The Truth about the Little White Lie.

We're all guilty of it. We evoke the little white lie as a way to avoid confrontation and embarrassment; or to mitigate fear of rejection or retribution. 

A little white lie always feels harmless. It is often rationalized as a way not to hurt someone’s feelings, or to avoid a distracting from a bigger point. To quote Aaron Sorkin’s “A Few Good Men”—“The truth? You can’t handle the truth.”

We are also well-aware of the affects of the slight altering of the truth, or the obfuscating of the facts, in order to keep things running smoothly. And sometimes, a little white lie is delivered out of fear—fear of how other’s will react if you tell the truth; fear of how you will be perceived or treated if they know the truth.

We’re taught early in life that one little white lie begets another little white lie, and soon you’re making up stories to build on the first, and soon you’re so confused with all of the little white lies that you can’t keep them all straight.

"Liar, liar. Pants on fire" as the childhood saying goes.

We know they’re wrong. And, we know we’ll probably be caught. Still, we tell little white lies.

Oh, and then there is the guilt. Oh, the guilt of having said something that was just slightly untrue, knowing there was little reason to tell that little white lie.

A little white lie can be as simple as telling someone you’re not upset:

“I’m really happy with what I’m being paid.”

Or, to avoid conflict:

“I haven’t smoked a cigarette since I told you I quit”

Or out of embarrassment:

“No, I didn’t just fart”

Or out of fear of retribution:

“My grandmother was really sick, so I couldn’t finish that project this weekend. May I have another day to finish it” 

Or fear of hurting someone’s feelings:

“I’m sorry I’m late, didn’t you get my text?”

Or fear of rejection:

“I’m only 29.”

Or out of simple laziness:

“Could you come and pick me up. I missed my bus.”

Little white lies swirl all around us, all day long, but the most hurtful component of little white lies is the loss of trust between friends. Because you see, most of us know when someone else is lying—even just a little bit. And the better we know that person, the easier it is to tell when they are lying. And the more you know a person, the more hurtful the little white lie is to the relationship. Because the loss of trust is where the virus of the little white lie affects us most.


So remember when you tell your next little white lie, that chances are, the other person knows you aren’t telling the truth, and that the truth shall set you free—from fear, and anxiety, and keep you from harming what matters to you most—the respect and intimacy of those who matter most to you in life.

Pinoccio image courtesy of nevenm /
blog comments powered by Disqus

The Featured Five