Children often blurt out the truth as it is, without regard to how it might come across. There is an expression where I was raised to describe it: “Out of the mouths of babes.”
As a child I was taught it is wrong to lie. It felt good to tell the truth and I was rewarded for it. As I grew older, however, I realized that the adults around me sometimes said things that were untrue. They explained, “They’re just ‘little white lies’ that don’t hurt anyone; they make people feel better.” Lies to make people feel better were not only “acceptable” lies, they were sometimes encouraged as a form of being “polite.”
Soon I was telling little white lies frequently in an effort to make people happy or in hopes that they’d like me. At some point, I began telling bigger white lies to make me feel better too. Eventually, I was lying to others and myself any time a good purpose seemed to justify the means. Had God not intervened in a very harsh way, I would still be doing so today.
I no longer lie, except when I do. Sometimes I catch myself telling a little white lie, but then I stop — until I do it again. Opportunities for “little white lies” still tempt me often — I am a people pleaser who wants to be liked. But with Jesus’ help and by God’s grace, I realize now that they are wrong — and I am working to break the habit.
In my experience, little white lies are like snowflakes. They are pretty and seem harmless enough when they first begin to fall. But as they accumulate, they begin to blanket the ground and conceal what lies beneath. Over time they can accumulate into a snow mass that blocks the way or become dangerous.
Little white lies are based on the principle that “the end justifies the means,” which is not a principle of God. “Little white lies” are a form of cheating: They cheat the truth. And although they may seem harmless enough in the beginning, little white lies erode our perception of the truth; they cheapen it; and, they undermine our credibility and ability to trust others.
We may rename them, but “little white lies” are “lies” no matter what we call them. God hates lies and He makes no exception for the little white ones: “For there are six things the Lord hates – no, seven: haughtiness, lying, murdering, plotting evil, eagerness to do wrong, a false witness, sowing discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)
Nor are little white lies harmless. A person who tells little white lies to spare people’s feelings or to be “polite” will eventually be seen by others as a false flatterer or a liar. Their creditability and trustworthiness will be diminished. They lead to telling bigger lies, either (big or little) of which can become habitual.
Jesus says, “…unless you are honest in small matters, you won’t be in large ones.” (Luke 16:10)
There are ways to be kind, gracious and truthful without having to lie. When in doubt, stick to the truth as would be seen through the eyes of a child without regard to what people want to hear. Or, perhaps you should remain silent. Sometimes not saying anything at all is the most genuine truth there is. Sometimes in the midst of all the noise, it is the silence of truth that needs to be heard.