To Tell The Truth, Rich Paschall
At times it may seem OK to tell the “innocent little lie.” You may want to “protect” someone from the truth. You may not want to hurt them. You may want to save bad news for a “better time.” Maybe it is not the other person who can not handle the truth, maybe you are just too uncomfortable with it.
Of course, we may think it is perfectly OK to tell children little lies, or even big ones, because we do not want to hurt them or crush their childhood fantasies. We may wish to wait until the right time to tell children there is no Santa Claus. I’m sorry if no one told you before now. You may even want to keep the fantasy of the Easter Bunny alive, or the Great Pumpkin. Some children’s holidays are built on stories that are exaggerated or simply untrue.
Then there is the matter of super heroes. There was a time when I wanted to believe in Superman, and Flash and the Green Hornet. Then there was Batman and Wonder Woman, well, the whole Justice League actually. Didn’t you? Why crush a little one’s believe in these characters? They may wish to dress up as these super heroes at Halloween, or other times, because they believe.
The issue of life and death looms as a major area to toss around the lies. “Where do babies come from?” might be cause for lies because the parent is uncomfortable with the topic. It may be the same with “Where does the dog, parakeet or even Aunt Martha go when she dies?” There could be plenty of stories handed out to cover that. Eventually children stop asking because they know parents are lying. At a certain age, they may even be bold enough to call them on it.
When does the time come when we dispense with these little lies in favor of the truth? When should we just tell children the real story, no matter how awkward or painful? That is probably best decided on a case by case basis, but what if the lies go on and on?
Does the legacy of lies lead to people who grow up thinking it is OK to lie? Perhaps some tell so many lies to protect their children, it becomes habit long after the necessity passes. Perhaps children learn that in some situations it is just OK to lie and therefore they adopt the habit themselves. After all, the message was sent at a young age is that there are times when it is perfectly alright if we do not tell the truth.
Few doubt the government lies to us from time to time (or frequently, if you are a conspiracy theorist), for national security, or to protect us from some inconvenient truth. We have entered into an era where commentators and politicians do more than just spin the news at us. They make it up too. If they say it is for the national good, does that make it OK?
The polarization of the America and its political parties seems to come, at least in part, from the untrue stories that each side is telling. It is bad enough that members of the general public knowingly repost items on social media items they know are not true (see Hate, Anger and Social Media), but politicians and their supporters sometimes appear to be doing the same. Do you believe everything your elected official tells you? Really?
In a world made up of “pretty little liars,” do we trust anyone? Perhaps you have seen the syndicated television show “Cheaters.” In it a spouse or a least a mate has come to suspect that the other person has been telling lies and wants the Cheaters detectives to find out the truth. I have never seen an episode where the one being investigated was not lying to their mate. Yes, I have seen the show too often. It’s like watching a train wreck. You know it’s not going to end well, but you can’t keep from looking.
You know when it’s okay to lie to your spouse or close friends? Never. Aside from the story you told to pull off a surprise birthday party or a spectacular marriage proposal, the answer is never. If you believe it’s okay “to protect the friendship,” then you are not as close as you think.
When a friend and I had an issue to sort out early in our friendship, we ended the conversation saying the only thing that could hurt our friendship was not telling the truth. Any problem could be overcome. We declared honesty as the only policy.
So less than a year later, in a beer hall in Germany, my friend asked me a personal question that I was not prepared to answer. I thought about it only for a few seconds as the conversation about honesty replayed in my head, and I told him the truth. Then he wanted to know why I never said anything, so I told him that too. And it was fine. It may have been a surprise and the reason may not have sounded good, but it was the truth. I may never tell him everything, but the importance of friendship means that lies can not be told. A friendship built on a foundation of truth will not crumble.