Truth and White Lies In Your Relationship

Truth and White Lies In Your Relationship
Photo by Kawtar CHERKAOUI on Unsplash
Photo by Kawtar Cherkaoui on Unsplash

PHIL: In my relationship, there is one thing I cling to like a branch that saves me from drowning. Maude always tells me the truth. It gives me a sense of security. I know where I am because I know where she is. If “I don’t care, you choose” or “It didn’t cost much” or “I left my phone on mute” were untrue on occasion, it would feel like Google Maps being wrong once a week.

I grew up in a family where truth seemed a very selective value. Lying was unacceptable, yet behind “Would you like another piece of cake?” was the message that no, I wouldn’t; two slices would be greedy. Sex was so taboo that my mother, by then separated, sent me to the vicar for the sex talk. He and I were equally and mortifyingly embarrassed.

To this day, when Maude chooses something that is to my liking also, I sometimes have a fleeting worry that the choice is in deference to me, and I need to remind myself that no, she doesn’t shade the truth, and I can continue without worrying that she might be accumulating some resentment that will ooze out at some future time.

So I have very mixed feelings about white lies. I understand they’re a necessary social lubricant to reduce friction between people, and my upbringing inclines me to social politeness, but white lies are the opposite of the directness and honesty that contribute to people being seen and feeling understood.

White lies are the opposite of the directness needed for people to feel seen and understood #quote Share on XMAUDE: My experience of childhood was quite different from Phil’s. In our household, everything was talked about and I can’t remember anything that was taboo. Nevertheless, I have had my share of relationships where real honesty and sharing were not the norms.

Even with that, I still approach people, and especially my intimate friendships and relationships, with the expectation and assurance that I am being told what the person actually thinks and that we are sharing our full minds and hearts. This, after all, is what deep relationships are all about.

That said, this does not mean that you must dump the full contents of your mind on the other person as though your truth is how it is, or that you are compelled to share every thought and belief that you have. It is important to remember that our judgments about any given thing are just that, they are ours, and similarly what someone shares with you is both a product of that person and often it is just as much about that person as it may be about you.

In considering white lies, to do or not to do, there are two basic guideposts we can use whenever we are not sure of how much of what we think should actually be shared. One is the golden rule, a guidepost for every action in relationships and the other is Love. Love is our guide whenever we are uncertain.

I am most comfortable knowing that my dear ones tell me the full truth. That way there is never a build up of half-truth or resentment from not saying what you really feel. I am happy to hear what others see and hear. I am even happier when these sharings are done with kindness and generosity of spirit, always assuming the best of each of us.

This morning, three crows were cawing furiously outside.
I asked what they were shouting about
but they said I wouldn’t understand.  Phil Mayes

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8 Comments on “Truth and White Lies In Your Relationship

  1. The truth has always an existence among my kin very similar to what Phil describes. I think it’s made me hyper-honest in most cases – I’m certainly hyper aware when I’m moderating the truth to avoid insult or unkindness. I know that sometimes we moderate the truth, and some people lie to protect others’ feelings, but it always bothers me.

    Maybe that’s why I have great difficulty trusting when someone compliments something I’m wearing or the way I’ve done my hair. Those seem to be things where people feel the need to color the truth. For example, I’d just bought myself an Easter dress and had to go a two sizes smaller from the last time I’d bought something. However, though I was wearing the very dress at Easter Sunday service, I could not bring myself to believe the person who complimented me and commented that I looked like I’d lost weight.

    • Thanks, Denise; it’s always nice to write something and hear that it resonates with someone.

      I have two stories about compliments. I used to always deflect them. For example, I would respond to “What a great salad” with “Mmm, the avocados are too ripe,” but once I caught myself doing this, I decided to train myself to accept compliments by simply saying “Thanks” rather than rejecting them. It still doesn’t mean I accept and own them completely, but at least it offers an opening for them to take root.

      In our early days, Maude would say something complimentary to me(*) and I would respond with surprise because I didn’t see myself that way and/or because I had been told the opposite by previous girl-friends. By listening to and accepting what she said, I have significantly changed my view of myself.

      * It’s not that she’s stopped!

  2. Anna wrote:
    Phil and Maude,
    This is the most relevant article I have read in a long time. Worthy of a book!! The whole subject of honesty is relevant in all aspects of life. Your words were brilliant!


  3. Maude, I loved your line: “I am most comfortable knowing that my dear ones tell me the full truth.” and that you qualified that with the preference that ideally it is done with kindness and love. Tone of voice can make a big difference there. And I suppose if the intention of the deliverer is to communicate for clarity, to give the other information for their benefit, to share the intimate thoughts and feelings in the spirit of sharing or other kindly intentions, then the truth would be received as kind and loving. We have to of course believe the other loves us to receive it thus. If we believe we are always being attacked, if we fear others, or if we are in the habit of believing that our partner regularly attacks us, then we may hear the truth negatively even if our partner is endeavouring to deliver it with love and kindness.

    • Hi Jinjee, Yes, you have hit at the crux of the matter in many relationships. The comments we make are coming from a place where total acceptance is being practiced in the relationship – any relationship. When this is the case, you know that you are never being attacked, and you are not being approached with negative intent.
      Honesty can be practiced with kindness, and that does come down to tone of voice and style of approach.

  4. Kathy shared this:
    Kathy Jean Schultz
    Nice blog this week, Maude and Phil. About telling the truth. Whenever the Proust Questionnaire asks, “On what occasion do you lie?” there seem to be as many different answers as there are people.

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