2111. Little White Lies

This subject deserves an article, so I expand on concerns triggered by Her Highness Prettybeans at 2109. It’s about the merit or demerit of females when they use little white lies to improve or protect the feelings of loved ones. It’s described as part of the female nature in #94 in the list of Female Blessings at Birth at blog top.

Prettybeans triggered a new vision of both sex differences and an ethical conundrum. I throw out the following analysis to invite dialogue and help women figure out their own lives a little better.

  • Men deal more in facts, women more in feelings. Facts expressed at least cause paper cuts in relationships. Paper cuts hurt but can be prevented with little white lies, about which women are experts.
  • The female conscience seems more sensitive because women are more prone to guilt than men. Honesty and dishonesty to men aren’t gray issues. But they are to women as are so many other things where feelings dominate.
  • Both sexes are made to be compatible with the other. So the womanly ability to use little white lies is part of their design. It means, at least to me, that honesty for women depends on their motive. If they gain personal advantage, it’s dishonest. If it disturbs their conscience or produces guilt, it’s dishonest. If they try to motivate someone to do something, it’s manipulation and therefore dishonest. If they simply smooth interpersonal feelings without personal gain, it’s not dishonest although it’s not totally honest either.

Not sure if the logic would hold against a superior mind, but it makes sense to me. The difference between acceptable and unacceptable little white lies is determined by the motive behind them. Personal gain is the dividing line and each woman has the conscience and sense of guilt to judge whether she’s being honest or dishonest.

Now take that to the relationship interface. As we all know, honesty should prevail. Women now have a standard, if my analysis holds up under scrutiny of better minds. To my thinking, a wife’s little white lies with no guilt and clear conscience don’t disturb a husband’s feelings as dishonesty. He’s not eager to accuse wife for something that brings pleasantness without hurt to him.

Sir Eric at 2109 agreed that little white lies “done with good intention” are acceptable. We can presume that good intention means without personal gain for the woman and without attempt to manipulate. Accepting Eric and I as authority figures, it follows that men find well-intended little white lies acceptable. It means they can abstain from judging wife as dishonest for neutralizing ill feelings, even though it seemingly indicts them as co-conspirators in dishonesty. People dedicated to one another live easily with such a dilemma.




Filed under sex differences

14 responses to “2111. Little White Lies

  1. prettybeans

    Ah Mr. Guy a whole article! I am deeply flattered 🙂

    I follow yours and Sir Eric’s logic and indeed your litmus test for white lies as it were, makes perfect sense. However, allow me to respectfully disagree and hold a contrary opinion – I think that the self regulation that you describe is ideal in an ideal world however I have seen that white lies can get out of hand especially when, as is the nature of lies, you have to tell another little lie to cover up the first. In the end you end up with a lie that’s not so little any more and not so ‘white’ at all.

    I do understand what you are saying but I would argue that my character would ultimately come into question in such a situation (and has in the past) and I personally found that in the case of a romantic relationship, I began to question the character of the man who ‘needed lies to preserve his ego’. I do not have children but I think that it is different for children especially when they are in their formative years as I know that the whole truth in difficult situations if improperly managed has the potential to destroy them. But I do think that we women have the unique skills to be able to tell the whole truth and to do so both tactfully and courteously – we do have a certain power of words but unfortunately most of us have at one time or another abused it.
    What say you?

    Your Highness Prettybeans,

    Your contrary opinion is very welcome. And you make significant sense.
    Human behavior works just as you describe. Success breeds success, or distortions need enlargement, and soon what starts as good intention becomes alien to a good relationship. And that presumes that personal gain was not the original purpose. Life just happens that way.

    Perhaps not clear enough, but article 2111 defines a principle that takes a feature of female nature and makes it legitimate in the world of human behavior. Most people wouldn’t condone the abuse of it, much as you describe. The governing body is the female conscience stirred by guilt or unstirred in such ways that abuse follows.

    And we’re back to what this blog is all about. I explain human nature and you ladies use it to figure out how to make life work better for you individually.

    Thank you for another opportunity to separate principle for guidance from behavior that people adopt.


  2. My Husband's Wife

    Dear Sir Guy,
    Do you happen to have an example from your perspective of this “white lie” in action to see if we are understanding the same thing here? Pretty Beans’ comment has me rethinking this 🙂

    Your Highness My Husband’s Wife,

    I responded to Prettybeans with this point. She describes human behavior whereas article 2111 tries to legitimize in principle format the female propensity to care deeply for and want to uplift loved ones who are down.

    I’m not being a smart aleck here. As a woman, you’re the expert on using little white lies. Do you recall the last one you fed your husband? The one before? Did either lead into the need for more lies that escalated into real untruths? Or, did it end that event? More importantly, was your sincerity and concern for him sufficiently strong enough that you gained nothing except for feeling good that you could lift him somewhat out of whatever had put him down?

    You see, you’ve already solved the issue. You seem to fairly religiously follow your female nature, your heart, and so you automatically understand the dialogue we’ve created around the subject. Some little white lies are justified; others are not and your conscience is your guide.

    If you find abruptness above, I ask forgiveness. Only clarity is intended.


    • My Husband's Wife

      Dear Sir Guy,
      I truly appreciate your clarification and I do not find your answer abrupt at all. In fact with further explanation, I have to still say “yes” to the “white lie” being appropriate. Anonymous below gave an example and it’s exactly what I was thinking we do, we’re on the same page here. In addition to the “white lies” we tell others, I think women have an ability to highlight or try to find something good even when a situation is bad. This one is so good/ interesting to me because it is so automatic/natural and no one has ever talked about it. Another one of those things “Women Never Hear.” I’m so enjoying thinking and learning more about these things.

