I believe in telling white lies. Not the kind that put me ahead in life, but the kind that brighten someone’s mood or bring a little joy to an otherwise bleak situation.
My best friend, the boy closer to me than my own brother, suffered from eating disorders and control issues since high school. Only recently did he receive help and get his life under control. It scares me that he will relapse with the uncertainty of college graduation. It also doesn’t help that his best friend and I have secured jobs for after graduation; he doesn’t even know what he wants to do with his life. Over New Years we talked about our futures. Noticing distress in his voice and his obvious nerves, I downplayed the excitement of my new dream job. I told him none of my friends had jobs other than I. Although not necessarily the truth, his eyes brightened and he relaxed.
A few days after New Years, Jim still on my mind, I went to San Diego to visit my grandma. Rather than watching surfers from her bedroom window, she is in an assisted living facility where people are dying around her or recovering from life crippling illnesses. She is still chipper and healing well from a broken hip, but it is not an uplifting situation. While sitting on her bed keeping her company, she beamed telling me how much she appreciated my call from the top of the Eiffel Tower last spring. She mentioned repeatedly how much the call meant to her, especially after we had spent much of my childhood eating Bon Bons and learning French. I went along with her story happily, my own smile gleaming, knowing I had not called her from the top but rather from the lawn below.
On the other side of my family, my grandma suffered from Alzheimer’s for the last few years of her life. It was devastating. Every day when we visited her in her facility she asked where her husband was. Daily we broke her heart and spirit telling her that Papa had passed away. It took a year, but finally we asked ourselves, “What is the point of this?” Our strategy changed, and we instead told her that he was at the store or at the beach club playing paddle tennis. She remained her same cheerful self and went on happily with her day. That last year of Grandma’s life was the best. She was happier, although confused why Papa had gone to the store during dinner.
I wouldn’t say that I enjoy lying; in fact, I think it’s a little malicious, but friends and family are far more important to me that knowing I told a small little lie. I will do whatever I can to make someone I care about happy…even if it means telling a little white lie.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.