Are White Lies Okay to Protect My Spouse?
By Janel Breitenstein
I was fascinated—no, dismayed—by a manners advice columnist in a popular magazine: “The white lie, used judiciously and with compassion, can be a form of social grace.”
Maybe this is my foot-stomp against the cultural phobia of Making People Feel Bad. But I see it in myself, profoundly: caring more about people feeling good and liking me than I do about gently speaking truth.
I suppose our marriages fall into this pretty easily.
We say things like,
I’m not tired.
That dress looks awesome on you.
I would never look at another person.
I’m not angry.
But since we’re calling it a “social grace” ... is it? God’s grace still tells the truth.
We could go with, I’m tired, but I’d rather help you right now.
Or, I think the dress is hanging a little funny here. But wear what you love rather than just what I like.
… You’re right. My eyes were wondering. I hate that I gave you reason to feel insecure. Will you forgive me? I want to only have eyes for you.
Yes, I’m frustrated. But give me a few minutes and we’ll talk it out.
Obviously “telling the truth” isn’t a green light for abrasiveness. After all, is it really full truth—full expression of God, who is truth—if it’s not expressed with love?
Is it really brave love if I’m not truthful, and opt instead to keep us both comfortable?
I am not false—in the intentionally lying sense—but I am not always intentionally truthful. Sometimes, I’m not faithful to the truth. Not courageous.
Rather than handing out half-truths like lollipops, honesty is another 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 culture says, When we’re honest, this is what we are—both made in the image of God, and totally broken.
The Good Stuff: Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. (Ephesians 4:25)
Action Points: What’s one area where you tend to not tell your spouse the whole truth? Plan ahead so your knee-jerk reaction isn’t to fudge: What is one gracious way you could phrase the truth to minimize hurt and maximize truth?
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