We all tell white lies. Of course we do. They are the grease that keeps the engine of social intercourse moving smoothly.
Iím sorry that I canít come tonight but I have another engagement…
Oh, youíll be in town next week. Iíd love to get together but I have a major report due for work.
Iím afraid we canít extend the invitation to you; the brideís family is limiting us to immediate family.
Emily Post would see little wrong with those. They do the deed–get you out of whatever–and at the same time allow the recipient to maintain their illusion that they are somewhat valued by you. But thatís social intercourse, the stuff of intimate strangers or mid-level acquaintances. What about those closer to us than that? Donít we owe our nearest and dearest (alleged, it is true) the unvarnished truth?
So–to that relative who will not visit me in Sacramento because ďitís too hotĒ, I say–Ēand how did you do on your vacation in †Africa?Ē
To the relative who picked and chose which cousins to invite to a family party and then invoked the Chelsea Clinton excuse, I say: wasn’t that about not inviting just for the sake of political paybacks?
And to the relative who can’t meet because her child screams when in a car for longer than thirty minutes, I say–Ēand you let her? Man, that is one kid whoís in charge.Ē
To all of them, I say–either come up with something better or tell the truth.
ďI donít want to visit you because I donít want to visit you. It doesnít mean I donít love you; itís just that I donít want to do that trip.Ē
ďYouíre not invited because–youíre not. Itís not that youíre not valued; itís just that there are other people who are more important for this event †than you.Ē
ďThanks for the offer, but this time we canít take you up on it.Ē
Iím trying to figure out why these lies bother me so much. It isnít the end they achieve that I care about; itís something to do with the lies themselves. Maybe itís that theyíre just so lame. It insults my intelligence that someone who knows me thinks I can be assuaged with bargain basement excuses. †Maybe it’s that accepting them as truth requires me to be complicit in another’s obvious lie. †Maybe itís that I believe the least we owe those we love is honesty, even when it makes us uncomfortable.
Sometimes itís hard to tell the truth. Sometimes itís hard to take the truth. Sometimes we have to.