Who hasn’t heard or used the expression, “Oh, it’s just a white lie?” I sure have. Why do we mitigate the lie we’ve done? Are there good and bad lies? Is it wise to lie sometimes? The answer is, “Yes.” Like so much in life, there’s a grey area and that is what I’d like to explore.
If a man with a gun is chasing someone and he passes you and asks, “which way did that a**hole go,” wouldn’t you think pointing in the opposite direction would be a wise thing to do?
When your wife is feeling insecure about her looks or weight, do you think that telling her how awful that pimple really appears is a good idea?
Let’s look at the little “white lies” that we do as parents. Do we tell our children that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy aren’t real? Should we?
With the recent horror in Colorado, how much should we discuss with our children? Do our younger kids need to know every gruesome detail about the world … right now?
I think we all know the answers to these questions. But sometimes there is a very grey area. Let’s consider the following scenario and consider the right thing to do. I will bet you that men and women will have seriously different responses to it!
A husband or wife–it doesn’t matter which–is on a business trip. He or she goes to the bar and has a bit too much to drink. At that particular moment, the marriage isn’t so good and he or she may have left home on the heels of a stupid fight. Being a little drunk, he or she succumbs to the “charms” of the person in the next barstool and the next morning, he or she wakes up not remembering a thing. Exiting quickly, horrified, and ashamed, he or she leaves.
Upon returning home, the at-home spouse innocently asks, “So, how was your trip?” The business traveler simply replies, “Fine.”
The possibly cheating spouse is truly horrified and doesn’t even remember the name of the person he or she may have slept with. What is undeniable is getting drunk and waking up in someone else’s bed.
What follows for the transgressor is deep introspection, perhaps some therapy, and an increased effort to renew the marriage on all levels.
Should that spouse reveal what happened? What good would it do? If the other partner doesn’t ask anything, is it okay to just let it go? IF the other spouse does ask if you did anything wrong, should you confess?
Not an easy scenario, is it? My supposition is that most women would say that telling the truth is the best response to this scenario while most men would say keep it to yourself. What do you think?
We actually live life more in the grey than in the black and white of simply “Yes or No” or “Right and Wrong,” especially in our relationships.
Another facet of this discussion is the concept of unconditional love. I would suggest that most of our deep and most important relationships actually have VERY conditional love. I wrote about this in my column, All Love IS Conditional. Using the infidelity scenario as an example, most couples would agree that beyond the marital vows, there is a conditional agreement to be faithful.
Other marital agreements are about who does what around the house, who will stay at home with the kids, if either can, and who will pay the bills. There is an expectation of respect, honesty, care, affection and so much more in a marriage. Heck, it’s as much of a business contract as any formal deal. It’s just less formalized.
The same applies for our children. I expect certain things of my boys. If one of my boys hurt someone–God forbid–I would still love them, I suppose, but that love would be severely diminished. The parent of a killer has to think less of their offspring. The spouse of an abuser has to also think less of theirs.
Everything in life is conditional and suggesting that we should love anyone unconditionally is foolish. Okay, love your dog that way–since they mostly love us that way in return.
Life is complicated. Lying is not a good thing. But, sometimes it is. Raising kids is hard. “Hardly” anyone would say being a parent is fun, but most parents will experience great joy along the ride. The same can be said for marriage. Being faithful may be a challenge for some, but the rewards usually outweigh the sacrifice.
There is a reason that men live longer when they’re married. Ironically, there’s also a reason that women do so much better than men when their husbands die. It’s all quite a puzzle.
While I suggest telling the truth is usually the best practice, when my wife asks which dress makes her look less fat, I ALWAYS answer, “Honey, you look gorgeous in both of them!”
About this column: Bruce Sallan is an Agoura Hills stay-at-home dad who is raising two teenage boys. Bruce’s first book, A Dad’s Point-of-View: We ARE Half the Equation is available at Amazon and the store at BruceSallan.com: http://brucesallan.com/index.php/store. Bruce Sallan’s column, “A Dad’s Point-of-View,” is carried in over 100 newspapers and websites worldwide. Please listen to “The Bruce Sallan Show - A Dad’s Point-of-View,” his one-hour radio show, which is available anytime, via live stream, or to download for free on BruceSallan.com.