There are lies, lies and white lies.
A white lie, so the dictionary says, is a harmless or trivial lie, especially told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.
In other words, this can be an easy way out of difficult situations. So when someone asks you “Have I put on weight?” the answer should be “Your kidding, not a chance” despite the obvious bulges in the wrong places.
So is the white lie an easy solution to our daily woes in this mad, mad, mad world we live in?
We are diplomatic creatures, we human beings. We do not believe in hurting someone deliberately unless circumstances call for it. And we face problems, day in and day out. That opens up scope for a few white lies or blatant ones once in a while.
Lest we forget, we have been doing so since we were young. Remember the time when we feigned a sudden stomach ache or an exaggerated limp to avoid school? Probably unconsciously, we have been lying many times.
White lies, however, are resorted to with good intentions. We don’t want to hurt someone unnecessarily so we fib a little to make him or her happy. If a friend questions about how a dress looks on her, you immediately reply “awesome” when in reality it is shapeless and of odd colour. At that moment you clear the doubts of your friend about her dress with a white lie.
It is just that we humans don’t want to upset a smooth relationship by speaking the truth. If the white lie keeps the relationship going, then why not resort to it?
Psychologists say this stems from our own insecurities with other people. We always have the fear that if we speak the truth, then it may upset the other person and create a wedge. They say that most people are not falsifying reality to dupe others to get ahead but rather to keep everyone happy.
“A little bit of lying is a social lubricant,” says Kim Serota, a marketing professor at Oakland University. “Most people we interact with occasionally lie because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.”
But there is a downside too. Too much of concealment of the truth may make us feel more isolated. The more we feel that we have stretched the truth to make someone happy, the more negative our emotions become, says a study.
“Frequent lies can increase our guilt and anxiety, which can lead to depression and in many cases paranoia over being found out,” says Victoria Lorient-Faibish, author of Find Your “Self-Culture”.
This can manifest in physical ways like insomnia, heartburn or panic attacks, she adds.
So is honesty really the best policy? There is no doubt about that.
If somebody does trust us, why resort to white lies at all? The truth, however bitter, is the truth and it may even strengthen the relationship.
And look at the bright side – you can earn a good night’s sleep.