Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Little white lies

As a kid growing up I remember the phrase "liar liar pants on fire". We yelled that when catching another kid telling a lie. Telling lies, mostly little white lies, was a regular and necessary evil, an adolescent survival tool.

Telling little white lies was not just a kid thing for me because I’ve told my fair share as an adult, and I still struggle as a middle-age man with wanting to tell them.

So what’s a lie and how does it differ from a little white lie. Let’s start off with some definitions courtesy of Wikipedia, the popular internet free encyclopedia.

A lie is a type of deception in the form of an untruthful statement, especially with the intention of deceiving others, often with the further intention of maintaining a secret or reputation, protecting someone's feelings, or avoiding a punishment.

A white lie is a less serious lie that causes no discord if it were uncovered, and offers some benefit to the liar, the hearer, or both. The lie is told to avoid the harmful realistic implications of the truth. It may have differing meanings in different cultures. Lies which are harmless (but told for no reason) are generally called white lies.

That makes me a liar and a litle white liar; those kids on the playground were right. So is that little angel sitting above my right shoulder telling me that I’m lying or telling me that I shouldn't because it's not right; while the little devil who sits on my left shoulder tells me it’s OK because it’s just a little white lie.

I’m lying when I tell a client that I didn’t get their work finished on time because of computer problems when the real reason was my procrastination. It seems so trivial in the context of the big picture, such as when Presidential candidates and politicians tell little white lies. If it’s not wrong for them then how can it be for me?

It’s wrong for me because, as a middle-age man, I’ve discovered the virtue of rigorous honesty. While I haven’t mastered it, if rigorous honesty is not good enough for them, that’s a reason as good as any for it to be good enough for me.

At this point in my life, I’m trying my best to be rigorously honest with others and myself. It’s the right thing to do as difficult as it may be, so I’ll continue struggling to do so in my truthful journey of life.

At this point in my life, I’m trying my best to not tell any little white lies.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

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