of the dog) until amends are sufficiently made with chocolate, flowers, chocolate, jewelry, chocolate … and a bone for the dog for sharing, albeit grudgingly.

    Women ask loaded questions to which they want lies rather than the truth. “Do I look fat in this?”, to which, as a man, there is no good answer (LRHG isn’t fat, but she asks anyway … 5’8″and 130 lbs and complaining about not fitting into clothes she wore when she was in high school … sheesh!). C’mon, you’re setting us up to fail and you know it. So, we lie, and everyone, including the dog, can sleep peacefully. Honest people lie … think of it as social or relationship lubricant, but when it matters, we stand up and tell the truth.

    • jannatwrites May 17, 2011 / 5:28 PM

      Funny example, Crumbl. But I have to say, my hubby doesn’t subscribe to the idea of lying to protect my feelings. He didn’t get that memo.

      No, I’ve had him tell me (at the end of the day, mind you) that the pants I wore were too thin and he could see my undies. I (sarcastically) thanked him for waiting until the end of the day to tell me. He’s commented on a few things that he didn’t care for. Sometimes I see his point, sometimes I don’t and I wear it anyway.

      I would like to think that we tell the truth when it matters. Nice thought 🙂

      • crumbl May 17, 2011 / 8:24 PM

        Yeah, I’ve missed the odd memo or several, but the dog snores, among other rude noises and such emanating from another direction, so in the interest of self preservation, I work at staying out of the dog house, not to mention bribery can get expensive.

        I try, in the interest of my pillow top mattress and down duvet, not to mention the eminently cuddly LRHG, to limit my critiques to benign comments, like, “Are you sure that’s the fashion statement you want to make?”, or “Maybe you’d like to rethink that wardrobe choice”, or “You really need to do something with your hair … the cockatiels are complaining that you’re horning in on their turf!” … er … maybe that was a poor example of my relationship skills. Hence the chocolate stash. 🙂

        • jannatwrites May 17, 2011 / 9:11 PM

          The cockatiels statement is so funny, it’d be fun to go ahead and say it with the chocolate already in hand. Although, that one may require you to go the jewelry store…or worse – garage-saling with her 😉

          In such close relationships, we do need to be considerate, especially if we want to enjoy the comforts of home without using the dog’s food dish as a pillow.

  10. clarbojahn May 17, 2011 / 1:40 PM

    Can’t think of any white lies but I’m not at all subtle when it comes to my friends. I bet they wish I were more subtle in telling them honest views and opinions. I probably would not have lied to that know it all girl about her info. I would have stood up and said, “right”. Especially since I didn’t know her. If I did know her I would have been honest and told her I wasn’t interested or I would have tried to change the topic.

  11. jannatwrites May 17, 2011 / 5:35 PM

    I’ve made a mental note that you don’t deliver subtlety, Clar 😉

    I’m not totally weak, because I can give my opinion, even if diluted a bit, if asked by someone I know. I felt trapped in that situation because I was at a family gathering (hubby’s side of the family – not mine) and didn’t want to be rude to a guest in their house.

    If this had been a random meeting in public, I’m afraid I still would have lied because I probably would have faked being late to a meeting. Politeness was a big deal growing up and I think I’ve taken it to the highest degree. What can I say, I’m a work in progress 😉

  12. widdershins May 17, 2011 / 10:24 PM

    Oooh, thorny topic … yum!

    I would’ve been tempted to interrupt her and suggest that we change the topic to paganism, which I’m well versed in … but would I have done it? … dunno. It would depend on a whole lot of variables.

    A decade ago I would’ve answered the same as you, but now … I would’ve spoken my truth, but couched in a way to cause as little hurt as possible. But I’d make damn sure I was detached enough from the outcome so that any response she made wouldn’t dig in.

    What it would come down to in the end is how I valued my time. Was I about to learn something new? Would the exchange be equitable?

    As for white lies, I choose my battles.

    • jannatwrites May 18, 2011 / 9:45 PM

      It’s not often that I stumble into thorny topics, Widdershins 😉

      It’s good that you are able to speak up. Perhaps in ten years or so I might get there? You never know…

      Thanks for sharing your point of view on honesty and little lies.

  13. Patty May 18, 2011 / 5:51 AM

    I was raised by a very honest, say-what-you-mean mother. THAT has it’s draw backs. We must lie sometimes to dampen down our honest feelings. Our honesty or feelings about something are also subjective. We must rise to a higher level to be nice, loving and supportive. Nothing wrong with that.

    • jannatwrites May 18, 2011 / 9:51 PM

      I do think our reactions as adults have a lot to do with our upbringing, Patty. I also think that because I am a sensitive person, I’m overly tuned-in to others’ feelings. To me, it’s easier to grin and bear it, rather than make the person feel bad.

      Thanks for offering your thoughts on the subject 🙂

  14. jollof May 19, 2011 / 2:09 AM

    Nice post. Er…let me see…kind lies like: ‘Oh thank you so much. This will be nice for church!’ ( said to a colleague who gave me 5 yards of the dullest black and grey striped material which even the walls in my flat would cringe at if I decided to make curtains). I use them as pyjamas now…

    • jannatwrites May 19, 2011 / 8:55 PM

      Exactly! It’s a tiny lie to spare someone’s feelings, and one from which you have no personal gain.

      I chuckled at your statement that the fabric was so dull the walls would cringe. But I have to wonder, does your bed cringe because the fabric (in the form of pajamas) is near? I’m only teasing!

      I’m glad you stopped by and shared your kind lie, Jollof 🙂

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