Friday, October 3, 2008

False Face Must Hide


by Jo Robertson

Lady Macbeth speaks this line from Shakespeare’s play of betrayal and murder. Macbeth has killed King Duncan and his wife admonishes him to put on the face of innocence as he dines among the other Thanes of Scotland.
She says he cannot reveal the blackness of his heart.

“False face must hide what the false heart doth know.”

I’ve bee
n thinking about false faces and false hearts lately. About the sense of betrayal a person can feel when she’s been lied to or deceived by someone – a friend, a child, a partner. But those are the big lies, right?
The toxic ones that do permanent damage.

What about the so-called little white lies? We all tell those, right?

My mom used to point to an unusually large woman and ask, “Jo, am I as fat as that lady?”

She was a character, my mother. She wasn’t begging for a compliment; she really wanted to know if others saw her as heavy as the woman in front of us at the commissary pushing a double-wide cart down the aisle and wearing a god-awful muu-muu.

“Uh, no, Mom, you carry your weight really well.”

This was true. My mother was one of those women who could weigh an extra 30 or 40 pounds and look “handsome” rather than overweight.

“Besides that, Mom, we don’t use the “F” word in our house.”

Her eyes would widen and then she’d laugh. I’m not sure my mother actually knew what the real “F” word was.

The thing is, I would've lied flat out to my mom if it made her feel better. Why not? She was my mother and although she had her flaws, I loved her dearly.

When my first child was born, he lay in the nursery bassinettes next to . . . okay, I have to say it . . . the ugliest baby I've ever seen. I realize some people think all babies are cute, but uh, no, they're not.
Now, granted, mine looked like he'd been in a tussel with the forceps. But this baby? He looked like a big bruiser of a street fighter. Ironically, his mother, watching him through the glass, was extraordinarily striking.
"Isn't he beautiful?" she cooed.
Of course, I lied.
Some truths just cannot be said aloud.

There are other kinds of lies, of course, some toxic, some merely annoying. Political lies. Hmmm, most of us are pretty cynical about the promises of politicians before they get elected, but are those really lies? Or just promises they can't make good on?

Now here’s the thing.
Do you lie to your friend who asks you if the dress she’s contemplating makes her look frumpy?
Do you teach your children it’s never okay to tell an untruth? Do you really believe that? Or make them cross their fingers behind their backs to negate the lie?
When is it “okay” to lie and when is it crossing a line to betrayal?
Have you ever been lied to in a way that hurt you deeply?
Would you rather be told a harmless lie than an unpleasant truth?

71 comments:

flchen1 said...

Lying is bad, but sometimes white lies do spare feelings...

flchen1 said...

Ooh, Jo, good post, and I'm not sure when I'd rather be lied to than face a hurtful truth. I think overall I do think that lying is bad--it's such a slippery slope once you start... and I'm terrible at it, which I suppose is a mixed blessing ;)

I think I would have "lied" in some of the same situations you mentioned--I'm not sure I could tell a new mom her baby was unattractive. And it isn't really a lie--of course her baby is beautiful, to her :)

For the frumpy dress, if there was a way to nudge her towards a different, more flattering choice, that would be the way to go. If not, then there isn't any reason to make her feel terrible about wearing it if she's got no other choice. Besides, confidence is the thing, and if she's feeling good about it, she'll look better, right?

I'm thankful that I can't at the moment recall being lied to--I think that what would hurt would be the feeling that I wasn't trusted to handle the truth, that I wasn't good enough or whatever enough for it. I'm not sure about being lied to--if it's something I could fix, I like to think that I'd rather know so that I could fix it. It's awful to think that I'd rather be that person that everyone says is a friend, but that they secretly find incredibly irritating for whatever reason... so, do I need a shower? I think I can handle the truth ;)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Aw. I missed the GR by two comments. Congrats, flchen1!

But this is a great topic, Jo! I'm always intrigued by people who swear by total & complete honesty at all times. I'm not proud of it, but I do occasionally tell what I would term the social lie.

For example, maybe somebody asks me to coffee & I'm free but I just don't feel like seeing anybody. I feel no guilt about claiming rampant overscheduling. Or if I know that my politics are wildly different from a colleague's, I'll purposely downplay or softpedal my true feelings on an issue. It's not that my feelings have changed, it's that I simply don't have the energy (or don't care to expend it at that moment) on the level of engagment a real dialogue would require.

I know, it's awful. But my time & energy is limited. I'm also lazy. :-)

Kelly Krysten said...

Okay, maybe this makes me a horrible person, but I would tell my friend if what she was wearing didn't work for her. And I would expect the same truth in return. It seems mean to send someone who really just wants to look her best-she must if she asked- out looking bad. Although, let me qualify that. The former applies if we're out shopping together or the friend definitely has time to change. If she's in a rush and truly has no time to change I would tell her she looked great- sometimes the look of confidence someone carries themself with makes up for a less than perfect ensemble.

