About Love Part 3: White lies
let's have a talk
It’s been two years since the thing about love part two and the reason for that is, plainly, I’ve been running out of material and that’s not a white lie.
So this time I was planing to complaining about life, and you could have taken notes while I’m at it and subscribe me some medication afterwards.
To be honest though, there has been an almost part III post on the topic a few months back, but on my other, secret, old and vintage blog. Not that anyone reads it, I didn’t check the numbers for years, but I got a very frequent reader called John Dough… all he ever writes about are the one Billion pounds waiting for me to be picked up at the Irish national bank in my comment section. Have a kinda sketchy feeling about that…
So with no material in my pocket, aside from some notes like “how relationships find strength in hard times… or they just don’t” or “the perfect flirt” I got tangled up with something else, and before I knew it I wrote so much about it, that I’m going to postpone those lighter topics for another day.
The topic is white lies and I want to make one thing clear in advance, after all the critical things I’m about to write about this habit, please stay with me to the end because I’m going to go over why people practice this certain skill and why you shouldn’t judge them too hard for it. That being said, let’s dive into the abyss.
A white lie with questionable moral standards
From my experience, white lies are something that everyone does and if you ever had a red dressed old man visiting your home on Christmas during your childhood, you should consider your parents have been white lying to you as well.
Yet there are some different definitions of white lies going around. Some people say they are lies that are made out of compassion and to protect others: like telling relatives with dementia that their cake still tastes as good as ever, even if they confused flour with laundry detergent. Others define white lies as beneficial, little lies, which do more good than bad. And another definition, is describing a post punk band from London.
Here is the catch, how we define beneficial might play a teeny-weeny role on how “white” those lies are, if you catch my drift. As well as the question, who is deciding if a lie is justified because it causes “good” things? I mean, like, good for whom? Definitely not for the neighbor who almost died of food poising because you didn’t want to offend your grandmothers cake…
Riding on a high horse - try painting it white
Until I was in my mid 20ties I’ve had kind of a “bad habit“. I’ve always been an emphatic person and could sense to a certain degree how people feel. Because I had very strong views on how to threat my peers and about honesty, I’ve always tried to act accordingly to my personal moral compass, to interact with people in ways that would leave my high standards I’ve set for my self intact.
Yet, I still wasn’t ready to actually protect those standards in conflicts that could cause people pain or, rather, cause myself pain. So I’ve relied on white lies. Which brings us to a certain brand of white lies, white lies used to protect unrealistic high self expectations.
Directly lying was off limits for me, of course, but instead of lying, how about leaving out certain details that I know, would’ve been interesting for the other person. Details that would have caused disharmony or even damaged the relationship. Like imagine you would date someone from tinder, and it’s the third date, so he/she asks how your weekend was. How about focusing the conversation on that Friday night where you meet some old friends, and had a fun board game evening, instead of the Saturday where I got smashed at a bar with a bunch of strangers.
White lie logic: Protecting others by protecting themselves
Playing the white lies game like that is far worse than straight forward lying to someone. Because at least a liar knows, he’s doing something wrong. People who rely on white lies can instead bend the truth and still feel morally like they did nothing wrong, since they don’t lie per se. They might even feel like they did the other person favour. However, in their core they’re being dishonest, no matter how little they mislead the people around them.
Even if a white lie is used to “protect” someone, it’s mostly just to protect the white liar himself. Because in the end, the hard and honest truth might sting, but It’ll give the other person no false hope or illusions.
The most extreme example of the latter would be the act of staying together with someone, because it might be a little too hard on the person to quit the relationship now, so they postpone it. Which is, if you think about it, a horribly misleading thing to do. And something that I’ve encountered far more often than I would have expected. Speaking of expectations.
The white lie drawback of bending the truth
The worst thing about white lies are what they do in the long run to the people who rely on them too much in relationships. Of course, it sucks incredibly to realize that your partner has been white lying to you all the time. And this experience might damage the trust in the next relationship, but eventually, it’s something that can even be forgiven, if the person who got lied to can find another partner whom they trust.
For the one who is using white lies, though, there are two possible outcomes (from my experience, this is not a field study): First, they find someone who’s honest and straight forward and not afraid to make a fool of themselves when confessing their feelings rather impulsive and honest. I think that people who are too impulsive with their emotions have a harder time to white lie in general, while people who are very calm and in control of their emotions have a easier time to pull those manipulations off, anyway back on topic:
We expect others to act the way we do
This situation is perfect for a white liar, because they might even have a chance so change their behavior… or can just continue being on a moral high ground, because people who mastered white lies, are experts in making themselves look very good compared to their emotional unstable partners.
But there is a second possibility: That they find someone that can control their emotions as good as they do or are even as more gifted in that department: And this is where it all comes back to them. Because if that happens, they could feel completely hopeless. Hopeless, since the one thing, that they used to “control” the flow of the relationship is just not possible anymore, and even worse, they know that the other person would be able to white lie to them as well and that’s when the toxic groundless blame game begins, that can destroy a lot for them. Since people do spot and suspect their own habits gladly in others. Speaking of spotting (I know this transmission is getting old).
How to spot a white lie
If you suspect someone to white lie to you, then the best practice is to keep asking questions and get to the button of things. It’s not that easy to crack the protective mechanisms of white liars though, some of them had to rely on those since their early childhood and speak them like a second language. Naturally, they’re very good at leading a conversation. They might just answer partial to a question and distract with long stories that lead away from the original topic. Another way to steer the conversation would be to ask counter questions.
I wanted to give you an example that would have worked stripping me from my white lies, back when I’ve still used them: The easiest way to get to the button of things would have been to ask me quite directly what’s going on and demanding an honest answer on a very simple question.
Be careful what you wish for
Because from my experience, as good as white liar are at bending the truth, they are terrible at lying people to the face. That’s because in their core, they are trying to do the right thing and wish deeply to be honest. They have a high perception of themselves and will tell the truth instead of breaking their core values.
And you better be ready for the truth when that happens. If someone is white lying constantly to you in a relationship and is finally revealing their true selves and intentions, you might be very, very surprised to find all the things they’re embarrassed, angry or passionate about. You might even end feeling like you’re not recognizing your partner anymore, while in reality, you just haven’t seen them properly yet.
But: A disclaimer while where at it, for god’s sake, do not fu** up any friendships or relationships because you try to catch them lying. Just because someone tells you a long story or asks a counter question doesn’t mean they white lie to you, because more than often suspicions might not be true and there is a huge chance, that they’re honest to you. You have to train your own intuition for that. So, handle with care.
It's a curse in disguise
At this point, you might think people who rely on at bending the truth rather than straight lie to your face are pretty terrible personas. Yet that is far from the truth. Most people who rely on this behavior have very high moral standards and set strict boundaries to themselves. At some point in their life they had to rely on those techniques to somehow cope with their reality.
Maybe it was necessary to fit in in their childhood, maybe they had their fair share of abusive relationships and had to sugarcoat reality to avoid getting deeply hurt, just maybe they experienced that they’re quite hopeless and cant uphold those morals, but at the same time, didn’t want to give up on them.
It’s possible they are very, very compassionate and can’t stand to see people suffer, so they rather cushion them in any way they can. It requires being very empathic to even be able to efficiently white lie to people, and there is a high possibly that they feel very bad about themselves and suffer from this kind of charade.
When they don't know better
Furthermore, there is the whole opposite spectrum as well, white liars who hurt themselves by bending their feelings not to hurt others. That’s the other side of the coin, because they’re used to not only practice their habit to their own advantage but also to protect their relationships, so they suffer and hide their true intentions and feelings for the sake of keeping the peace.
Not because they want to, but because they have relied on white lies for so long, they might have trouble communication their true intentions and feelings, or just can’t, since it wouldn’t measure up to their high standards they’ve set for themselves. As much as a “Skill” it might be, it’s also a curse in disguise because they might just use it to their own disadvantage as well, since they don’t know how to deal with a situation otherwise.
A way to get out of the habit
Quitting white lies is hard work and is often accompanied by many setbacks. If you’ve been practicing this habit, you might not lie directly to other people, but you’ve lied to yourself. And you might have practiced it your whole life until now, so you can’t expect to change that behavior overnight.
My way out of it was radical honesty, it was to accept that I might make a fool of myself when I state my emotions, mistakes and wrongdoings even if it sucked and even if it hurt the “perfect image” I’ve created. It was to stand up for myself, even if it means to hurt others, and form deeper emotional connections with those who could handle it. And it meant being confronted with a bunch of strong emotions I’ve neglected before.
The reason for that was, since I started to be truly honest with the people around me, the same thing happened to me in an introverted way. Which let to a lot of self discovery and deeper connection with my peers. I suddenly wasn’t only showing what I wanted them to see, rather, I was not able to hide my true intentions anymore.
Suddenly I went from, “I know pretty much everything about everyone while being a huge mystery” to “of course I’ll tell you my deepest insecurities, fuck it, I’m wearing them on my skin anyway and we’re all not perfect“. And that change, brought me so much closer not only to my own emotions but to the feelings of those I hold dear.
Quitting second hand lies, the benefits
Breaking with white lies also means to get ready to clash with those high standards one might have set for themselves. Because without the comfortable safety net of sometimes bending the truth a little, the “perfect” charade might crumble. It might be a one way ticket, because once you’ve let your emotions freely flow, there could be no way of stopping them. You might act a like a bull in a china shop (I hope this is an actual figure of speech) which is not only embarrassing but will scare a bunch of people around you.
Those people who stay, however, they will get to know a whole new side of yourself. People who love you, will love you for what you are and not the image, you desperately try to paint yourself in. You’ll be able to understand impulsive people a lot better and deal with them on an entire new level, their level. So quitting white lies, I give it a 10/10 when it comes to embarrassment, strong emotions and better bounding, give it a try and let me know how it went. Cheers.
P.s.: I post a bunch of images on Instagram, feel free to check them out.