On a daily basis, we are confronted with situations where we must decide whether to tell a white lie. When someone asks how you are doing today and even when you are doing horribly you say “I’m fine.” When someone asks how far away are you and you say “I’m 5 minutes away” when you are still 15 or 20 minutes away. When someone asks you if you are available on a given day to do something and you tell them “I’m busy” when you do not want to do whatever they are asking about. These are just a few of the common white lies we tell people on a daily basis. For many people, it gets to the point where they do not even consider these white lies anymore.
Why do we tell white lies? An article in the US News by By Ulrich Bose addresses this very question, explaining that:
A growing body of research shows that people lie constantly, that deception is pervasive in everyday life. One study found that people tell two to three lies every 10 minutes, and even conservative estimates indicate that we lie at least once a day. Such incessant prevarication might be a necessary social evil, and researchers have recently discovered that some fibbing might actually be good for you. "We use lies to grease the wheels of social discourse," says University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert Feldman. "It's socially useful to tell lies."
We often justify white lies because we tell ourselves that we do not want to hurt somebodies’ feelings or that it really does not hurt anyone. If we feel that white lies are okay or sometimes better than the truth to shield someone’s feelings, then are we okay with our Heavenly Father telling white lies? Imagine if our Heavenly Father told us a white lie that he hears all of our prayers when he really only hears some of our prayers and then he justified it that he did not want some of his children to feel bad that he did not listen to their prayers. What if our Heavenly Father told us that we are forgiven of a sin even though we are not because he did not want us to feel discouraged and wanted us to keep trying?
This would seem unconscionable for our Heavenly Father to do this. If we did we would lose all trust in our Heavenly Father. If he told us even one white lie, no matter what the justification was, we would no longer be able to implicitly trust him. We would start to wonder what other things he is telling us white lies about. We would start to wonder if what he has told us is true to just a white lie to make us feel better. To trust our Heavenly Father, he must tell us the truth all the time.
In contrast to our Heavenly Father, Satan tells us lies all the time. In 2 Nephi 2 we learn that Satan is the father of all lies: 18″ … he sought also the misery of all mankind. Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies, …” As I have reflected back this week about the white lies I have told, I have pondered whether they are helping me become more like my Heavenly Father or the Father of all lies. While white lies may be a socially useful tool to “grease the wheels of social discourse,” in D&C 42:21 the Lord commands us that, “thou shalt not lie; he that lieth and will not repent shall be cast out.”
White lies are one of the easiest of sins to justify as there are so many reasons we can tell ourselves as to why they are okay. However, just as we expect our Heavenly Father to always tell us the truth so that we can trust him implicitly, we must also strive to tell the truth in all things. While, we do not need to go around being jerks as we tell everyone around us everything we think of them as it comes to mind in the name of truth, we do need to reflect on how we treat the truth and how to become more like our Heavenly Father.
As a lawyer, I was basically taught how to lie or justify half-truths in order to best represent a client. However, I have found even in the practice of law, the truth is still the best defense. Joseph Smith uttered very prophetic words when he exclaimed:
May each of strive to uphold and follow the standard of truth our Heavenly Father has put forth.