Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Little White Lies

You said you were coming over to help me with the yard work, but you never showed up.

I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.

I don’t understand what you mean.

When you asked to me help, I had something else to do, but I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.

I still don’t understand what you are saying.

I didn’t have time to come cover—other plans, you know—but I told you I would come over so I wouldn’t hurt your feelings.

You can’t hurt my feelings because they are mine and you don't control them. You can tell me the truth and let me take care of my own feelings.

There are all types of lies, untruths, falsehoods, fibs, and tall tales— whatever you want to call them. What most have in common is that the speaker says what he or she says in order to deceive the hearer. Well, not always: sometimes the teller of a lie has convinced him-or herself that the falsehood is really true. That’s when I usually respond to the lie with my own words: “Who are you trying to deceive, me or your self?”

To me, the worst type of lie is the one in which the teller rationalizes that its purpose is to prevent “hurting the feelings” of the hearer. These types of lies are usually not the kinds that do great damage to someone; however, they can be disastrous to a relationship.

Most of the times these lies are not offered to protect the feelings of another, even if that could be done. They are to serve some objective of the one telling the lie, such as avoiding disagreement or not keeping a previously made commitment. I can’t count the number of situation comedy episodes that are based on these “little white lies.” There are many times that I have watched Lucy lie to Desi or Monica fib to Phoebe and thought, “If she would just be honest…” Of course, if the characters were honest with one another, that episode of the program wouldn’t exist.

So I wish folks would not lie to me to protect my feelings! I can deal with my own feelings and I would much rather have someone speak truth than lie.


  1. Sounds like something you feel strongly about. Did something happen recently you want to share?

    But you know Nick, not everyone believes they are responsible for their own feelings. Sorry but it is much easier to blame others for the way we feel.

  2. Nick, you sound like you have been recently deceived. I consider you a friend. If you need an ear, I have two that are available for friends.

  3. PEACH & LYNN: No, it was not a recent deception or lie that led to this post. I began conceptualizing it yesterday as I was driving along and began thinking of a woman whose lies cost me thousands of dollars. I ended up supporting her—or, more realistically, her narcotics habit—and now that she is scamming some else and I am so desperately in need of money, I thought how decent it would be if she repaid me just some of the money I “loaned” her. But I know that will never happen. She is one of those people who actually come to believe the lies she tells other people—in reality the lies she tells herself.

    I based this post not on her, but on the maternal side of my family. All of them, including my mother, have always been concerned about “hurt feelings.” As you pointed out, Peach, they blame others for their own feelings. Even as a kid, that didn’t make sense to me. As an adult I discovered that their behavior wasn’t based of “feelings” but on refusing to accept responsibility. Perhaps that’s why I grew to be so overly responsible, to the point of attempting to save a narcotics addict (1st paragraph above) from herself.

  4. Nick, your family sounds alot like mine. They are a family of martyrs who have a perpetual case of hurt feelings. They like to go on about how hurt they are when I won't do what they want. They want me to take up my childhood role as the caretaker, suck up and whipping girl. This is not possible - their needs never end. They are fresh out of luck. It's all I can to take care of myself and my own family.

    I hope your financial situation turns around soon, Nick. It's a hard place to be. I know, I've been there plenty. Something always happens to turn things around and move things along.

    I'm sending my best thoughts your way!

  5. It's interesting you posted this, Nick. I overslept Monday last week, 2nd week of my job. Then, when I got to the parking garage, I put my head back and fell asleep for 30 min. Talk about embarrassed and afraid I'd be in trouble. I was an hour late.

    So, the first thing I did was go to the office manager and apologize. I told her I've never done that in my life, and I was sorry. I told her I was fine, and I'm very sorry that I inconvenienced a couple of people. Then I added, "I could have made up somethihng, but I'm past that. It's always easier to remember the truth." Then she went to the attorney who pushed to hire me, and when he talked about he it, he said he was concerned I might be abusing prescription drugs.

    I could have lied, I s'pose, but I didn't. Lying doesn't work, and if I lose my job because I told the truth...f**k 'em.

    Then another mistake. I admitted to an attorney that I mailed something instead of having the messenger deliver it. i also admitted that I didn't include the enclosures, and I fixed it all right away. He then went to my 'friend' and told him. Turns out, I'm under intense scrutiny, now....just because I'm truthful. I just moved, just changed jobs, and now, I'm scrutinized for being an honest person. I don't care. I'm going with honesty because lies are too hard to remember, and if I lose this job it's because they're assholes. For God's sake, I just moved, just got a new job, just became a mother-in-law, and nearly lost my mother in the last year-and-a-half. F**k them.

