Case in point: When my oldest daughter was three years old and had recently learned the joys of peeing in a toilet, she loved to practice her new skill. This meant that she had to pee in every restaurant, supermarket and store whose threshold we crossed. And one day, while we were washing
our hands in the Sears bathroom at the local mall, she stared at a woman's shoes. "Do you like my shoes?" asked the woman. "No", said my honest daughter. "They are ugly. I don't like them at all."
I smiled generously as the woman turned and walked out of the room. "Why did you say that to her?" I asked.
"She asked!" said my daughter.
"You should have said something nice like, 'your shoes are pretty'."
"You mean you want me to LIIIIIEEEEEEEEE!"
She had a point. I indeed DID want her to lie. But a three year old isn't wise enough to comprehend the nuances of social grace. We all say that lying is bad but we all spend a lot of time doing it. Most of the time we lie to spare someone's feelings. When asked, it's much easier to lie and give a compliment than be honest and hurt someone's feelings. It's especially hard to teach children this skill. It's important to teach them never to lie but then it feels dangerous to tell them that there are exceptions to that rule. I get nervous that someday they might drive my car into a river and then lie about it and say, "I didn't tell you the truth because I didn't want to hurt your feelings. You told me I could lie!"
People say they hate lying but go ahead, try and tell them the truth and you'll see what they really hate! It's like lying is a social expectation. I would never go out of my way to lie but sometimes I feel like I have no choice. I abide by that age old wisdom, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" but when put on the spot, I get squirmy.
I believe in honesty and that truth is always the best policy but is there ever an acceptable time to break that policy? When asked point blank, is it better to be honest even though the truth may hurt someone's feelings or is it better to lie?