Okay, and you were 100% right to tell that Mother that her child was beautiful. That reminds me of that episode of Seinfeld where everyone thought the baby was so adorable but Jerry and his friends would go in and be absolutely appalled.lol.

So, I guess there are moments for honesty and moments where it's best to deliver the white lie.

Great post!

Jane said...

Congrats, Fedora.

We always say we want to know the truth, but I'm not so sure. Sometimes the truth hurts and while I think I can handle it I probably rather not know. I think a lie might be appropriate than the truth in some instances. I mostly lie about whether a person looks nice or fat or if her new haircut is cute. I don't think I would lie to somebody as to whether I have feelings for them and I don't think I would want to lie to my friends if I found out that their significant other is unfaithful.

Kelly Krysten said...

Okay, I should have read flchen1's post first. She said what I was trying to convey about the friend's outfit much more clearly than I got it!

Also, I'm in total agreement Susan.

Natalie Hatch said...

Don't ask me about my weight or my sordid past and I'll never lie to you...
I tend to not answer if it could potentially hurt someones feelings. I heard a great answer when a guy was asked if a dress made his girlfriends bum look big, he said 'at least it takes the attention away from your face'....
needless to say I don't think he was a boyfriend for much longer after that.

Helen said...

Well done flchen you two obviously have a great time together

Great post Jo
I was bought up with two sayings

The lie is worse than the deed and if you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all.

They have stayed with me forever and I bought my children up the same way but I totaly agree that I would never tell someone their baby isn't beautiful and as for telling someone that their outfit looks great on them when clearly I don't think it does it depends who is asking me if it is one of my family or really close friends then I would rather be honest but in a nice way I would never intentionally hurt anyone I am not that sort of person.
As to being hurt by lies yes I have been when my son was 16 he got in with a really bad group of so called friends there were a lot of drugs invovled and the lies that he told us hurt really bad but we stuck by him and he pulled thru and I am so proud of him today but it is a stage of his life that he does not like to talk about but he has apologized for the lies and we go on from there.
I guess it depends on what sort of unplesant truths we are talking about I really don't like being hurt (I guess no one does)My heart still believes honesty is the best policy.

Have Fun
Helen

limecello said...

Great post, Jo. I think it depends on the person, their personality, how well you know them, and what the situation is. If it's a dress just for casual wear - I don't know. I once watched a friend buy a HIDEOUS $500 coat. (Some people may not think so but to me that's a pricey coat - especially since we were both in college.) I didn't know her that well, she loved it, and *every* shop girl came over to gush (why wouldn't they? whoever got the commission would be sitting pretty). She took it home, however, and everyone hated it. She later told me she returned it, and by then I knew her better, and was like "oh good." - And she asked me why I didn't "steer her straight" so I told her pretty much what I wrote here.
I think it really does depend on the person - you, your relationship with them, and the situation. If it's something minor - an outfit, depending, tell them or let it go. If it's huge - like a redesigned house - maybe not - too late to really change it.

Haha - I guess that's my useless vacillating answer of the day!

And congrats on the GR, Fedora!

Anna Lucia said...

Oooh, tough blog, Jo!

I try to be a truthful person - I will say the difficult things if they have to be said, and equally I'll make a point of sharing the positive thoughts and compliments, even with strangers.

But I'm a fan of lying in some circumstances, but only a very select few. And I'm also a fan of accepting that they are lies, even if 'white' ones.

Sadly, I'm an excellent liar. Which is why I try and avoid the temptation to use that particular skill... ;-)

jo robertson said...

Congratulations on getting the rooster, Flchen1, you guys are early. Now I'd better go back and edit this post!

I was out for the evening watching the live tour of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE and it was AMAZING!!! So much fun. Surely I was a dancer in a previous life? Pretty, please? Ha, ha, go ahead and tell me that white lie, ya'll.

Donna MacMeans said...

I'm a terrible liar. I think my nose grows, or my eye twitches, but I'm horrible at telling an outright lie. Now tact...that's something I've tried to learn to cultivate if only for self-preservation *g*. And yes, sometimes I bite my tongue because I know my honest opinion is not REALLY required. So I stay quiet - which if you know me is similiar to my nose growing. Sometimes you just can't win.

jo robertson said...

You're right about that slippery slope, F-1, and once you start down it, it's hard to tell what's justified and what's not.

You said, "I think that what would hurt would be the feeling that I wasn't trusted to handle the truth."

Yes, that's where the real hurt comes in, isn't it? That you're not a big enough person to be told the truth and accept it graciously.

jo robertson said...

Uh, lazy, I don't think so, Susan. I claim NO ONE who's a mother of small children AND has a career inside OR outside the home is lazy. No way, not possible.

I'm intrigued also by WHY people lie and under what circumstances. I should say up front that I have NO compunction about lying if it serves a greater good. Uh, wait, is lying one of the ten commandments? But seriously, I would rather lie than hurt someone's feelings.

jo robertson said...

