I called my accountant the other day.
The call went through to the office reception desk, and I asked to speak to him.
The receptionist, a sweet lady, said: Hold on, I’ll see if he’s in.
It occurred to me – that’s a lie.
I know how that office works, I know the physical layout – I know that the receptionist would know for certain whether he’s in or not.
She knew he was in.
She didn’t want to say to me: Hold on, I’ll check to see if he wants to talk to you.
That would have been too confronting. So she lied instead, so that I wouldn’t be offended if my accountant didn’t want to talk to me.
We accept these lies.
We understand that lying is an accepted form of social discourse and interplay.
Another lie we accept, when meeting a friend: Oh, you look great.
When actually, you are shocked at how old / haggard / fat / rundown / stressed out / unattractive they look.
A little lie is better than saying: Jesus, you been hit by a truck?
What’s the difference between a little lie and a big lie?
Dare I say it, a Trumpian lie?
We lie all the time.
Even those of us who value truth above all else.
Moreover, we accept that people lie to us.
Could we ever live in a world which lives by:
You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth.
Well, I do believe it’s possible to be both honest and kind. Telling the truth doesn’t necessarily mean telling the whole truth, and even if you did it it possible to be kind. The rceptionist could have said «just a moment, I’ll see if he’s available», to your haggard looking friend you could say «is everything all right? You look a bit worse for wear» but then you would also have had to accept the response. Your friend might actually have told you what was going on, and I find that often people do not want to know. Which is sad, really.
Maaany years ago I worked in high end retail, and I never told a customer something looked good on her when it didn’t. Nor did my colleague. Our boss did not like it, but the customers did and kept coming back because they knew that when we said it was flattering it really was.