Friday, January 15, 2010

Little White Lies & the Lessor of 2 Evils

There are times when almost all the choices you face seem to be of one nature of evil or another. The concept of “little white lies” stems from the idea it is better to tell someone what they want to hear than to tell them what we really think. After all, what woman really wants to hear that she DOES look fat in that dress? Or how do you tell your mom that her apple pie is not quite as good as the ones sold in the local grocer. And lastly, what man wants to hear that he is not the greatest lover in the world? It seems better to lie and spare the feelings of another than to tell the truth and hurt them. After all these lies do not hurt anyone do they?

This line of reasoning has led some to believe that it is impossible if not impractical to always tell the truth. They posit that truth must always contain room for variance given the situation or else many would be wounded by it. Here is the problem with this line of thinking, the nature of evil is most insidious, and is actually hurting both the person who lies, and the person who is lied to. The person telling the lie is learning a lesson in so doing that expediency is better than integrity. This seemingly innocent act of trying to spare the feelings of another can easily translate into more elaborate excuses to avoid any kind of confrontation, avoid making personal mistakes, and finally to directly attempt to mislead others as to the actions and motives we take. The path from seemingly innocent lies to ‘necessary’ lies to outright deception is a short one. The person learns quickly to become a liar rather than face truth in any situation. The judgment of ‘when’ a lie is called for, becomes clouded with what is in our self-interest (the real root of all evil). And so, one lie leads to another, the complex web we weave engulfs us, and we wind up breaking the trust of those we care about or need the most in our lives.

Then too, the person whose feelings we were trying to spare is actually hurt by our lies. If the woman truly does look fat in that dress, others are going to notice it as well. Do we really do her a favor by lying, and allow her to be ridiculed by other women who will FAR less caring than ourselves. If she is mocked by others, won’t she come to find she cannot wear this dress anyway? And your assurances she looks fine will not help her undo the hurt inflicted by others. In this situation it would have been better to express the truth in love. ALWAYS to express truth in LOVE; without this method of delivery, truth becomes a baseball bat we hit each other with. But done in love, we could simply reach out to her, and let her know, this dress does not make her look the best we know she can. The dress is not worthy of the beauty she carries, and perhaps another color, material, cut, size, or style would be better suited to her than this ‘off-the-rack’ piece she has selected for trial. Obviously not every dress or piece of clothing helps us look our best, which is why we try them on to see. And sometimes we gain or lose weight leaving the excellent fit of a garment behind us. It is OK to point this out in love.

The truth can also be used as a weapon and often this is why the idea of little-white-lies seems preferable. Instead of confronting the truth in love, people use truth to state the obvious without ANY concern for how it will be interpreted. Instead of helping the girlfriend see that the dress is the problem, we turn the tables and make the girlfriend the problem – pointing out that she is just too fat for this dress. After all, her obesity endangers her health. It is not very sexually attractive. Fat people are discriminated against by almost everyone in every situation. They are ridiculed for lack of self-control when it comes to eating. They tend not to get the job. They tend not to get the promotion. Their size is something they face constant negativity about, and now we, the very ones they love and whose opinion matters most to them – have joined the condemnatory crowd. Stating the obvious benefits of ‘dropping fifty pounds’ sounds to us like we are doing them a favor. After all that is the truth. But the ‘truth’ we are expressing lacks all compassion, does not offer a viable solution for the dress they are trying on now, and they will have to wear something now – do we expect them to look horrible until the fifty pounds are gone? This approach of clubbing them over the head with a baseball bat of truth smacks of evil. It is not the truth that is evil. It is the delivery mechanism that is evil. In short it is our selfish motives, and lack of concern for the feelings of another that is purely evil.

Constructive criticism is possible when there is a foundation of love between the recipient and the delivery person. We can help our mom with the substandard pie by several means – first by remembering this is only our opinion, perhaps others would find a different result; next by offering to expand the recipe by adding cinnamon or raisons, or removing the walnuts, adding a graham cracker crust, putting some raspberry puree into the mix, you get the idea; and finally by showing gratitude that mom cares enough to try to make something for our enjoyment, even if the taste does not suit our palette. She is far less likely to be offended by the truth when delivered in love. And longer term, our relationship is strengthened because she knows when we do tell her we enjoyed something – we really mean it. The joy we share over something becomes even more real when we do not have the slightest doubt that this is simply a little white lie.

As for the man who is not the greatest lover in the world, most men are keenly anxious to become one. They are most of the time very willing to accept direction in this endeavor. You do not need to tell them exactly what to do or where to do it, but if you simply react strongly enough in a positive manner to the things you like, trust me, the man will push that button more often than a video game. There are ways to improve the performance of your sexual expression (remember this is our most intimate and vulnerable area of a relationship) that only a committed partner is going to be able to do. It takes great trust and knowledge of the love of another, to be able to communicate effectively regarding this topic. But once again, knowing there is a mutually GREAT sex life, is of more value than gold to most men and women in the world.

There are other situations when the lesser of two evils seems the only ‘good’ choice. For example, better to hide Jews during the holocaust than to tell the truth and allow the Nazi’s to find them, and kill them. A lie told, better than to be an accomplice in a murder. Here again, these situations are posed without a thought about the prelude, or what other options are available. Most of the lesser-of-two evil decisions are posed as only option A or option B, there are no other choices, but this is mistaken. Take our Nazi example, being faced with this decision implies several things. We did little or nothing to stop the situation from progressing to the point it has. Were there protests against the Nazi’s back before they came to power? When they announced their policies, did we silently accept them, or did we begin to actively oppose them? If we wanted to avoid being faced with this choice perhaps we should have left behind our worldly possessions, and moved away from Germany when the Nazi’s first came to power. Or perhaps we feel compelled to join the enemies of the German government and make war against them. Or perhaps as Christians, we feel compelled to help our Jewish brothers as much as possible, and be willing to face their fate as our own as a result. The need for our own self-preservation is what dominates our decisions in this entire process. We as Christians, should not feel this need so keenly, as we know our existence is not confined simply to this world of evil. We should be empowered to act boldly for good. But most lack faith, and prefer to go along with an evil government edict than stand against it and suffer for truth.

Very often in lesser-of-two-evil situations there may be yet another option that would extricate you from the situation you face. One REALLY big one that exists in every situation, is prayer to our Creator God. While we may lack the wisdom, strength, or ability to solve a problem – God is not so confined. Calling on Him to get us out of the problems we so often wander into, is a smart way to resolve the situation. Many a miracle has been performed that defied logic, and sometimes even physics, to extricate a believer from an impossible situation. Remember the three Hebrew captives taken to Babylon, and asked to bow to the idol of the King Nebuchadnezzar or be thrown into the fiery furnace. They stood for God, did not bow, and were willing to die to make the point. They were in fact, thrown into this furnace. They did NOT avoid their fate from their decision. But God intervened and they walked in the flames unhurt. Do we have the faith of the martyrs of old, who were willing to die for their beliefs and their choice to serve God and reject evil? This kind of faith takes time to build. It too takes a relationship to build. But there is always another option to every problem we face.

It is possible to embrace a life of truth, if first we embrace a life of love. If love governs our every thought, motive, and action – then truth becomes our ally and our lives are enriched as a result. Do not fear your confrontations with the world, but approach them all in a humble spirit of love and concern. Truth delivered in this way, will have the greatest effect possible, and become the most enriching experience we can have …

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