The truth will set the wolves on you

I don’t like to lie. There was a time in my life when lying was my unfortunate specialty.

Attempting to maintain two or three girlfriends at a time required a great deal of plotting and deceit (the fact that they lived in different states most of the year helped a lot), as well as the compliance and assistance of a few good friends. In these cases, lots of lying was required in order to juggle the girls effectively.

I’ve even killed off an already deceased grandparent on more than one occasion in order to miss a day or two of work (also with the help of a friend). Getting a weekend off while working for a restaurant is exceptionally difficult and often requires drastic measures.

But those days have long since passed. Back then, I was just out of high school and living with friends, barely able to take care of myself. I was young and impetuous and stupid. Thankfully, it didn’t take me long to figure out that the truth is an easier and more rewarding road to travel.

As a result, I attempt to avoid lying at all costs. Though this policy typically yields positive results, I occasionally find myself in the uncomfortable situation of telling the truth even when it hurts the feelings of friend or family member.

These are never unprovoked circumstances. If my friend has gained twenty pounds, for example, I don’t go out of my way to inform the person of the noticeable weight gain. My problems begin when someone asks me a question to which a truthful answer may prove to be uncomfortable or insulting. For example, if the friend who has gained twenty pounds asks if he or she looks bigger, I feel required to tell the truth.

This is especially difficult when a friend or family member attempts to assert that the three hour drive I just completed in order to arrive at his or her event “Wasn’t too bad, right?”

Actually, it was bad. In fact, it downright sucked, and the three hours that I will spend driving home will be just as bad, and potentially hazardous considering the time of day and my level of exhaustion. Please don’t belittle my sacrifice of time and fossil fuel.

This is the kind of honest response that gets me into trouble.

Or when a friend asks my opinion as an educator:

“My child isn’t reading on level yet, but most kids eventually catch up, right?”

Sure they do. But not if they spend seven hours a day watching television and playing video games in an un-monitored environment. Your child was capable of operating your media center and all of your remote controls when he was three years old. In my professional opinion, your kid is probably screwed unless you stop acting like a selfish and irresponsible parent.

Again, this kind of response is not always well received.

I am sometimes questioned by people (especially loved ones) for my unwillingness to make these admittedly innocent white lies in order to keep people happy. Here’s why:

A good friend wrote to me a few months ago, and her email is something that I will always treasure. She was talking to her daughter about friendship and relayed the following conversation:

I was explaining that my definition of a friend is the person who you can trust no matter what, you know they will have your back, you could call at 3AM if you need something and you know they will tell you honestly and thoughtfully if you are acting crazy. They will give you advice in your best interest, even...especially... if it's not exactly what you want to hear.

She was quiet for a moment, and then she said, "You know who I think is just like that?  Mr. Dicks.  You just know you could count on him no matter what...he'd be there for you and you never have to worry about him telling you the truth."

There’s value to this kind of reputation that makes all those awkward, uncomfortable moments of truth well worth the price.