June 9, 2010

Truth and Consequences

Someone told me a lie. Not a you-don't-look-fat lie, but a transparent falsehood. Sure, it's dismaying to be lied to, but after a while, I began to appreciate the grace and kindness in the lie.

We tell ourselves, and our children, that we want complete honesty, but do we? I have decided that I'd much rather hear, "I'm sorry, I'm busy," than, "Dinner with you? Not if Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp are coming, and Paul McCartney offers to pay!" Clearly, sometimes it's more compassionate and less hurtful to fib.

Hart and Jeff are unlikely ever to master such sophisticated social interaction. Both are fans of the unvarnished truth. Well, in Hart's case, the truth as he believes it to be, and in Jeff's case, the truth as he wishes it to be. Either way, blunt, thoughtless blurtings are my household's M.O., as a musician friend found out when he offered,"I'll get my guitar and play a bit for you," and Jeff replied, "No." (I'm long past being mortified by these gaffes.)

"Let's try to cheer up Hart on the phone by talking about his upcoming visit," I recently suggested to Jeff. "Too bad you can only come for one day," Jeff said when Hart came to the phone.

I am concerned that my own social skills have deteriorated because I am in the habit of making direct, bald statements to the boys. "We are done talking about that now." "Your voice is too loud." "That sounds like teasing." I actually said to an adult visitor recently, "No more questions now" because I have so internalized the household limit of three. (Sorry about that.) I often feel like the playwright, director and actor in our conversations. I have even learned to distill complex emotional ideas into simple statements. "I hear that you are angry, but your words are mean and disrespectful and make me feel bad."

This is not the type of dialogue adults appreciate, so I really came to admire the nuance and subtlety of that lie. There is a life lesson I would like to impart to Hart and Jeff:

To communicate a harsh truth, sometimes you have to tell a gentle lie.

No comments: