Can a lie really be white?‎

Truth and Lie

Surely, one of the worst difficulties in relationships is trust. In a world where lying is more than an epidemic but a lifestyle, can you really expect more from the relationship? Thus, when it comes to that, it seems that the importance of lying is underestimated (no matter if they are lovers, friends, coworkers, or two strangers in a supermarket).

Did you ever wonder why we lie? Have you ever lied? Of course you have (be careful of the ones who say they never lie, they always turn out to be the biggest and not so sophisticated liars). So why do we lie? You can say things such as, “I lie to my boss because he exaggerates with his expectations and demands, so I have to lie, it is the only way to reach my goals and/or be promoted.” Or, “I lied to my girlfriend because she will never understand that last night meant nothing to me and I truly love her.”

Richard Dawkins tells in his book The Selfish Gene how a bird mimics hawks signals, the howler monkey can howl like a tiger in the dense jungles of Costa Rica, how a butterfly can look like a terrifying face of an owl. Butterflies, he says, derive protection by mimicking the external appearance of other distasteful or stinging insects. We ourselves are often fooled into thinking that yellow and black striped hover-flies are wasps. Some bee-mimicking flies are even more perfect in their deception. Predators too tell lies. Angler fish wait patiently on the bottom of the sea, blending in with the background.

The only conspicuous part is a wriggling worm-like piece of flesh on the end of a long ‘fishing rod’, projecting from the top of the head. When a small prey fish comes near, the angler will dance its worm-like bait in front of the little fish, and lure it down to the region of the angler’s own concealed mouth. Suddenly it opens its jaws, and the little fish is sucked in and eaten. The angler is telling a lie, exploiting the little fish’s tendency to approach wriggling worm-like objects. He is saying ‘Here is a worm’, and any little fish who ‘believes’ the lie is quickly eaten.

Lie, hence, can be considered as a biological evolutionary strategy (natural, social, military, economic, political of course etc.). Thus, one can keep saying, subconsciously or not, that we are doing it for the greater good. Unfortunately, others might not be so accepting of your motives. It is true that most lies are made for the benefit of the person who tells them, even if he believes it is for a universal greatness. It is also true that in spite of everything we might think, we know lying is not positive, so we invent a variety of milder expressions such as “little white lie” in English, or even worst, “pieux mensonge” in French and “mentira piadosa” in Spanish (literal meaning: “pious lie”). And so you excuse yourself from the wrongful act of lying. Now, can you say with 100 percent certainty that the recipient of the lie will think the same thing? That when you explain to your interlocutor about the reasons for the lie they will agree? If someone tells you a “pious lie,” will you not feel hurt because he or she believes that you will not understand? Or would you rather know the truth and decide for yourself the path and actions that will follow? That is the first problem with any kind of lie, that when we only think from and to ourselves, we can find only right reasons to do so (or anything else for that matter).

However, when we connect emotionally or logically to others, when we enlarge our perspective further away from our point of view, we then reveal a broader view, a bigger meaning, and we then understand the importance of issues we did not even notice before. Thus, trispectivism reminds you that considering what is best for the other is not the same when you do it thinking from your point of view or trying to put yourself as the other.

So what can we do? Is telling only the truth possible? Of course not! If everyone starts telling what is on their minds, all hell will certainly break loose. Most of us do not want to be lied to, but at the same time we do not want to know everything. So what is the other possibility? Well, there is a compromise, a much-debated one, but still a compromise: lies are not the same as not telling. Many people say that not revealing information is the same as lying. It is not! People like to tell stories; it is in our nature. Yet stories are sometimes too personal to tell, and that is something one needs to consider. If someone asks you about details you do not desire to share, simply tell the truth, that you do not wish to share this specific information.

This is where many people choose to lie, in order not to insult, not to bother, not to create a commotion, not to provoke a fight, or simply because they want to be seen in a positive light, they would rather tell a (“pious”) lie than simply not share. This is lying, and in the end it always leads to a worse result than telling the honest truth or simply saying nothing.

Lying gets you to negative and unfavorable places, unless you are a master schemer, for whom lying is a part of your illegal profession. Lying is what starts a snowball that sooner or later becomes the avalanche that will cover you, head to toe.

As a part of trispectivism, any negativity you emanate directly from yourself becomes a part of your interior All, a part of you. Some call it karma, others natural justice, but whatever name one chooses, it is part of our existence. Furthermore, unlike many people who think that karma will catch up with you, some disagree. The negative you discharge into trispectivism will accompany you into whatever venture you pursue. People like to claim that karma is the cause of negative events that happen to negative people, but the reality is that it is simply a materialization of what was inside those people all along.

Telling the truth is much easier than any lie that builds itself inside of us. If I lie, I have to be fully conscious of it and its consequences. Then, thinking and creating a list of excuses for the lies I procured, justifying and living by its entanglements and measures. Oh, just too complicated…

A simple example taken from day to day life is to promise someone you will do something or be somewhere, knowing it will never happen. You might say to yourself that it´s just a little white lie not to disappoint him, but what really happening is postponing the inevitable. Is it that bad to say that I can´t? Even if it means that I would have loved to in any other circumstance, and that I risk to be excluded next time something comes up. I guess it is at times.

Fill this short questionnaire of the behavioral economist professor Dan Ariely about our white lies.