Telling The Truth

I have a friend who quite often doesn’t tell me the truth. It’s most often in small ways like, “I’d love to do that but I can’t because I have to <fill in the blank>.” Or “I’m sorry that I didn’t get that done but I had to <fill in the blank>.”

And although I can quite often tell, or at least sense, that it might not be the truth, it doesn’t upset me. Even when the untruth is quite a bit bigger. Because I understand that my friend grew up with a sharp-tongued parent, some struggles fitting in, and I think that has made living out in the open feel dangerous. It’s from this place of knowing that I choose not to call my friend out because it would be counterproductive to the safety of our relationship.

But it has made me think a great deal about my own patterns. I’m a conflict-averse people pleaser. Naturally I don’t want to disappoint people and have gone to great lengths not to disappoint. Including lying about it.

Underneath all of that is a question of self-worth. If I am not pleasing others, will I still be loved? Am I loved for who I am or whether or not I do what others want? If I disappoint you, will you just quietly go away?

And on the flip side is the intentional way I’ve tried to change to live directly. To say what I mean and live in accordance with it. It’s subtly changed what I say when I’ve had enough and need to go. Now I try to simply say, “I need to go.”

Because in the middle of people pleasing and living directly lies the soft and warm territory of the acceptance of others. It’s that same squishy love that I feel for my friend that makes me understand the reasons behind the partial truth. It’s the commitment I have to the people in my life to walk with them in both the fun and not-so-fun moments.

The “truth” from a friend is not going to make me angry or disappear. I get it, or at least I think I do, and any revelation will just grow my understanding.

Our friends know when we aren’t telling the truth. When we do it, it robs them of the chance to hold us as we are. It denies their ability to tell us in words or deeds that they get us.

When we don’t tell the truth to others, it short-circuits our ability to be seen for who we are and undercuts other people’s opportunity to show they accept us. More than anything else, we keep feeding our own story that we aren’t worthy the way we are. But I know how hard it is to walk out into the open and be seen. It’s why I think friends were made to stick around for years until we feel brave enough to be direct with them.

So I don’t mind that my friend doesn’t always tell me the truth. But I anxiously await the day when they feel safe enough to start. I imagine it’ll be a growth moment for both of us.

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(featured photo from Pexels)

66 thoughts on “Telling The Truth

    1. Thank you, ndabarithuku. An interesting point you make about world and society – a bigger venue for truth/lies than I was thinking of and a tough stage. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  1. Wonderful thought-provoking post. 😊

    It’s in the wording. As I age I understand how to word things that maintain my truth but may not come out as bluntly, or harshly, as the naked truth.


    Them :Are you coming to the party?

    Me giving fake answer: No I have to work late. (Not true.)

    Truthful answer would have been: No, I don’t like you or your parties. 😀

    Does this make sense?

    I also learned that no explanation, truthful or fake, is possible in certain situations. Sometimes a short “no” without elaborate details, truthful or not, suffices. I’m learning that, too.

    Coming to party?
    No, not tonight.


    1. I love your example, Claudette. Yes, you have illustrated perfectly what I’m learning to. There is such simple directness that doesn’t need excuse. But it does need to be practiced (by me at least). Thank you for reading and commenting with your wisdom!

  2. I like what Writer of Words said above…learning that less is best…no need for details was an evolutionary a-ha for me…kind of like your comment, Wynne, where you simply share “I need to go”…when you need to go. I love that.
    And yes…that yearning for candor. You can tell me your whole truth, it’s okay. For me, that’s a sign of a deepening connection but it takes courage to do so, this “living out in the open” as you put it. The worries that IF I tell you…you might turn on me. I get that.
    Thanks for this post! 😉❤😉

    1. Ah, Vicki, you nailed it with three words – yearning, courage and worries. Yes, so true. And maybe not for everyone in our lives but something to aspire to. Right?

