Is it ever OK to lie?

20:08, Oct 11 2012

"Are you sure I look OK in this, Anna?"

My friend twirled around my room in her new dress. She'd just paid a surprisingly large amount of money for the small amount of cloth and was showing it to me for approval before she wore it to an awards dinner that night.

My friend is very tall and slender, but the dress really didn't make the most of her assets.

I inwardly grimaced and did what many of us would do in such a situation.

I lied.

I told her the dress looked fabulous and that she'd have all the women wanting to be her and all the men in the room wanting to be with her.

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Later, I felt guilty about my dishonesty.

I like to think of myself as an honest person. However, sometimes I find telling a "little white lie" is easier than telling the truth.

But is it ever really OK to lie?

Obviously, there are some things that should never be lied about, but there are some situations that are more ambiguous and beg for the "little white lie" category to be used.

For example:

1. How does my new haircut look?

2. Was it as good for me as it was for you?

3. What'd you think of my mother?

4. How many women have you slept with?

We often justify the white lies we tell by saying we're avoiding hurting someone else's feelings.

Take my friend. I told myself she'd already paid for the dress and telling her it didn't look good would have just hurt her feelings and dashed her confidence for her night.

Most of us have a tendency to shoot the messenger of bad news and label honest or "straight up" people as rude and bitchy.

It's well known the truth can be harsh.

For example:

1. Actually, it's aged you 50 years and made your ears look HUGE

2. No it really wasn't - I think I fell asleep for a while there in the middle

3. She's overbearing and smelt faintly of wet dog

4. I lost count at 40 ...

But sometimes you've got to be cruel to be kind. There are situations where the truth is going to hurt, but it's absolutely necessary, e.g. your husband is cheating on you or I don't love you anymore.

Then, of course, a lie can be as equally hurtful as the truth. If people find out you've lied or deliberately withheld information from them, they understandably can feel betrayed and hurt. Suddenly your little white lie doesn't seem so harmless anymore.

After mulling all of this over, I think there are still some situations where it's OK to avoid the direct truth.

I found it helpful to reverse the situation. If my friend told me I looked awful in a dress I felt fabulous in would I appreciate it? Probably not. As it was, my friend had a great night and felt confident in her dress.

Some things don't need to be said.

However, I think we should limit this to situations where someone will be genuinely hurt and not just used as an excuse for getting out of potentially awkward situations.

You shouldn't lie to save your own skin.

Next time I go to tell a "harmless" lie, I'm going to think - am I lying for your benefit or mine?

Do you tell little white lies or are you completely straight up? Do you think lying can ever be justified? Comment below, email me at anna.turner@press.co.nz or follow me on Twitter.

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