Wednesday, March 9, 2011

When Honesty Is Not the Best Policy

Recently, I spent some time with an elderly relative.  Let’s call her “Aunt C”.  Aunt C is a lovely woman who bravely married into my family quite some time ago.  Since she is widowed and lonely, I arrived armed with questions intended to keep her talking.  Basic things, like “Where did you grow up?”, “How did you meet Uncle E?”, “How many siblings do you have?”, etc.  Although I already knew a lot of the answers, I asked the questions anyway, since the point of my asking questions wasn’t necessarily to gather previously unknown information.  Well, I was in for a little surprise.  After telling me how she met her second husband (“Uncle E”), Aunt C then told me how she met her first husband, “K”.  After she and K married, he went away to war (World War II) for a few years.  Upon his return, they moved to his home state.  Eventually, Aunt C became pregnant.  One day, K didn’t come home.  K’s mother called and said that he had died in a car accident.  Pregnant and alone, Aunt C returned to her home state where she met and married Uncle E.

Researcher that I am, I knew there had been no car accident.  K actually died about ten years ago.  As his full name is unique, the information was easy to find.  For once, I did not blurt out the truth.  Instead, I said, “What a difficult time it must have been for you.”

Although I am big on being honest and accurate, sometimes it’s just not a good idea.  What purpose would have been served by telling Aunt C (and Aunt C & K’s child) that K was not killed in a car accident all those years ago?  I couldn’t think of any purpose at all. 

There are other circumstances under which telling the truth is inadvisable.  A classic example is, “Does my butt look big in this?”  Ladies, if you ask men this question, you are just looking for an excuse to pick a fight or cry (or both).  If you have to ask that question, you already know what the truth is.  Men, if you want to take your life into your own hands or are looking for an excuse to fight, answer honestly.  However, if you don’t, you need to redirect things by saying something like, “I think your other jeans are more flattering” or “Honey, your ass looks fine in everything you wear”.  You get the idea.  Sometimes honesty is not the best policy.


  1. I would have done the same thing had I known information like that. To basically tell a person that their husband abandoned her and their child is more painful that letting them believe they died in a car wreck. I would hate to be in possession of said information. Very upsetting.

  2. truth and honesty while similar are not the same...

    opinion, belief, fact, knowledge, and perception all factor in.

    if two people see the same exact event, the two stories can be quite dissimilar.

    who is lying?

    just a tangetial diversion on your excellent post...

  3. I think her version of the truth is best for everyone. Especially since K is dead anyway. If he were still alive, that would change a lot.

    I'm confused about the picture of the large-badonk'd lady... Is that your aunt?

  4. @Bruce-my head hurts now. Thanks a lot. :P

    That's insane. I don't know what I would do if I found out someone was alive and a loved one thought they had died. That's a lot of weight to carry on your shoulders. I think you are right in keeping it to yourself-unless something life-threatening came to light or something.

    hed hed above water

  5. Wow.. I couldn't imagine finding something like that out. Bless her heart. I have been looking into family history lately, and I've found out some pretty interesting stuff. I'm honestly glad you spared her that pain. Good call!

  6. I complained about gaining weight the other day and hubby said, well dear, you are getting old! Lucky for him I had to laugh. I know there's no way he can respond without getting himself into hot water but this was one of the worst (in a kind of hilarious way) responses he's come up with.

  7. Good thing you didn't tell her...some times, a few truths can remain untold, I guess...

  8. People who say they want the truth actually just want to to agree with them :-)

  9. Bruce, there you go makin' me think again!

    L.i.I., that cartoon is a caricature of my huge ass. Just kidding! It refers to the text below, aka "Do these make my butt look big?"

    Welcome, Marguerite! DH and I have both gained weight, but we know it's mostly from not getting exercise. We're trying to ignore that we're getting older. :-)

  10. I would have kept mum as well. No point upsetting an elderly lady.I can only Imagine her horror of at bing told she is a bigamist.
    When doing our family tree my mum found out her great uncle had 2 separate families about 4 hours apart.No one lese knew but aparantly both families knew of each other.

  11. Wow, that's crazy. I don't know how I'd handle finding out something like that. It's probably for the best that she doesn't know now, what would be the point?

  12. I think it would do more harm than good to open that can of worms with your aunt. After all this time, she really doesn't need to know what actually happened.


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