Are There Good Lies?

By Lindy Earl

You were taught, from the time you were a young child, to never lie. Right?  It’s one of the Big 10 in the Bible! It’s up there with not murdering anyone, so it must be pretty important.

Yet, I am sure that there is not a person in this world, by the time that they are five, who hasn’t lied.  We have all seen the hilariously cute videos of the child with chocolate all over their face, declaring, promising, that they did not get into the candy. Ha!

There are people who will lie, then lie about lying when caught.  In fact, they will get angry that they have been accused of lying, even though the only truth in the argument is that they lied.  Convoluted, huh?

There are a myriad of reasons for lying – self-preservation is one. If someone were pointing a gun at me and insisting that I say that I prefer Godiva chocolate over Lindt chocolate, I would probably lie.  Of course that’s not going to happen, but the point is there.

People also lie to protect others.  We may be lying to a third person. You have probably heard the jokes about the guy staying out all night, and his buddies swearing that he was with them all night. Of course, the wife heard the lie from six different buddies, all claiming to have been with the guy, all in different locations.

We lie to protect people’s feelings.  Yes, you’re overweight and yes, you need a haircut or, yes, you need to improve your hygiene habits.  But we don’t want to say that to you! We can tolerate your halitosis. We’ll just stand a little further away so you can’t breathe on us.

So, is there such a thing as a good lie?  Or a white lie?  I was taught, back in high school, that half a truth is a whole lie.  I know the point of this lesson, especially when teaching a teenager.  Since experiencing more of life, however, I have to wonder.

Is it so horrible to say that the new outfit, already purchased and worn, is attractive, when you don’t think so? Do you have to share that the car that your friend just purchased has the highest brake-failure in history? Are you a bad person if you say, “I missed you, too” if you are just now thinking of them?

Does it hurt to share these lines, even if they aren’t completely, one hundred percent true? In learning to live with another person, whether it’s a roommate or spouse, some things are just better off left unsaid.

 Maybe you can find other comments so you don’t have to lie. If the cooking wasn’t to your taste, maybe you can say you appreciate their efforts and not mention the charred bread.  If the gift wasn’t exactly your style, you can thank them for their thoughtfulness.  Sometimes it really is the thought that counts.

Lies can lead to horrible consequences.  When I was married, I asked my spouse if there was anything that I should know, and was repeatedly told that everything was fine.  My eventual divorce proved the lack of truth in our discussions.  I found the lying far worse and would have preferred the truth.  I have asked the question of many people, and in every case, male and female, the answer is the same: hurt us with the truth rather than put us off with a fib.

So, to answer the question: No. There are no good lies.  Yes, you can use evasion if you don’t want to fess up to your true feelings.  It would be better, however, to just state the truth: The dress is not flattering; A 60 year old man does not look good with long hair; It’s important to take care of yourself with diet, exercise, and showers.

The truth is, you’ll do others a favor by sharing the truth, even recognizing that sometimes the truth is your opinion.  Not liking a movie doesn’t make the movie bad, those are just your thoughts about the movie. But I would rather have your sincere opinion, stated as truth, than hearing something that you want me to hear.

It is, of course, important to share the truth kindly.  Maybe you can soften your message with a joke, or a hug, or finding another way of sharing your message: “Maybe you could try the blue one?” versus “Oh, my gosh! You would even consider wearing that?!”

Honesty is hugely important in every relationship, whether with a friend, colleague, family member, or partner. Any deception, a lie or any part of it, is going to break the trust, and that is never worth it.  Stick to the truth.

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Lindy is a Consultant, Speaker, and Writer, currently living in Atlanta, GA.  She is The Business Coach focusing on Relationships through Communication, Leadership, and Corporate Culture. You will be more successful with Lindy on your team. Please contact her at