And of course, Susan, there are some people (like your very best friend) whom to can flat out tell the truth to -- I just don't want to be around people today -- and they'll accept it.

jo robertson said...

Kelly said, "It seems mean to send someone who really just wants to look her best-she must if she asked- out looking bad."

What my daughters tell ME, very tactfully of course, is, "Hmmmm, that's not something that would work for me. What do YOU think?" That's code for "Gosh, Mom, take that thing off and burn it!"

jo robertson said...

Great comment, Jane! I agree. Sometimes I DON'T want to know the truth; I just want to feel better about the situation. I always ask myself what is gained by telling the absolute truth if it's an unpleasant one.

jo robertson said...

I've often wondered if I'd tell a friend if her husband was cheating on her. That's a tricky one. What do you think? Does it depend on if she asks or would you tell her even if she DIDN'T ask your opinion.

I'd definitely WANT to know if that happened to me. Of course, we all think it won't, but obviously it does sometimes.

jo robertson said...

OMG, Natalie, that is such a mean guy kind of thing to say. He probably thought he was being funny. NOT!

jo robertson said...

Thanks for sharing that, Helen. You must really be proud of your son. Sometimes it's really hard to overcome things and own up to your responsibility.

You said, "The lie is worse than the deed and if you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all."

I've heard of the last saying, but not the first one. I like it, speaking as it does to the idea of covering up our bad deeds with lies and compounding the situation.

jo robertson said...

Not vascillating at all, Limecello. Wow, 500 bucks on a coat is bad enough, but a BAD-looking one? It's funny in a perverted way, sort of like the ugly baby on the Seinfeld episode Kelly mentioned.

jo robertson said...

Hehehehe, Anna Lucia, don't they say all writers are excellent liars?

jo robertson said...

LOL, Donna, I pegged you for a person who'd be upfront and tell the truth, tell it like it is, right from the moment I first met you in Atlanta in 2006! It's very refreshing to have people like you who you know will be very straight with you.

Oh, and it would be absolutely worthless to have a critique partner (if you're a writer) who wouldn't tell you the truth, wouldn't it? That's like if you had bad breath and your husband wouldn't tell you. Yikes!

Carol said...

Congrats flchen on having the lad at your house...I think he can tell some porkies!!!

I think we all tellwhite lies to save our friends feelings!
And it's really difficult when we know the truth or our opinion will hurt our friend.
Helen, my Nana always said if you can't say something nice,say nothing at all...as well! or at least be tactful!

I lie to salepeople and say ...I don't think my husband will like that! when I think the mat/couch/furniture is horrible!

There is also the lie of omission!...use it sometimes! "didn't cost much!- leaving off the price"

re babies...diversion is good..."what a good little baby!" does the trick...
Great subject Jo! (not fibbing ...it is!)

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804 - 1881)


Cheers Carol

jo robertson said...

LOL, Carol. I love the tactic, "didn't cost much!" And the diversion trick is great. Wow, I'm learning some new tactics!

I love the Disraeli quote.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "All generalizations are a damned lie, including this one!"

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Do you lie to your friend who asks you if the dress she’s contemplating makes her look frumpy?
No, if it makes her look frumpy I plead the fifth and point her to another dress that looks better.

Do you teach your children it’s never okay to tell an untruth?
I taught my children that a lie will always, always, catch up with you. I did also try to teach them that sometimes the truth can be painful or even cruel and it is best to just keep quiet rather than cause pain. A very, very fine line.

Do you really believe that? Or make them cross their fingers behind their backs to negate the lie?
I believe that a lie will catch up to you eventually and it is better to tell the truth then you don't have to remember the lie.

When is it “okay” to lie and when is it crossing a line to betrayal?
I think I am with Susan and others on this point, rather than just tell someone I want to be alone I will lie and say I have another appointment. I can't see hurting someone's feelings when it is just me being anti-social.

Have you ever been lied to in a way that hurt you deeply?
Yes, a very big lie and a permanent pain.

Would you rather be told a harmless lie than an unpleasant truth?
It is easy to say it and harder to live it but I do think I would rather know the truth for the most part. Even harmless lies can lead to a lack of trust if they are found out.

Maureen said...

Such a good post making me think early this morning. In some cases the truth is subjective. I might not like a dress on someone but others might so I try to be kind but not an outright liar when someone asks my opinion.

Caren Crane said...

Fedora, I'm not sure if I should congratulate you on getting the Golden Rooster or console you for having to add him to your food budget. After all, Tim Tams don't grow on trees!

Jo, I love this post. I find dishonesty unpleasant, but the whole thing is all manners of gray in my world.

When shopping with friends, I will ALWAYS give them a no on something unflattering. Always. If they love it, I will shrug and tell them it's their choice. No lies. Like many others said, if it's after the fact, I will find something I can honestly say, such as, "That's a great color for you." Not a lie outright, but the ever-popular lie of omission.

