William Shakespeare originated the often-repeated quote about honesty being the best policy. With no offense to The Bard, an argument can be made that honesty may not always be the best policy. This is not a license to lie. To be clear, an effort should be made to tell the truth as much as possible. Not being honest on things like job applications or your tax form can get you in some serious trouble. However, if your girlfriend asks “Does this dress make me look fat?,” an honest answer may land you in the dog house.
Honesty, it can be argued, is more of a judgment call than a standard policy to live your life by.
When an Honest Opinion Can You Get You In Trouble
We have all been stuck in situations where we have been asked our opinion on a matter. Usually, an honest answer is appreciated. However, there are circumstances when it is best to skirt the issue. Let’s say two of your friends are in the middle of a deep debate and they ask your opinion. An honest answer could put a serious strain on at least one of these friendships. Simply saying that you either have no opinion either way or noting the valid points of each person could save both friendships and take you out of the equation. If it’s a simple argument like what to have for dinner, go ahead and chime in with your honest thoughts on the matter. If it’s an argument over which friend should make a date the new guy in the neighborhood, being a little evasive is probably the best course of action.
When Honesty Really is the Best Policy
We all get into situations where we tell a convenient fib to get out of an awkward situation. Unfortunately, this may not always be wise. Telling a perspective date that you are just as thrilled about hiking and climbing and all things outdoor-related can get you into a heap of trouble when your next date is on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. As a general rule, you should not lie about your interests. You can soften the blow by saying something like “I’m not really the outdoor adventure type, but maybe we can give it a try.” When it comes to a job interview, you have no choice but to be honest. Fudging any answers on your application can cost you that increasingly elusive job. Another time to be honest is with your doctor. Not admitting that something is wrong may seem like a good way to breeze through your doctor’s visit, but can do more harm than good. When it comes to your health, make it a policy to be honest.
The Little White Lie
If your friend buys a truly hideous hat, it’s probably best to agree that it looks nice just to avoid hurting her feelings. The art of the little white lie is knowing when it’s OK to bend the truth a little. You can always skirt the issue by saying something like “Do you like it?” or “Hey, if you like it, that’s all that matters.” That way you are not being fully honest, but not technically lying either. Some white lies save relationships. If your loved one takes a shot a cooking for the first time and asks “How was it?,” you immediately run through scenarios in your head. It’s kind of like the Snickers commercial where the guy is chewing on a candy bar to avoid saying something right away so he can figure out what to say to keep himself out of trouble. You are at the PTA meeting and someone says “You won’t mind making the cookies for the bake sale again, would you?” Even though you don’t have a lot of time, you smile and say “Not at all” just to save the usual guilt trip. No harm, no foul. That is really the barometer of a white lie. Are you really harming anybody by withholding the whole truth?
The ultimate question is “Can you handle the truth,” to paraphrase Jack Nicholson. Obviously, for the important things in life it is important to tell the truth. Without getting too deep, an argument can be made that honesty is not black or white, but shades of gray in between. Think about it. Would you really want be told the absolute truth about every little thing all the time?
Christina Maquire writes on behalf of U-Pack
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