Are “White Lies” Okay?

“And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” (James 3:10 NLT)

Some of the most unforgettable and irreparable damage we do for the Kingdom of God is caused by using words, the negative effects of which, we give little or no thought. We are so prone to open our mouths before we consult our brains, which often leads to hurt feelings, strained and broken relationships, or worse.  The Biblical writer James spends much of chapter three addressing this issue.

One avenue of this subject is commonly referred to as a “white lie,” and is often justified by our desire to not hurt someone’s feelings. Say, for example, a male friend asks me: “How does this new shirt look?” I have a lot of options. I could honestly say: “Other than it’s three sizes too small, I think it looks great.” Or “I hate the pattern and it clashes with everything else you’re wearing.” Both of those may be true, but is there a more delicate way to respond?

That’s when we’re tempted to use the “white lie.” A “white lie” is a lie that’s couched in terms that we hope will be acceptable to the hearer. Using the above example, we could say: “Wow! That shirt looks great on you!” Or “It matches your pants perfectly.” But are we telling the truth?

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Remember, we’re Christ’s Ambassadors, so honesty is the best policy. But how do you answer honestly without blowing your cover when you really don’t have a positive opinion? As a rule, I don’t struggle with what to say when my wife asks me about something she wears or cooks, etc. It’s easy to compliment her because we’ve been together a long time and we love each other. If I don’t like something I can tell her, but I need to explain why.

The plot thickens when it’s someone we don’t know well, a “first date” kind of thing. The safest way to avoid misunderstanding is to not comment unless asked directly to do so. But if she asks: “I tried this new eye liner, what do you think?” It’s probably not going to fly if you say: “I’d rather not say.” Busted! But even if you don’t like it, you can say something like: “I think it brings out the color of your eyes and I love your eyes.”

In case you haven’t guessed, I’m not all that good at this, but what I am really trying hard to be good at is finding ways to sincerely compliment someone whom I’m just meeting. They’re not likely to ask an awkward question, but if we’re proactive in affirming them in some way, it can go a long way in getting the relationship off to a good start.

What we must do well is exhibit the character of Christ through how we speak, not only the words we use, but our body language, especially to those we love the most.

In a recent Family Life devotional Janel Breitenstein said:“Rather than handing out half-truths like lollipops and calling it grace, honesty is actually an opening for true grace to pry its way in. As my husband and I speak accurately and humbly to each other, the culture in our marriage is changing. We are less defensive, less sensitive. This kind of culture says, ‘When we’re honest, this is what we are: both made in the image of God, and totally broken.’”

The bottom line for me is this – I want to be as honest with others as Jesus has been honest with me. It didn’t make me feel particularly good to be called a sinner in dire need of a Savior (not His exact words 😊), but it got my attention and ultimately led to my desire to walk with Him. His intention wasn’t to offend me. His desire was to love me. That’s what I want to do, but I don’t believe lying is the best way to accomplish it.

Blessings, Ed 😊

One thought on “Are “White Lies” Okay?

  1. When someone asks me “How are you doing”, I would always try to respond in a positive way with “Great”, or “Good”, even if I was feel lousy or having a bad day.

    Since the beginning of this year I’ve started telling it like it is. If I’m in pain, lousy, sad, depressed, or if I’m actually doing well, good, or great, I’ve been telling as it is. Sometimes people are put-off by my not saying “Wonderful”, “Great”, or “Good”. Sometimes they ask why I’m in pain, or feeling lousy, etc., then I explain what’s going in my life. Many times it leads to a conversation about their problems, compared to mine, and then to praying for each other (as believers), or me asking if I can pray for them (an unbeliever).

    God has been working in my heart to stop lying of all kinds, even the little white lies that I’ve been telling all of my life, even the lies meant to protect someone’s feelings from being hurt.


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