Caught In A Blizzard Of Little White Lies

Image by BoringPittsburg via Flickr

I jokingly instruct the guys I date that if I ever ask the dreaded question, “do I look fat in this dress?” they should lie, lie, lie.

“Always tell a girl she looks fantastic,” I say to them.

Yet, even the littlest white lies make me uncomfortable. To me, the problem is that a few harmless snowflakes can easily turn into a blizzard of deceit.

My friend “Sarah” met her current boyfriend “Chad” online. She dated him for a year before discovering that he was an entire decade older than what he’d indicated on his profile. Imagine how she felt to discover that, instead of celebrating his 30th birthday with him, she’d actually bought that sweatshirt for his 40th birthday.

For his part, Chad was actually relieved to have the truth out in the open. Tweaking every story he told had gotten confusing and stressful. The longer he stretched the truth, the harder it was to come clean, and the more he had to lose. Lying to a girl he’d just met online was a very different story than lying to his girlfriend of a year.

How could Sarah ever trust him again after not only the initial lie, but the chain of fibs that followed to cover up the initial one? Well, age was just a number, she figured after much deliberation. And a mere number was trivial compared to all they had been through and all they had shared. So, she chose to forgive him.

They’ve been together now for two years. And everything seemed all peaches and cream… until I myself became an unwitting and unwilling accessory to Chad’s lies.

I’d invited some friends over for game night (as in, “let’s have some drinks and play some games,” not, “let’s sit around and watch ‘the game’ on TV”).  Unfortunately for the UFC fans, my invitation coincided with a free fight on Spike TV. My friend Bob asked if I got the channel, because he was hoping he wouldn’t have to miss the fight. Truthfully, though, I had been hoping to just enjoy an evening with my friends.

Chad also didn’t want to watch the fight, since he was recording it at home and wanted to devote his full attention to it later. Before Bob showed up, Chad joked that I should just tell him I didn’t get Spike TV. I laughed, fully prepared to take the straightforward path and tell Bob that I hadn’t invited him over for a UFC party, but would happily record it for him to watch later.

Unfortunately, when Bob arrived, Chad went ahead and told him in front of everyone that I didn’t have the right channel. I wasn’t sure how to react.

As I mentioned, I’m terrible at lying and feel guilty being a party to any form of deceit, especially over something so trivial. I knew Bob would have totally been okay with the truth. Yet, by lying to Bob, Chad made us all co-conspirators with him. I didn’t like deceiving Bob, but calling Chad out in front of everyone didn’t feel right either. Chad forced the rest of us to make the uncomfortable decision of either joining his lie or ratting him out.

True, the fib was pretty innocuous, but two things really bothered me about the incident. The first was the ease with which Chad told the lie, as if he did it all the time. The second was that it was so unnecessary. An adage that would be almost appropriate to describe my obsession with honesty is that “I couldn’t lie to save my life.” Almost appropriate, because if lying would save someone’s life, I can understand the need for it. But lying to a friend simply because he wanted to watch a UFC fight uninterrupted seemed absurd.

My theory is that if a person lies to avoid such a menial confrontation, how can I believe even the smallest details of his conversations? Were it the first sign of dishonesty he’d shown, I would likely have just blown off the entire incident. Yet, looking back at his record of honesty (or lack thereof), the little untruths seemed to add up. I found myself worrying for Sarah and wondering if Chad was someone I’d ever want as a friend.

A few days after the get-together, I confessed to Bob that I did have Spike TV. Well, Sarah perceived my honesty as putting both her and Chad in an awkward situation. I tried to explain that I wasn’t the one who created the tension, that Chad created the tension when he roped us all into his story. I’m not sure Sarah agreed, though, and I think she’s still resentful towards me over the whole ridiculously petty incident.

To be perfectly clear, I don’t think Chad’s a bad guy. I know Sarah really cares about him, and I obviously care about Sarah, so I do want him to be the kind of guy she deserves to be with. To that end, I can’t help but wish that he could be more honest with even the trivial stuff. Of course, my wish is for selfish reasons, too, since I have no desire to be involved in any of his lies, trivial as they may be.

At the same time. I’m not the one dating Chad, so it’s not necessarily my place to call him out. I truly believe that dishonesty isn’t worth losing the trust of a friend, especially when it’s over such frivolity. But if she’s okay with his little white lies, does that mean I just have to live with them, too?

I don’t know….

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Meg Pierce

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  • While people can always have an ulterior motive, I didn’t see any indication that this post was anything more than a discussion of the author’s opinions on honesty and attempts to grapple with the ideas of small or large lies. I think it’s definitely understandable to be concerned with someone who can lie easily, but, also, I think a lot of us lie easily about little things in situations where no one is really harmed by the lie. I mean, I guess my most frequent lie is when I say I’m busy and I’m not just to avoid a long discussion as to why I really just don’t feel like going out. Or saying there was traffic when I’m late. It’s hard to distinguish between what are important and what are unimportant lies and, also, what signs should put you on edge. I think that this article brings up a lot of interesting issues.

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