  3. It’s obvious that we are all different. Honesty, practiced in every moment, is a rarity. Honesty, though is slightly different than “telling the truth” as a verbal exercise. Honesty is telling the truth in all that you do. I think it can only be exercised in person, and is exercised one way or the other when the entire body and facial expressions are evident. Few people are honest, just as few people carry out any particular facet of being human.

    1. I love how you make the distinction between honesty and telling the truth. There seems to be so much self-awareness necessary in honesty (IMHO). And your point about very few people carrying out any particular facet of being human – such a good one! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. For many people, we live in a post-truth world where the loudest lie or the most outrageous lie wins. I learned to value truth and honesty after having dabbled in lying in my teens. I didn’t enjoy the feeling of being called out for falsehoods so I determined I would do my best to speak the truth. It’s very difficult sometimes to be truthful, especially in circumstances where truth-telling would place employment at risk, so I learned the value of silence. I would not be party to something illegal or even immoral, I do draw a line.

    1. Such a wonderful comment, Tamara. The value of silence – definitely a high-value item. And yes, drawing a line with your values. But telling the truth is a hard practice and the way you tell your truth is beautiful! Thank you!

  5. This is a rich topic. It relates to what Aristotle wrote about friendship. He thought the highest of three forms of friendship was also the rarest. It involved a relationship between two people of equal merit, both of whom want the good of the other. He also noted that if one was such a friend and recognized a fault or decline in his friend’s moral state, there would be times when it was proper to attempt to set the friend straight. I am abbreviating Aristotle’s ethical viewpoint, of course. Very much worth reading. Thanks for prompting me to think back to Aristotle, Wynne, (who, by the way, I never met)!

    1. What a wonderful addition to this conversation, Dr. Stein! Yes, there are levels of friendship and I like how you describe the rarest according to Aristotle. May we all aspire to that. And I aspire to reading Aristotle’s writing on friendship now that you’ve introduced this. Thank you!

  6. Ah, being diplomatic, yet truthful is an art form! You touched on so much good stuff, but I love your method of just stating “it,” and not trying to explain. Thank you for another great and thought-provoking post, Wynne!

  7. So many memories come back to me with the words you’ve written Wynne. I also think about just how easy it is to qualify the word truth. A small white lie may be excusable or understood, while an outright bold-face deceitful lie garners rejection and worse. Truth and lies are not all about self-preservation but I do think no matter the *logic* behind a fib or an outright lie, fear is often running the show.

    1. “fear is running the show” – I agree with that so much, Deb. And you helped me delve into what I was trying to get to here (and in the friendship) – some safety to ease the fear. A hard practice but I love how you so often cut to the heart of the matter and help me see further! Thanks, Deb!

  8. I confess to telling little white lies in days gone by to (1) not hurt someone’s feelings, and (2) not risk losing a relationship. Decades later (some of us are slow learners), I have realized that the more I love myself, the less need there is for little white lies, because the truth, when told with kindness and love, clears the air of possible misunderstanding and builds trust with another. Sometimes it takes a day or two to figure out what is true and work out the best way to present it. A simple ‘No’ works. So does, “Thanks so much for the invitation to the party, but the truth is that the older I get, the harder it is to make small talk with I strangers. Plus, I really hate to drive at night!” But hey—I’d love to get together with you for a quiet visit soon!” If anyone writes off a friendship because of that, they weren’t much of a friend anyway! 🙂

    1. Such a great comment, Julia. Yes – the more we love ourselves, the less we need to lie. And if that gentle truth doesn’t work, perhaps they weren’t much of a friend. Yes, yes, yes! Thank you for reading and chiming in with this great wisdom and observation! You shine such light on things, Julia!

  9. I just told a little lie. Maybe it was more an excuse. I didn’t want to join a meeting to give feedback on the activity of a group I belong. I think that we could learn to say the true even if the lie won’t have a big impact. Why shall I invent an excuse? Can’t I say just the true? When I lie it’s because I think the other person will take it easy, but why cannot we accept the true? Thank you for the beautiful article Wynne!

      1. What an interesting case that you present, Cristiana. Isn’t it more complicated with groups? Because then its about not participating without commenting on the utility of the group. Does that sound like a good reflection? I’d say that it’s less about living in the open then but perhaps it all feeds each other. Good to ponder! Thanks for reading and commenting!