Lies of omission (LOOs) are often used by cheating husbands and boyfriends, so I tend not to use them unless I risk hurting someone. The other half of the LOO is the unnecessary honesty such as when my husband asked if he should tell the mortgage lender that he never paid for that Time-Life book he ordered in college. Um...no. Sometimes the situation in front of you (being able to buy a house or preserving a friendship) is more important than being unnecessarily honest.

Though I try hard to be honest, I am only human. There was plenty of lying for good reasons even in the New Testament, so I don't feel too bad about it. *g*

Kim Howe said...

Jo, fabulous post! Definitely a topic that touches us all on a daily basis. I'm pretty direct and honest, but I have told white lies to avoid hurting a friend's feelings. It think the greatest gift you can give someone is an honest opinion. I was chatting with my critique partner, Maria V. Snyder, yesterday and we touched on this very issue because so many writers only want to hear how great they are instead of facing down their writing weaknesses. Honesty can hurt, but it is the only way we can get a true evaluation of where we stand. I appreciate honesty, even if it feels like getting smacked by a sledgehammer!

Louisa Cornell said...

Great topic, Jo!! My best friend in college is a great person to go shopping with as she will ALWAYS tell you the honest truth about how you look in an outfit, even if the salesperson says "Oh this is YOU!" My friend's comments included "No, it's somebody else!" "I will lock you in the trunk before I let you wear that in public." and "You are 5 foot nothing and you want to wear something that makes you look SHORTER?"

I am 5 foot nothing and there ARE some colors I don't look good in so I depend on my friends to tell me the truth when it comes to clothes!

Now in my job at the bakery we often get requests for color combinations on cakes that frankly are NAUSEATING! I mean, a dark teal green WEDDING CAKE???? BUT, I just smile and say "We'll do it exactly as you want and I'm sure you'll love it." Then I go to the back mumbling "You're probably the only person who will love it, but hey!"

However, in most things in life I tell the truth. Frankly, my memory is NOT what it used to be and it is too much trouble to try and remember what lie I've told.

And when it comes to my writing I want brutal honesty. I may not agree with a critique, but I really want to know what the other person thinks - good, bad or indifferent. Even, as KJ says, when it feels like I've been hit with a sledgehammer!

Kirsten said...

Ooo, Jo, tough questions! Shades of grey doesn't begin to cover it. LOL. When it comes to clothes, I try to be honest, if I'm asked directly. There's usually a tactful way to express yourself, I've found. I haven't had many problems with this. I have had to send my husband back to the closet to change a few times -- so now he trusts me to be honest. LOL. I hope people will be honest with me if I ask. I won't ask if I don't want the answer.

I have gotten too much honesty though, from my mom. Moms are good at this. The key is that moms feel comfortable OFFERING criticism when you haven't even asked for their opinion. This goes to Carol's Nana's fabulous advice -- if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

My amendment would be, if you're asked, you can be honest, but please, don't offer the criticism without being asked!

Claudia Dain said...

I can't abide lies, no matter the color. I won't lie, about anything, but there are nice ways to tell the truth.

What kind of friend is it who lets another friend by an unflattering dress? Why not just say, "That dress is cut all wrong for you." Or "That print is doing weird things to your waistline." Believe me, I've said these things, and it's why all my friends want me to go shopping with them! I want what they want: for them to look fantastic.

Lie that hurt me and made me into a Warrior Truth-teller: the Santa Claus lie.

I'll never forget when I connected the dots and finally asked my parents if Santa Claus was real, and they told me no, but to not say anything to my younger sister about it. That betrayal still echoes in my soul. I actually asked them why they'd told me the whole Santa Claus with presents thing if they knew it wasn't true and their answer was, "It was so cute to watch you believe it. It's just so adorable."

Message: We lied to you because it was fun for us to do so. We liked watching you believe the lie.

I'm sure you can figure out that I never told my kids the Santa Claus "lie." I never lie. Ever. About anything.

DH: "Are you mad about something?"
Me: "Furious. And this is why..."

Friend: "The political situation..."
Me: "I don't think we should talk politics because then we might get into a fight and I treasure you too much to lose you over that."

Kid: "Mom, why don't you like John?"
Me: "I like John just fine, I just think he's toxic for you. You make bad choices when you're together."

And on and on. Why can't telling the truth as lovingly as possible be a good thing? Why is a lie ever a good choice?

Yes, I'm a Truth Fanatic. *g*

Cassondra said...

JO, this is a great topic.

Like Anna Lucia says of herself, unfortunately I am a very good liar.

But I try very hard to NOT lie. I try to dodge if somebody is wearing something ugly or her hair makes her look like a poodle goes punk or something. Shopping with a friend I tell the absolute truth. If she hasn't bought it yet I say, "I don't think that sets off your nice figure as well as it could."

If she's bought it and is wearing it, I find something to like about it. "I'm so crazy for black lace. Where did you get that?" She'll launch into where she got it, but really I'm just thinking, "not goin there any time soon."

