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The difference between 99% honest and 100% honest

Posted by Devin Miller on

Last week I wrote a post discussing how our Heavenly Father does not tell white lies. As a lawyer, I like to debate, and after my wife read this blog post it lead to a spirited debate on whether it is okay to tell white lies. She is of the opinion that there are some white lies that are okay to tell. For example, if your daughter gets made fun of at school because she has gained a little weight and is self-conscious, should you tell her that yes, she has gained a little weight? If your son commits a big sin and is already feeling bad about himself, should you tell him yes, you are a sinner and need to repent? My wife had some excellent points that are hard to refute, but I maintain that 100% honesty is still better than 99% honesty.

So if you are going to be 100% honest, how can you do this without coming off as unkind or hurting other’s feelings? As I discussed this with my wife, I came to a few realizations about why we tell white lies and how we can tell the truth while not hurting others.

Address the real problem

But... telling the truth will do more harm than good. As I discussed this topic with my wife, we found that many times the reason we tell white lies is to avoid hurting people’s feelings. However, often times this is really just a way to avoid the real issue. When my daughter gets made fun of at school because she has gained a little weight and asks me if she is overweight, is she really wanting to know whether she has gained weight? No. She wants to know if I think she is beautiful. She wants reassurance and to know that she is loved. Rather than telling her a white lie that no she has not gained weight or being brutally honest and telling she has gained weight and giving her dieting advice, this is an opportunity to talk about the real issue. It is an opportunity to talk to her about what true beauty is. It is an opportunity to tell her about how she should expect friends or boys to treat her and to avoid the friends and boys that do not treat her well.
“[Some] people use the idea that they're ‘always honest’ as an excuse to be thoughtless, tactless and cruel,” says Brian Howell, associate professor of anthropology at Wheaton College. Honesty is not an excuse to be cruel. Rather, it is an opportunity to address the real issues.

Just because you have an opinion does not mean you always need to share it.

There is a difference between telling the truth and telling someone every thought that comes to your mind. Just because you have an opinion does not mean you always need to share it. Sometimes it is better to keep your thoughts to yourself as they may not be helpful or welcome. This is not to say that when you can help someone or bolster them up you should not share your opinion. It simply means that there are times to share your opinion and other times that you keep it to yourself.

Lying about trivial things has become a habit.

At some point, most people learn that exaggerating stories makes the stories seem cooler. Nothing bad seems to happen when you exaggerate stories right? However, as we exaggerate stories and tell other white lies, lying becomes a habit. Habits can be hard to break. When you are sitting around and chatting with people it is easier to pretend that “Yeah, I saw that neat thing that you’re talking about” to feel like part of the in-group. However, whatever the reason we tell white lies, as they become a habit it become hard to stop. To break this habit, just as any other bad habit we have to be intentional. We have to work at telling the truth.

There are many reasons we can justify telling white lies, but our Heavenly Father tells us in 2 Nephi 9:40 that the righteous love the truth. If we strive to be 100% honest we will be 100% blessed.

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