Is it unspiritual to tell a white lie?
I think most people would answer that question with a definitive “yes” since all forms of dishonesty are considered unspiritual.
But I’m not really interested in what most people have to say.
And I’m certainly not interested in generalizing an issue as important as honesty by pretending that it can only fit into a “yes” or “no” category.
We all lie to some degree for different reasons.
But, the more relevant question to ask is “why?”
The answer to this question, for me at least, is because I’m unhappy with the reality of a situation. I lie to change that reality into something I prefer. This is true if I’m lying to someone to “protect” them (the reality would be that the truth will hurt them, so the reality I’m trying to create is one in which I’m avoiding causing them pain), if I’m lying to protect myself (avoiding causing myself pain), if I’m lying to elevate myself (because I’m trying to appear to be more important or powerful or influential than I actually am) or even if I’m lying to get out of something ( to avoid being seen in a negative light by the person I’m lying to for not wanting to do it). It all speaks to the same thing- wanting something different than what actually is.
As part of walking my spiritual talk, I’ve been trying to be a more honest person, to myself and to the people in my life. It’s not been an easy habit to develop since lying had been a kind of coping mechanism for me. I grew up in a very poor household but, like so many other from under-privileged communities, I remember my childhood as a happy one, oblivious to the discrepancies between the rich and the poor. My awareness of this distinction coincided with my being accepted to a school usually reserved for children of higher income earning families. At eleven years old I found myself being different, poor, at a time in life when being the same was most important. So I lied to be the same. I lied to random people and to people I grew to love. I lied about things that mattered and things that didn’t. I lied to be liked. I lied because I was unhappy with the truth of who I was.
As I grew to accept myself (poverty and all), the compulsion to lie lessened. As I continue to journey along my spiritual path and try to actualize my spiritual beliefs I’ve found that instead of seeking “yes” or “no” answers to the questions that define spirituality, my time is better spent looking at the questions themselves.
Instead of trying to oversimplify something we all do, it might be more helpful to ask “What is it about this situation I’m unhappy with? What is it I’m afraid will happen if I tell the truth?”
By doing this we allow ourselves to continue down the path of self-discovery to wherever the answers to those questions may take us. And maybe the next time we can find out we’ve been lied to, we can remember that unhappiness with the truth is the reason the person lied to us and we can try for some forgiveness instead.