  3. Cocoa

    Yes please, some examples would be appreciated. As for me a lie is a lie regardless of it’s colour. So examples might clear things for us a bit.

    Your Highness Cocoa,
    Of course a lie is a lie. But I ask this. Would God repeatedly tempt you to smear reality with ‘feel good’ jelly in order to calm or uplift loved ones, and expect you not to use jelly in life?

  4. anonymous

    I think of little white lies as having tact. For example, a friend asks what I think of her new haircut. If I thought it looked terrible, I wouldn’t tell her that blatantly. If she asked my opinion I would say, “It’s a nice change! I think I might like it better the other way you had it but it still looks good!”. IMO if I told her the truth that it looks terrible I think that would be morally worse than giving the white lie that it still looks good. And my point would still get across that her hair looks better the other style so it wouldn’t hinder her at all.

    Your Highness Anonymous,
    Thank you. Good example. Reminds me of an old school, masculine way of saying it. Tact is the Vasoline of social intercourse.

    • My Husband's Wife

      Thank you for the example, Anonymous. Good one…it’s funny, many of our white lies are related to hair 🙂 and things that don’t really matter in the long run. The funny thing is, how upset many of us women get if our boyfriend/husband tells us the truth when we ask, “Do you like my new haircut/dress?” and they don’t. We really don’t like/want the truth all the time either 🙂 It’s more than the hair, the dress, etc. We want to know that we’re ok and loved. So why crush someone when hair/dress is just not quite “it.”

      • Sharon

        Good comment: “It’s more than the hair, the dress, etc. We want to know that we’re okay and loved.” Wonderful insight and a practical guide for us all, MHW!

      • surfercajun

        my husband would say (about hair) if he really did not care for the cut/color/etc… If you makes YOU happy, that’s all that matters…usually I want to choke him for saying that. But if I think on it, am happy with it, and have to wear it, I want to be happy with myself… the kids on the other hand… well…..that’s another topic. 😉

        • Cocoa

          Hello ladies, oh the hair question! Do you like my hair or what do you think of the new colour?! Oh dear what do i say?!! But i don’t sed whatever we say as a lie but OPINIONS and not facts. I can see that my friend’s haircut is terrible , meanwhile the hairdresser saw it wonderful, both are true and non are lying. However, in other situations we might be lying little lies. And it is still a lie…What do you think?

          • surfercajun

            Hey Cocoa!

            Great question! Sometimes, we need to soften the blow to the ego. I honestly believe every situation calls for something different. Say perhaps if husband was about to get a wonderful paying job but he lied on his resume and was found out. (it happens more than you think) so the job turned him down. We know the story and yes, even warned about it, but now this has happen…do we say i told you so? Or do we move on to the next? There are consequences in choices of things we do and say that affects someone else’s feelings. A friend of mine always liked I did not sugar coat things but honestly stated what I felt and tried to present facts when saying so. I believe if we don’t know the person well, we are not sure what to say….one time i was at a shoe store and this lady came up to me and asked if I thought she needed a bigger size….I almost freaked! What? me? I asked about fit and if they were comfortable. She said yes…her foot would have looked better in a bigger shoe but I was unsure WHAT it was she wanted to hear. Would I be damaged in the delivery of the news? (bites fingernails) not sure….so when someone (stranger) asks my opinion I try hard and ask how THEY feel about it. Usually (for women) it comes out pretty quickly. For family however, sometimes I have to tip-toe through the tulips because if I say what I think when asked, it is usually met with a dirty look so I guess I over compensate to make sure what I think is clear but to hear their opinion, and offer up options if I can. 🙂

            …guess that is going round the horn the long way, but wanted to be clear. I hope that helps!!!! Merry Christmas everyone!!!

  5. Here’s what I think about white lies when I’m the one being “lied” to: When I know a woman has the habit of talking badly of other women, and I heavily suspect she talks badly about me when I’m out of earshot, I don’t really mind as long as she’s friendly to me in my presence. She can say what she wants when I’m gone as long as I don’t have to hear the smear. It happens to everyone and I’m confident enough in myself that it doesn’t bother me. So, that little friendly “white lie” is then welcome. OTOH, here is an example of when I don’t like it: I asked my soon-to-be son-in-law half jokingly, if he had any hidden tattoos. “No no no”, of course he didn’t. My daughter looked at him – “Yes you do” – one little tattoo on his shoulder that was covered up at that time that was not at all inappropriate. He was afraid I wouldn’t approve of his tattoo. Poor guy, fear moved him. I didn’t care, but what I did care about was that he lied to me. Now, I will always wonder if he’s just lying to cover up something I wouldn’t like. That bothers me far more than any tattoo. But, he’s a good kid, one of the best, so I will also always give him the benefit of a doubt.

  6. It seems to me that each sex has its own “need for truthfulness” in *some* way though they may disapprove of the other’s use of it. Not too many posts ago, you wrote about women correcting minor details in their husbands’ stories — this post reminded me of that, and that post was a too-accurate reflection of me (so thank you for the timely reminder — ouch).

    When my husband would tell a story and include an inaccuracy, it was far too easy for me to think it was a deliberate changing of the story for emphasis (a lie), when in reality, it was likely or even almost certainly simply a faulty memory; and almost every time, the change is so minor as not to cause a problem in the general story, though my interruption and correction *would* cause a problem.

    In a similar way, women’s tendency to change “the details” and “include inaccuracy” about something (a “little white lie” designed to smooth things over, or simply to avoid saying the truth in such a harsh manner — *not* designed to benefit themselves) — this may cause the man to bristle at the inaccuracy, as a woman bristles at the inaccuracy of the story-telling. But in both cases, it’s not an intentional falsehood, so should be overlooked, instead of having attention drawn to it.

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