The Weekly Rant: Little White Lies and the Unvarnished Truth

Did I miss the Weekly Rant last week? Sorry about that.  But I’m back, and this week I’m ranting about the white lies you tell relative strangers and the ones you shouldn’t tell your relatives.

We all tell white lies. Of course we do. They are the grease that keeps the engine of social intercourse moving smoothly.

I’m sorry that I can’t come tonight but I have another engagement…

Oh, you’ll be in town next week. I’d love to get together but I have a major report due for work.

I’m afraid we can’t extend the invitation to you; the bride’s 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 that’s social intercourse, the stuff of intimate strangers or mid-level acquaintances. What about those closer to us than that? Don’t 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 “it’s too hot”, I say–”and how did you do on your vacation in  Africa?”

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–”and you let her? Man, that is one kid who’s in charge.”

To all of them, I say–either come up with something better or tell the truth.

“I don’t want to visit you because I don’t want to visit you. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you; it’s just that I don’t want to do that trip.”

“You’re not invited because–you’re not. It’s not that you’re not valued; it’s just that there are other people who are more important for this event  than you.”

“Thanks for the offer, but this time we can’t take you up on it.”

I’m trying to figure out why these lies bother me so much. It isn’t the end they achieve that I care about; it’s something to do with the lies themselves. Maybe it’s that they’re 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 it’s that I believe the least we owe those we love is honesty, even when it makes us uncomfortable.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the truth. Sometimes it’s hard to take the truth. Sometimes we have to.

Photo credit: http://www.myspace.com/whitelies/music/albums/to-lose-my-life-11175261#

  • http://www.thefiftyfactor.com Joanna Jenkins

    Life would be so much easier if people cut the crap and just told the truth, but sadly– I don’t think we can all take/give the truth all the time. But calling people out (at least some people) would be nice.

    jj

  • http://awomanspage.com Walker

    What bothers me, as I read yours, is the lack of regard. I’m with you-be honest. It’s less hurtful to tell the truth. Though, admittedly, I have a hard time with this too.. I was raised to be “pleasing” so I never want to hurt feelings or look too self-centered.
    I have a friend who tells the truth all the time; her theory is that if the recipient is having a hard time hearing it the problem is theirs to deal with. She’s upfront and honest, and doesn’t attach any icky emotions, it’s just straight up. She calls it communicating with integrity.

    ps: the relative with screaming kid needs a class in child-rearing and discipline.

    • http://midlifebloggers.com byjane

      @Walker,
      Wweeellll, I’m not so sure I agree with your friend about whose problem it is when communication goes awry. I know people (hey, I’m related to some of them!) for whom ‘in head, out mouth’ is the norm. I think there’s a way of saying stuff that makes it more palatable. It takes more time to come up with, yes, but it saves feelings. As I said in the post, what bothers me is it being assumed that I will go along with the lie. In the future, I think I’ll try to call it at the time.

      • http://www.cardiogirl.net cardiogirl

        @byjane, It is dicey, that’s for sure. However, I do believe there’s a diplomatic way to say anything and everything.

        “I don’t want to visit you because I don’t want to visit you. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you; it’s just that I don’t want to do that trip.” becomes:

        This is not a good time for us to visit. I won’t bore you with the details but things are really chaotic and we cannot handle a road trip right now.

        “You’re not invited because–you’re not. It’s not that you’re not valued; it’s just that there are other people who are more important for this event than you.” Ugh, this one is hard:

        It was very difficult to come up with the guest list because of our budget and the size of the hall/house/church/whatever. I hope you don’t take this as a personal slight, but that is why we did not invite you this time.

        “Thanks for the offer, but this time we can’t take you up on it.” This one is perfect and I’m going to throw that one in my backpack if you don’t mind.

        Now having said all of that, the person hearing the honest answer needs to accept no as the answer. I’ve given him the reason and I’ve tried to say it in a diplomatic way.

        If he’s gonna debate me on what my definition of chaotic is, how I can better organize my time and how the visit really will work out when he wants it to, he can go jump in a lake.

        I said no. We will not be visiting, don’t make any plans around us.

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