If I'm helping somebody dress for an interview or an important speech or meeting, I'm completely honest. I try to not outright lie about this kind of thing because they probably WILL learn the truth at some point, and then they won't trust my opinion, and won't feel free to give an honest one in return.

If I know someone's husband is cheating, I guess it would depend on how close I am to that person. If it's a casual acquaintance, it's none of my business. If it's a close friend--well, I've never had that happen so I don't know. Thank God, I've never had to face this.

Other lies. I think that baby is beautiful--inside. But I just leave off the last clarification. I've given sucky performances myself, and when my friends reassured me that it was fine, sometimes they were lying. I'm not sure it helped. "Everybody has those nights" was actually more helpful, because it's the truth.

If I totally blew the second verse--missed about three chords, I've had them say, "I didn't hear it." And mean it. This made me feel better, but that was the truth.

So, do I lie? Yes. It's funny--not about really important things, and not usually about trivial things like clothes--not outright anyhow. It's the middle-important stuff where I find myself faced with this.

Cassondra said...

Claudia, your answer is interesting to me. I have gone through periods in my life where I took precisely this stance--I won't lie about anything. It was not much harder for me actually, than telling the "white lies" under discussion.

Those "white lies" are simply convenient I think. That's the bottom line. It's a little more risky and dangerous to be a complete truth teller. It's a little grittier to do. Learning about Santa was not the blow to my soul that it was to yours. Maybe it's the way in which we find out? I dunno.

Jo, I did not answer the part of your question about being lied to. Yes, I have been. About something really important to me, by someone in whom I had complete faith. It was devastating. It destroyed a trust that has never been the same. One of the most painful experiences of my life, and the wound has never completely healed. I never want to do that to anyone. Never.

terrio said...

Unfortunately for me, I've been lied to repeatedly and I know the hurt of it. Which is why I'm very sensitive to it now. NO tolerance for lying. BUT, that doesn't mean I would say a baby is ugly or let my friend buy something that made her look bad.

There are small cases where it's better to fib than to hurt someone. But IMO, in most cases, the truth is always better. Don't make me have to guess and don't make me feel or look like a fool. That's all I ask. You don't like me? Tell me. I might not like to hear it, but it's better than me finding out later that you lied.

The fool part is the biggest thing for me. It's a horrible feeling. No one should ever do that to another person.

terrio said...

Jo said:
I've often wondered if I'd tell a friend if her husband was cheating on her. That's a tricky one. What do you think? Does it depend on if she asks or would you tell her even if she DIDN'T ask your opinion.

I'd definitely WANT to know if that happened to me. Of course, we all think it won't, but obviously it does sometimes.


For me, I wish someone had told me. What's amazing is, how easy it is for people to tell you after you already know. It's like they need to get it off their chest and think it's okay at that point because you already know. They don't even realize it makes it worse because you just feel like more and more of a fool that SO MANY knew and never told you.

jo robertson said...

Great responses, Dianna! I like the idea of pleading the fifth; I'm gonna try that line.

And I'd definitely rather know the truth if it's something I can change, but if I can't change the situation, I'd rather not know. Why be unhappy if I don't have to?

I have a quote on my office wall. "Better a happy idiot than to know the truth." For some reason that saying makes me laugh.

jo robertson said...

This discussion reminds me of a story.

My eldest daughter had nose surgery a number of years ago. Now she's always had a funny-looking nose with a wide, flat tip, but since she's also a beautiful singer, we were afraid (like Barbra Streisand LOL) that messing with the nose would change her vocal tones.

Finally, however, her allergies and sinuses were so awful that she had to have surgery on them and while the doctor was "in there," he fixed the tip of her nose.

She's a beautiful woman, so the nose job was a wonderful addition to her loveliness.

However, before the surgery I'd NEVER have told her the nose was funny-looking because it's kind of permanent, you know?

Which makes me wonder, what if your friend had breast augmentation or reduction and asked you what you thought of the "job"? If she looked like she was in perpetual danger of tipping forward, would you tell her?

jo robertson said...

Dianna said, "Even harmless lies can lead to a lack of trust if they are found out."

That is SO TRUE. I know this woman who spins the most outrageous fibs. I say "fibs" instead of "lies" because they're very harmless, but also very unnecessary. Sort of embellishing the truth situations.

I wonder why she does that? I try to be unfailingly, brutally honest with myself. I want to look into the mirror each morning (ugh, there's a thought!!) and KNOW the person who looks back at me.

jo robertson said...

Yikes, Maureen, that's what I was thinking last night when folks were commenting so late in my little corner of the world.

Yes, truth is often very subjective, so why impose your opinion on someone if it will hurt his/her feelings.

jo robertson said...

Oooh, Caren, I love the "unnecessary honesty" comment! Great way to say it.

For example, my daughter's friend had an extra ticket to SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE and said to her, "I don't know whether to give this extra ticket to you or to one of my sisters."

