“When we tell little white lies, we become progressively color-blind.” ~James E. Faust (Tweet the quote)
Honesty, of the “my-word-is-my-bond” variety, seems to be an endangered species these days. But it shouldn’t be. It should be protected more actively than any species on the brink of extinction. Here’s why…
Why Little White Lies are Not that White and Not that Little
1. White Lies Undermine Authenticity
When we live any part of our lives dishonestly, we sacrifice a measure of our real selves. We mask our true and authentic identities, thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and opinions. And that inauthentic approach to living creates internal disharmony, spiritual dissonance and can lead to the slow formation of emotional scar tissue on the tenderest parts of our soul.
2. White Lies Bruise Character
If character is a composite of all those virtues you possess minus all those you don’t, then dishonesty is a larger subtraction from who you most deeply are. Personality, remember, includes personal characteristics like introversion or extroversion, talkative, bubbly or quiet and shy. The deeper part of us, who we truly are, is measured on the scale of character.
3. White Lies Violate Trust
Every lie that is uncovered—no matter how small and “innocent” it appears to be at first glance—is a signal to others that your word is not, in fact, your bond, that there are at least some circumstances under which lies are acceptable to you. Every lie—black, white or poca-dotted—is another question mark that floats at the end of everything you say.
If total honesty is total trustworthiness, then anything less is a hit to the trust that others feel they can place in you.
4. White Lies Erode Truth
Big “T” Truth takes a shot to the solar plexus every time any part of it is compromised, denigrated or manipulated. Cynicism expands like so much gas into the atmosphere. We breathe in the toxic fumes of dishonesty in all its varied forms until the culture begins to dismiss it as no big deal.
“You wore red today? Oh, I wore blue. You lied to the IRS? Oh, I lied to my wife.” There’s no shame. No embarrassment. And therefore no barrier protecting Truth from the slow death of indifference.
5. White Lies Exemplify Dishonesty
When our kids (or anyone else, for that matter) see us avoid pain, punishment, discomfort or inconvenience by bending the truth, we teach them by example that truth is an inconvenience and dishonesty, a handy remedy. Is that the legacy we want to leave behind?
6. White Lies Teach the Malleability of Truth
When truth can be bent, shaped and formed to our whims and fancies, truth decays into something able to be manipulated, something convenient, tarnished and soft. Instead of bending ourselves to truth, it becomes easier to bend truth to snugly fit our ever-changing fancy.
7. White Lies Make the Next Lie Easier
Boundaries make living within them easier. Children are not the only ones who benefit from enforced boundaries. The first drink makes the second drink easier. The first smoke makes the second one less awkward. The first peak at porn makes the next time feel that much less dirty.
The path has been cleared. The conscience tested, and perhaps numbed just enough that excuse and justification doesn’t have to fight that hard the next time.
Likewise, once a lie is told, the internal resistance to dishonesty begins to crumble. The internal keep-off-the-grass sign is knocked down. With those emotional and moral barriers removed, it becomes easier to lie the next time. And the time after that. And the time after that.
8. White Lies Often Recruit Dishonesty
“Tell the office I’ve already left.” “Tell him I’m not here.” “Tell her I’m in the shower and can’t come to the phone right now.” Any of these white lies sound embarrassingly familiar?
If they do, you need to stop recruiting dishonest little minions to do your prevaricating for you! Recruit others to do good, not to bend truth for convenience sake!
9. White Lies Teach the Mere Expediency of Values
It seems like there are a dwindling number of bedrock values left these days that modern society celebrates. So letting truth become yet another victim to the expediency and convenience mentality of values is yet another nail in the moral coffin.
Morality only occasionally and conveniently applied is a soft-serve morality that lacks the power to lift people up and over the moral challenges life gives each of us.
10. White Lies are Still Lies
The color of our lies often matter less than the frequency of telling them. When we become habituated to bending the truth, character suffers, values gradually become disfigured and self-respect is tarnished. Let’s stop justifying dishonesty because of the smallness of the lie.
Besides, who is more dishonest–the man who once told a whopper or the guy who tells a daily string of lightly shaded half-truths and misstatements?
Remember that people die because of little, tiny, microscopic viruses. So does character, our relationships and our self-respect when even the tiniest of lies are habitually introduced to the bloodstream. It’s time we stand up and be the people we were meant to be. That starts by being real.
Lies of all color robs us–and those we love–of our authentic selves. And time spent too often in in authenticity, leaves integrity, character, trust and truth damaged–perhaps just a little bit at first. But over time, the wound becomes more threatening than the moment may seem to warrant.
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