    The office manager told me that she went to my 'friend' because she thought it was commendable that I was up-front about it, but apparently, he'd rather scrutinize.

    And don't even get me started on the missing timesheets....luckily, someone found them. The scruitny remains, however, and I'm very pissed off that they want to blame me. Nevertheless, I'm going to be honest at all times, because I have to live with me, and I refuse to be fake or a liar. So there.

    Excellent post, Nick. I wish everyone felt the was you do. Maybe there would be peace instead of conflict.

  6. Nick you make a great point re not accepting responsibility. I believe thats really at the fore when it comes to protecting peoples feelings.

  7. I don't know why this stuck with me, but I remember in high school a girl I knew mentioned that she wished she could find a certain album. I had it, and I told her I'd make her a copy. The next day I gave her the cassette, and she said, "I knew you said it, but I didn't think you'd really do it!" So we've come to a point where people are surprised when we keep our word.

  8. nick i was wondering is this post about me?

  9. LYNN: Coming from a dysfunctional family invites us to be dysfunctional, too. I have found myself sinkin’ into “stinkin’ thinkin’” many times in my life. Most of the time I catch myself, but sometimes I don’t and end up saying, “Oh, shit! I did it again.”

    My economic situation, if anything, is worse. I have money coming in but I fear it would be here in time to keep my utilities on. Still, one way or another, God always provides.

    LITTLE SISTER: Many people don’t expect honesty from others, especially in the work place. When I was in college I worked on a municipal golf course. Three times a week I’d cut the greens on the back side. These 9 greens (plus the practice green) were much bigger than the 9 greens on the front side. If I started at 8:00 a.m., I was usually done cutting them by 10:00 a.m. The guy cutting the front side would start at 8:00 a.m. and finish up about 4:00 p.m., just in time to clean his mower and go home at 4:30 p.m. I was there half a summer before I learned that the other employees were calling me “the dumb college kid” because I was working too hard. Yet, I felt an honest day’s work meant an honest day’s work and that what I was doing—and still do.

    MICHELLE: Accepting responsibility is important and I see it as central to any relationship situation. Of course, be9ing overly responsible isn’t good; I sometimes think that I am responsible for starting World War II and it was over before I was born!

    THOMAS: I suspect that that girl had an alcoholic or drug addict somewhere in her family. Those who are addicted seldom keep the promises they make and those with whom they interact learn not to expect promises to be kept.

    CHICA: No, Tiffany, this blog isn’t about you. Far from it!

  10. Nick, sounds like you have time to think about all these things now. Hopefully, good things will come of it. I swear I think it's the moon or something, everyone I know is processing "old" stuff. I hope it passes soon and we can move forward to happier times!

  11. Peach, there's a lunar eclipse in Pisces.

  12. Yes, I'm sure that you were hurt by that person. I was raised as a Southerner, which means not being openly disagreeable. The lengths one will go to in order to not be disagreeable are definitely in the white lie category.
    Still not cool.

  13. I could not agree more... I cannot stand lies. No matter how big or small they are. Eventually the truth will come out. It is just a matter of time. And when it does, the consequences are always worse than if you had have just told the truth.

    The only time that lies are "ok" in my book is when they have something to do with a birthday surprise. Given that it is not your birthday, it's just not cool.


  14. PEACH: My theory about processing “old stuff” is similar to a spiral: throughout life we continually process the same stuff, but as we go up the spiral, we process it at a different—and more in depth—level the more we deal with it.

    LYNN: Educate me: how does a lunar eclipse in Pisces impinge on us?

    SQUIRL: I wish it were just one person, but it seems to be many, although the little white lies affect me less than the big, dark lies. My maternal family of origin went far beyond not being openly disagreeable. My mother’s parents came from Germany; beyond the need to be agreeable there was a terror of authority. Anyone could be an agent of the Kaiser’s secret police. (They came to the U.S. well before Hitler and the Gestapo, but the Germany they left, like Czarist Russia, had a powerful police and many informers). They were also attacked by the Klu Klux Klan her in Louisville during the Depression and warned to return to Germany so as to free up jobs for “real Americans.” Thus, I grew up in a world of fear, denial and lies—all those maladaptive ways that the powerless use to cope.

    JD’S ROSE: I fully agree. Unfortunately, there are those people who lie even when the truth with not hurt them—or come back and bite them.