Sheesh, why bring it up, girl???

jo robertson said...

Yes, yes, Kim. Sledgehammer, indeed! Especially as a writer (but really ANY kind of artist), we can't grow if we don't get honest opinions and suggestions.

I resisted a suggestion I'd gotten from a contest judge, but when that same idea was repeated by my first reader (my daughter), I knew I'd better pay attention!

jo robertson said...

LOL, Louisa, wonderful come-back lines from your college friend!

You've given me my morning laugh! Dark green teal wedding cake??? What the heck??!!

jo robertson said...

Kirsten, honestly, can we include husbands and dressing in the honesty conversation? They often MUST be told what to wear. You're saving them from themselves.

Ducking any grenades P226 might be launching my way!

Yes, I think Moms often forget to put the filter on between brain and mouth! It's like, I carried you for nine months so I can give my honest, UNSOLICITED opinion!

jo robertson said...

Excellent comments, Claudia.

One of my daughters also refuses to tell the Santa Clause lie to her children. It's a reasonable choice until HER kids get with the other daughters' children and then there can be mass confusion.

I must say, however, they handle it all very beautifully and with respect.

jo robertson said...

Cassondra, I think the key for you is that you are unfailingly kind. So even when you're direct and honest in your opinions you express them in a way that the person knows you care about them.

Isn't that the most important thing?

jo robertson said...

Terrio and Cassondra, that must be really difficult, being lied to by someone close whom you trust. That's never happened to me, but I'm guessing if it did, the relationship would never quite recover. Which is very, very sad.

jo robertson said...

I never thought about that -- people telling you THEY knew after the fact. That must be devastating and just keeps the pain going on and on. It seems best to keep your mouth shut. My son says, "You never get in trouble saying nothing."

jo robertson said...

My blogger-challenged daughter (she of the fixed nose) made this comment which I thought was very "interesting":

Shannon says, "I know a person who never "lies"... not even the little white ones. And frankly... it bugs the hell out me! Telling an untruth to avoid hurting someone is a good thing. It is how we protect our relationships and get along with others.

The problem with those kinds of lies is if we then speak what we deem as the "truth" (about a new haircut, an ugly baby, etc.) to OTHERS behind that person's back.

If we are telling the little white lie to protect someone's feelings then we keep the truth to ourselves. If we say one thing in front of the person and then the truth to our friends behind her back, then we were REALLY just protecting ourselves from the repercussions of speaking the truth in the first place.

Furthermore... if someone asks for an opinion BEFORE they buy the skinny jeans, dye their hair purple or let’s say... um... get permanent eyebrows ... then it would be appropriate to tell the truth. After the fact... just do what I do and say, "Oh... that's interesting."

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

GREAT post, Jo-Mama!
And you know how I LURVE "that Scottish play." :-)

I try not to lie, but I will do it in certain situations. Not, however, when it is something important and/or someone I care about.

Yes, I have been lied to and far more than little white ones. By a family member. By a "good" friend.

Yes, it was very painful.

No, I never really "got over it."

AC
P.S. Congrats on getting the GR back, Fedora. He must actually LIKE your kids and their light sabres.

catslady said...

I could go on forever on this subject but instead will just say I loved your story about the ugly baby - I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder - and of course you couldn't tell the truth in that case!! If there's nothing that can be done (like the baby) then I think the lie is what you should do. But there are times when maybe the truth could be helpful - say a horrible hairstyle that could be changed and maybe you could give her some thought as to changing it to a more flattering style. I wouldn't tell someone they are fat but if they asked and it's really an unhealthy amount possibly you could help them (probably not though).

Anna Campbell said...

Jo, what a thought-provoking post! I'm not sure where I stand on this whole issue although like every person on the planet, I've certainly told a white lie now and again. I think I lean towards the idea that with some things, you're better facing the truth, however unpleasant. In my experience, the truth will out! Is that Shakespeare too?

jo robertson said...

Oh, yes, AC, the Scottish play's got lots of meat -- love it!! Remember when King Duncan says something about how hard it is to "find the mind's construction in the face"?

Some people are really good about hiding their lies, but some are awful. I can always tell when my husband's prevaricating. Usually when he's joking.

jo robertson said...

Ah, Catslady, the "fat" issue is really tricky. I always hate when skinny-minnys complain about how fat they are!

Really weight is such an individual thing, isn't it?

I love those Dove commercials of women in their undies embracing their natural beauty!

jo robertson said...

I don't know, Anna. Is "the truth will out" Shakespeare? Anyone sure? Which play? Or is it "murder will out"?

Hmmmm.

jo robertson said...

Okay, looked it up and "truth will out" is from Merchant of Venice, when Launcelot does that whole comedic routine with his half-blind father; it's right after the comment about a wise father knowing his child and part of the romantic subplot. Not the "pound of flesh" plot.

Claudia Dain said...

