My life has always been governed first and foremost by a very simple principle: the truth is my most valuable possession (i.e. honesty is always the best policy). Seems pretty straightforward, right? It means tell someone when he or she has lettuce in his or her teeth, don’t bother making up excuses for missing curfew, and avoid at all costs the infamous “my dog ate my homework” situation. It’s the way my parents raised me, reinforced by my teachers and friends. I don’t enjoy being lied to, so I, in turn, don’t lie to others.
Yet we raise our children with the belief that a jolly old man in red comes down the chimney. We swear that the shot will only pinch a little, and that eating broccoli makes you grow. We tell the ones we love that they could never disappoint us, and that all the teeth they lost were collected by the Tooth Fairy. We are brought up believing that happily-ever-after does exist, our dreams will come true, and we can become anything we want.
And they are all lies. We avoid veggies and hate doctors. We don’t always get what we want or even what we need. We let down those we love. There is no Santa Claus, no Tooth Fairy and no Easter Bunny. Everyday people who dreamed of more are stuck at 9-5s that they hate. Marriages don’t always work out. Dreams get crushed and puppies eventually grow up to be big dogs.
But maybe some of the lies we are told are justifiable. They aren’t lies meant to mislead us, or manipulate us. I recently had my heart broken by my best friend who left out crucial details in order to, ironically enough, keep me from getting hurt. Before that incident I had always assume that being dishonest with someone was the greatest disservice I could do him or her. But having my beliefs smelted in the crucible of experience, forced me to realize that maybe the need to not hurt others takes precedence over the need to be brutally honest. We tell white lies to protect the ones we love from a very harsh reality. We withhold information and stretch the truth in an attempt to comfort, support, shield, and care for. It’s human instinct to want to avoid hurting people we hold dear. I don’t know how to tell my friend that I understand why he did what he did, that he’s forgiven, and that if I were in his place I may have done the same thing. I suppose the best I can do now is to love him enough to give him the benefit of the doubt, knowing that, misguided as he was, he was only trying to keep me safe. Maybe in lies, we find true love.
I still believe whole-heartedly in my moral obligation to be honest. But when it involves someone close to my heart, and there is the potential of hurting that person, I find myself more than ever believing in the Tooth Fairy.
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