That is the question. But, what is the answer?
We are told from an early age not to lie. Mostly, we hear this from our parents who then proceed to roll out a steady diet of absolute falsehoods:
- Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.
- “This will hurt me as much as it hurts you.”
- “You’re the best looking kid in your class.”
Of course, they cover themselves by telling us “do what I say, not what I do.” Well played, Mom and Dad. Well played.
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
There’s a good chance that most of us heard this along the way. Although it’s sound advice, haven’t we gone a bit overboard with the “niceness” to the point where we just lie to each other constantly? It’s confusing! We are supposed to be nice AND not lie? Can the two concepts really coexist?
I’m all for social graces, but sometimes the disingenuousness is way too transparent. Like when airline pilots come over the loudspeaker and say to let them know if there is ANYTHING they can do to make our flight more “pleasant.” Why, yes! Now that you mention it, I could use a foot massage and nice back rub. Suggest that and you’ll be on the TSA “Watch List” until the end of time. They want you to be more comfortable, but only if you can figure out how to do it on your own and still stay in your seat with your mouth shut. So, their offer to help us with our comfort is stretching the truth at best and a big, fat lie at worst.
Even our computers lie to us. When you unsubscribe from an email list, does it REALLY take 10 days to “process” like they claim? It only takes 3 seconds to join, so why does it take 10 days to process? It doesn’t. It’s a lie.
When cashiers ask you if you found everything, do you think they really care? Have you ever rattled off the items you couldn’t find? What do you suppose they do with that information? Nothing!
When someone says, “I’ll keep your information on file” do you think it means that? Or does it REALLY mean, “Your information is immediately going into the dumpster where it will die a slow, painful death.”
And when someone says, “How are you?” for the love of all that is good and holy, don’t tell them! Any answer other than “I’m fine” is way beyond what they really want to know.
For the sake of maintaining a civilized society, some lies are absolutely necessary. Imagine the chaos if we all went around telling people exactly what we really think. When someone asks for your opinion, they likely want validation, not your actual thoughts. So, if you remember that there are no ugly babies, food served at someone’s house tastes wonderful and no one looks fat in their jeans, you should get along in this world just fine.