Responding to your daughter's comments, hooking onto Caren's 'unnecessary truth'--just because you tell the truth doesn't mean you go around clomping all over people's feelings. There is so much you don't have to say! I don't say every thought in my head, that's for sure. Some things I will never speak.

Silence is golden.

People lie because they feel they have to say something. I just don't say anything.

Ugly baby? I don't think there is such a thing. A baby is beautiful and precious because they're weak and helpless and waiting to be loved. The look of love in the mother's eyes would have told the truest truth of that moment.

Cassondra, and others, the reason why the Santa Claus lie cut me to the heart was because it came from my parents. Of all the people on the globe, they were the ones I trusted to tell me what was what, how to navigate the world and negotiate the mine field of human behavior. To have them lie to me was such a breach of trust! I understood why they did it, the parent side of it, but as their child, from then on, whenever they gave me advice or told me something I always wondered what their motivation was. Was it for me or for them? Whose interest was being served?

As to the "if I knew the husband was cheating on friend" question, unless I saw tab A going into slot B with my own eyes, I wouldn't be so bold as to say I "knew" anything, so I wouldn't say a word to anyone. Now, if I did see A go into B, I'd approach the husband and tell him I knew, and tell him he had some serious decisions to make and needed to do right by his wife.

Does this sound harsh? Unreasonable? I hope not. It seems right and reasonable to me to be honest and still polite. To be trustworthy and honorable. To not assume that I am the holder of all truth is part of it. I don't equate a personal opinion as equal to the absolute truth.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Wow, Jo, you never pick the easy ones, do you? Ha!

What a thought provoker. :> I try very, very hard never to lie because I do it well and easily. I think most storytellers have this capacity and have to watch it carefully. It's when "I wish it were THIS way" becomes "It HAPPENED this way" in the mouth and mind of the speaker. :> I had to learn very early on to say, "Wouldn't it be cool if it DID happen THIS way..." Grins.

Getting caught in lies and embellishments is, as I personally know, very, very painful. It makes you reevaluate your entire life. Believe me, that college experience was as devastating as being lied TO.

Claudia, I applaud your stance on Santa, and had to LOL Jo, about your daughter and her children being with their cousins. My 8 year old and I are discussing this right now. He's a logical soul, that one.

I have been lied to, in devastating ways. The infidelity one was bad, from my first marriage. And since there were people who knew that peg A went in to slot B, as Claudia so delicately put it, I wish they had said somethiing to him or to me. In this case, sledgehammer or not, I would have felt less the idiot by knowing sooner. As someone said, you get those who have to say after the fact that they knew...confession time. Urg.

Dress choices, boyfriend choices, politics and all that, I don't lie, but I will refuse to discuss it. I usually say I think the dress doesn't flatter. Hate to be on the other end of the "oh, it's fine" comment when shopping so I'm honest there. Boyfriends, I've never hesitated to say "he's not my cup of tea, coffee or sludge." and Politics, I don't EVEN start. Ha!

I've been known to say, flat out, "I'm not going to comment because I know it will hurt someone's feelings."

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Had to add...Susan, I had a success coach tell me that I had to make appointments with myself. I would schedule time with and for everyone but me. I'd get so booked up with stuff I'd never write, never get anything done. For the longest time I felt like I had to "be there" for people, even the time-wasters. It was horrible. I kept wondering how I could be so busy and not be moving forward.

She clued me in. Wham! Felt like the proverbial Cosmic Two-by-Four, but gosh, it was so obvious when she said it.

So, now I never hesitate to tell anyone that I have another appointment. I finally learned, too, to say that I have a project due and need that time to work on it.

Lord knows, I always need time for me, and I always have a project due. The Coach gently reminded me that allowing anyone to "steal" that time disrespects your talent and your Self, so keep it on the docket to make appointments to do what YOU want and need to do. :>

jo robertson said...

LOL, Jeanne, the topic was supposed to be FUN!!

I know what you mean when you say when the "if" becomes the "reality." I've heard people tell stories that can't possibly be true, but you can tell the person is so caught up in it that he believes it himself.

Wow, great advice, Jeanne! I know it's a cliche, but if you really do have to take care of yourself first if you're going to be able to take care of other people . . . or things.

I'm one of those persons who desperately NEEDS her "me" time. I've been known to say to my daughters and their children, "Okay, it's time for everyone to go home!"

It's become a family joke.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Heehee, Jo, I can just see you doing that! :>

Even though I know how important "me" time is, it's still hard for me to set it aside. That's why I have no compunction about saying, "sorry, I have a meeting." Or "Oh, I already have a lunch that day." It may be with me, or with my current WIP, but it's still a meeting. :>

I'm such an extrovert that time with people is really important too, but I have to be careful who those people are. I'm getting very careful too about who I spend time with, and time wasters, whiners and complainers have dropped to the bottom of the list. :>

Have to confess, I recently told an old friend I couldn't have lunch and when she really pressed, I said, as gently as I could, we always discuss the same thing, go over the same ground and you tell me everything that's wrong with your husband. I like your husband. So, I really think it would be better for me to get my work done. :>

Cassondra said...

