I got a call from my son’s teacher about his foiled attempt at sneaking a classroom book into his bag. When the teacher asked my son how the book ended up there, he said he had no clue. The teacher and I agreed this was not a big deal and that the situation was a good learning opportunity about not taking things that didn’t belong to us and about telling the truth.
So when Daniel got home, we had a nice little chat about not stealing and always telling the truth. At the end of our talk I quoted the old saying “honesty is the best policy”. However, after he went to his room to play, I found myself turning that expression over and over in my head. Something about that expression didn’t sit well with me. Don’t get me wrong, I believe and try to the best of my ability to be truthful as much as possible. But if I’m completely honest with myself, I have to say that there are definitely situations where I am not fully disclosing the truth and feel justified in doing so. For example, when I describe the world to Daniel or answer his questions about current events, I often present an embellished version that doesn’t include crime, wars, and catastrophes. At this age, he doesn’t need to know about all the gory details. He deserves to feel secure in the world and have a happy childhood.
Another example is when my husband goes into great details about office politics. There are times when I’m tired and couldn’t care less, but I nevertheless feign interest. I do this out of love and consideration. Can you imagine what would happen to our relationships if people could read our mind and always know exactly what we were thinking? That would be the end of civilization! So in certain situations, I believe not only that it is ok to hide some aspects of the truth or tell a white lie, but that it is the kind and considerate thing to do.
On the flip side, there have been other times when I haven’t been completely truthful and felt off kilter afterwards. For instance, sometimes, I’ll say something that goes against my core beliefs just so that I can be in people’s good graces. Other times, I avoid telling someone the unpleasant truth that they need to hear, because I want to avoid a confrontation or prevent hurting someone’s feeling.
So, from my experience, there are times when it’s better to not be completely truthful and even tell a white lie. At other times, for my integrity and the good of others, I need to speak my truth no matter how uncomfortable it can be. The tricky part is knowing to which situations calls for which level of honesty. Luckily, I have an internal barometer that lets me know when I get it wrong and need a re-do!