[This is the thirteenth in a series on marriage, love, and God.]
“We are a mammal who can bear false witness,” wrote George Steiner. We should say that we are the only animal that can. “Figures don’t lie but liars figure,” says the proverb. To tell a lie you need a number of things. First, a motive to hide the truth you know. Second, a language in which to formulate it. Third, someone else (or a whole lot of folks) to tell it to. A lie divides: first, you, between what you know and what you claim; second, it divides you from others; and third, the lie takes on a life of its own, which may last a very long time and deceive a multitude of people. It is essentially evil.
This is not to say that every lie is evil — the classic case is whether you should tell the Gestapo when they ask about Jews in the house about Anne Frank and her family in the attic. No — you should lie and tell them no. And there are other occasions as well. But one person you should not lie to is your beloved. That introduces division, and any rift between you two — even if the Other is forever unaware — attacks the foundation of your relationship. You worked hard to build trust between you two. Once your lie becomes known, that keystone is shaken. And depending on the seriousness of the subject, as well as the motive for your lie, it could lead to the end of your relationship. And it could also have aftereffects in learning to trust again, either in the marriage or after it ends.
There is a gray area here. The stereotypical example: My wife asks whether this dress makes her look fat. An honest, if tactful answer may well be required. “Do I look fat?” might deserve a “white lie.” They say that “the truth hurts.” But it doesn’t have to, not when you are talking with your Beloved. As you get to know each other, you will both learn the other’s sensitive subjects. You may well be the one who can best help your Other heal and grow, but gentleness is always required.
Truth and trust
On the other hand, there is always need for truth. It is the foundation of the trust that enables you to love each other, despite the inevitable pain you will give each other from time to time. Loving and being loved is worth all the effort you both put in.