Claudia said:

Does this sound harsh? Unreasonable? I hope not. It seems right and reasonable to me to be honest and still polite. To be trustworthy and honorable. To not assume that I am the holder of all truth is part of it. I don't equate a personal opinion as equal to the absolute truth.

It doesn't seem harsh or unreasonable to me at all. This is the way I feel too. And it's the way I operated in...well...I'll call it my "honest phase." Hmmm. That implies that I'm now in a dishonest phase, doesn't it? Sheesh.

The thing with the cheating husband, for me, is just as you've put it. Unless I see the act, I don't KNOW. I might form an opinion and intuitively figure it out even without seeing anything. Just the energy between people. But I don't KNOW. And THINK of the harm I'd do if I went and told the wife that and it were not true!

My dad once told me something very useful. He said, "Be very careful about acusing someone of doing something without knowing absolutely that it's so. The results are always bad."

And I've seen many times in my life that he was right about that.

Cassondra said...

Jo said:

I've heard people tell stories that can't possibly be true,

But how do you KNOW?

Fact is often stranger than fiction. Living with a former Special Forces soldier has taught me that a lot of what appears crazy on the surface, or sounds very strange to the average individual who does not live in the world of strategic maneuvers, both political and military, is actually often true.

He's also taught me to discern the difference between real people who've been there, done that, and "wannabe" SEALs, SF, Delta Force, etc-- some of whom are speaking on the public circuit and are quite convincing-- and I see people lapping it up like the fake koolaid it is.

Some of my husband's stories are really out there. They'd make your jaw drop and your reaction would be "no WAY!" But they're absolutely true.

But if that person speaking is not "known" as a truth-teller, how do you KNOW it's true or not? How interesting that it comes back around to the old fashioned value of how you're KNOWN--are you KNOWN to be a teller of truth, or are you not? It used to be important to keep your reputation untarnished and to be known as a person whose word is good. Not just promises kept, but that "if (insert name of person here)said it, it could be believed.

Maybe there's value in that?

I don't want to be seen as this man you know is seen--ever. I'd rather be delicately but harshly truthful than to be known as someone who embellishes in the way your story-telling guy does. Because then people will look at everything you say and maybe doubt it--even if it's true, just as you doubt this man's stories.

Shoot. This is enough to make me go back to Claudia's absolute way of doing it. I did that fairly successfully for a long while. Maybe I was the better for it.

Christine Wells said...

Jo, you're so on the money here. I've often noticed that people who always tell the truth, no matter how hurtful, often are very sensitive when it comes to truth about themselves.

Oscar Wilde said: The man who calls a spade a spade should be made to use one. He is fit for nothing else." Amen!

I hate big lies, though. I find it very hard to trust someone who has lied to me before.

Virginia said...

I some cases hearing a lie then hearing the truth. Sometimes a little white lie is the best thing to do rather then hurt someones feelings. I do think lying is bad but sometime you just have to.

jo robertson said...

Christine, love the Oscar Wilde quote!

I hear you Virginia. If I ask my husband how I look in the new outfit and I'm rushing out the door late, I just want the standard, "You look grrrrreat!"

jo robertson said...

Wow, Jeanne, what cajones!! It's refreshing to have people tell it like it is. So few of us do.

jo robertson said...

You're right, Cassondra. It's so much about who's telling the story. A person's reputation speaks for itself, I think. If certain people tell me something, I know I can trust their word.

Louisa Cornell said...

Jo-Mama, I wish I had a picture of the teal green wedding cake for you to see. I knew we were in trouble when we asked her to bring in a color sample and she brought a paint chip from the hardware department!!

Ah, the old infidelity lie. We had a situation like that when we were all in grad school / med school. One of the married psychiatry interns in the same class as my DH was having an affair with a single psychiatry intern in the same class. Someone's husband told his wife and eventually all six of us wives found out about it. We debated telling this guy's wife for a couple of weeks. Maybe the guys were mistaken, etc. Well, at 3:00 AM one morning one of the wives who was an RN stopped in the parking lot of the local "no tell motel" to check a rattling sound in her trunk. A motel door opens, the intern in question comes out in his boxers with the ice bucket, exchanges a long kiss with the hoochie intern in question and stumbles off toward the ice machine. Hoochie looks up and sees said nurse and is horrified. Needless to say, the next morning the six husbands were told at breakfast "Tell your friend to confess to his wife today, or we will all tell her tomorrow." We didn't exactly elaborate as to the reprisals that might be issued to husbands who did NOT participate in this "come to Jesus" meeting, but they got the message!

That evening said cheating intern was out on the street as were his clothes, his computer (in pieces) and his books!

jo robertson said...

Wow, Louisa, how awful. I guess that's pretty much proof, huh?

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