      2. I have to tell you this Wynne, I have just received a message about that meeting. It is rescheduled for tomorrow at 1 p.m., much more convenient for me and most probably for many others. It would be interesting to know if some other people used excuses or lied a little as I did 😉

  10. This is certainly a thought-provoking post. I’m with VJ. I don’t take it personally, but I grow weary of it. I’ll give someone a chance (to build trust), but I will leave a friendship where the person can’t grow into it enough to be authentic with me.

  11. A thoroughly thought-provoking post, Wynne. I 100% get where you’re coming from, as long as your friend is playing with the truth to avoid confrontation or hurt feelings. But it can be a slippery slope if it becomes too easy, too much of a habit. And if the playing with the truth ends up involving news/stories about other acquaintances, not good at all. I have a friend like that, and I’ve ended up no longer sharing anything personal with her because I can’t trust her judgment wrt what she says or to whom she says it. As long as you have the right filter with your friend …

    1. A good point, Jane. It has to match with our values and I don’t want to participate in that distortion about other people. I was thinking more along the lines of self-exposure but there is definitely boundaries involved if it impacts others! Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

  12. An excellent post! You have brought out many nuances about truth, white lies, outright lies, and the relationship between lies and friendships. Just wonderful!
    I can relate to “I’m a conflict-averse people pleaser.” I get extremely anxious when people start arguing with me or among themselves. So, I try to agree to disagree and move away. I used to please people going that extra mile and at the cost of my comfort and well-being. But, not anymore. As I get older, I am learning to put myself first. And have realized that for any relationship to work and last long, both parties have to be honest, and meet halfway.
    Yes, you are right, Wynne. “Our friends know when we aren’t telling the truth.”
    I tell white lies sometimes to save my loved one’s feelings, and I am ok with that.

    1. I love your statement that you tell white lies sometimes to save my loved one’s feelings and you are okay with that. I think that is probably what we all do – and it’s the being okay with it is the most important part! Thanks for reading and commenting, Chaya!

  13. I respect what you said about protecting the safety of a relationship. And like you, am healing my disease to please. It’s a process. It has been empowering and dis-enabling in friendships (not without risk) to start calling these nuances out into the open. And I have to say, it has been really freeing personally. In some cases, it is deepening some connections while untangling others, where it has been healing to hit the pause button on. Makes for an authentic experience. It can be a fun playground to engage with conflict avoidant tendencies in a way that confronts those tendencies in the presence of another. Thank you for sharing this musing Wynne.

    1. Oh, Ari — the “disease to please.” Such a great phrase! And the depth of this comment is blowing me away. “It can be a fun playground to engage with conflict avoidant tendencies in a way that confronts those tendencies in the presence of another.” Wow wow wow. Thank you for sharing your experience and expanding the envelope of my thinking and writing!

    1. What a lovely comment and your use of honest in my post about telling the truth is making me chuckle in appreciation! I’m so glad you enjoyed reading it – and thank you for taking the time to comment.

  14. Such a great topic to explore. While some people lie to avoid hurting someone else, I’ve also found that other people who lie are so insecure they can never tell the truth to anyone. It’s not that they think someone is stupid enough to believe their lies, it’s that they want to control access to their information– and you don’t deserve to know it.

    1. Wow, Ally, that is a really interesting observation and I suppose there might be a continuum in all of us. Something that Julia said in her comment, “When I started loving myself enough.” May we all reach that state!

  15. “I choose not to call my friend out because it would be counterproductive to the safety of our relationship”. I think this sentence explains some things in my relationships that I never realized. Thanks Wynne!

  16. This is a hard concept, and I love that you portrayed it beautifully. I have a friend who did similar things. When she finally told the truth, it made our relationship so much stronger! Thank you for sharing! 😊

  17. Such an interesting post. I have a friend like that too and I like to think I understand although I am guilty of sometimes wishing she would just say it as it is!

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