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Why Do We Lie To Make Our Friends Feel Good?

Why Do We Lie To Make Our Friends Feel Good?

Better to have few jewels than many rhinestones! We love our friends and would do just about anything for them, but would we lie in order to make them feel good? Obviously we don’t want to cause any hurt, but are we being of any help if, for instance, a friend’s partner comes on to us or we know that he/she is not being faithful and we don’t let our friend know? Do we let our friend continue to believe someone loves them when they clearly do not? Or do we tell our friend and cause more confusion?

Perhaps a job is available in our office and our friend wants it but is not as qualified as someone else we know, so who do we recommend? Ed had to face a similar situation recently. We want to protect our friends, but if we lie are we being helpful? Do we compromise ourselves and do things in order to make our friend happy, even though it’s not what we really want to do? Some say that to be a good friend we should be completely honest. But is that really possible without causing hurt?

Do you ever find you are listening over and over again to a friend complaining about their difficulties? Deb was once talking on the phone to a friend who constantly related the same story. Deb listened for what felt like the hundredth time, always trying to make her friend feel good while offering suggestions of what she could do to change the situation, but this time the complaining went on too long. Deb had to say, “You aren’t listening to what I am suggesting or doing anything other than complain. You need to begin to make changes.”

Is that being a friend? Can we tell it like it is and be honest, and yet not create suffering? For friendship to be real, we may need to discriminate between where our words are of real help and value, or where they are just supporting an already unhealthy or even neurotic situation. This is the difference between words that are skillful or unskillful, between being either a help or a hindrance. Skillful actions bring out the best in each situation and encourage respect and kindness, while unskillful actions are basically self-centered and harmful in the long run.

In Buddhism, this difference is known either as wise compassion, action that is inherently skillful, that sees the whole situation and aims to bring release from suffering; or as idiot compassion that does not take into account the whole situation and so, although it looks kind, it is inherently unskillful and may actually increase suffering, such as supporting or condoning neurosis, whether in ourselves or someone else. The balance of these two qualities–compassion and discernment–is essential in order to see where pity is masquerading as kindness.

In other words, friendship is both the unconditional, all-encompassing acceptance of another, as well as the ability to not support ignorance or neurosis. This means seeing a situation clearly, and finding a way to tell the truth so that further suffering can be avoided.

Love makes the world go round and it also makes for a good friendship! With love there is trust and we can say things that may not always be agreeable or even if it hurts. Perhaps it is better to have a few such jewels or honest friends, than many rhinestones or fake friends.

Are you always honest with your friends? Do you ever lie to make a friend feel good? Do comment below.


Read more: Blogs, Ed and Deb, Friendship, Health, Spirit

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Ed and Deb Shapiro

You can learn more in our book, Be The Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Marianne Williamson, Jane Fonda, Ram Dass, Byron Katie and others. Our 3 meditation CD’s: Metta—Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi–Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra–Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at:


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1:05PM PST on Mar 8, 2012

Making your friends feel GOOD isn't LYING. It's a LIE when you STEAL SOMETHING FROM THEM (like their self respect) and their MONEY! It's a LIE when people tell gays they are filthy SINNERS. It's a LIE when the Pope stands up and GAY BASHES before the WORLD and CAUSES CHILDREN TO COMMIT SUICIDE! It's a LIE when the Catholic Church CHARGES YOU MONEY to get into their FAIRY TALE HEAVEN! Doing good and making people HAPPY is never a LIE!

11:07AM PST on Feb 17, 2012

Thanks for encompassing silence and other forms of dishonesty in your approach.

7:35PM PST on Feb 15, 2012

A lie is a lie. It's not right. A friend shouldn't hold it against a friend for being truthful. The truth can hurt, but the alternative is far worse. A lie can destroy the trust in any relationship. So, in my opinion, hurting someone I care about with the truth is far less damaging to the relationship than destroying their trust in me, which also causes emotional pain and hurt. Thanks for the article!

11:41PM PST on Nov 15, 2011

Friends (and family) are priceless treasures that we could possibly have. It takes a good relationship to bring us (me) to them. I don't find it reasonable to lose them by being dishonest.

Even if it was to make them feel happy, soon they will find out that I was dishonest about it.

Don't mar a relationship by playing safe. Say it--even if it hurts. Trust is as valuable as our friends and our families are. we should not comprise either of them.

9:08AM PDT on Jul 9, 2011

Sometimes we do it to spare their feelings or make them feel better, but if so then we are doing them a great disservice and really not being true friends at all. It's best to be honest.

7:12AM PDT on Mar 31, 2011

If you lie to a friend, then you lost your trust in that friendship when they were looking up yo you. My best friend has became a brother to me I wish I had and I'm the brother he wish he had.

7:00AM PDT on Mar 31, 2011

I never lie to my friends. Being a loving person and a honest caring person speaks for itself. To lie, is not being faithful to others or friends. I just show them concern and try to be the best I can. Friends come and go in a persons life, it's the impression you leave with them that last a life time in memory's. And if you see them again you know you touched their hearts.

6:12PM PDT on Mar 29, 2011

Thank you, interesting article. I do try to draw a line where work and friends are concerned. The situations mentioned are part and parcel of life and I do prefer to be honest and true to my friends.

7:15AM PDT on Mar 29, 2011

Okay, just wrote a long comment and I think it was deleted when I had to sign in again. Essentially, I agree with Kay L.--I don't expect my friends to solve my problems. Sometimes I just need someone to say--that is so frustrating that someone treated you that way! Or, wow, that sucks you didn't get that job you really wanted! I have a friend who will vent about work, relationships, family, etc. But if I try to vent about something they are often dismissive--saying that EVERYBODY deals with that at the office, or telling me how hard their childhood was if I mention any of my family issues. So I listen to them and am sympathetic but if I vent they treat me like all I do is complain. I consider them a good friend but their behavior is upsetting. We used to be able to talk about anything--vent about work, family, etc. and then move on and joke about current events or whatever. Now it's this attitude like I am a burden to them and someone they have to tell what to do. I can't ever remember saying to this person--tell me what I should do. It's almost as if they think I'm incapable of living my own life. So I guess by the estimation of this article, my friend was just being honest?

6:59AM PDT on Mar 29, 2011

But what happens when you want to vent about work for a few minutes and your close friend cuts you off after 30 seconds to say--that is what happens at ALL offices--as if you are too stupid to have a clue? Or with an attitude of--we all have problems; I deal with mine & they are more upsetting than yours.
I don't compare my issues to theirs--I'm just trying to figure out how to handle situations. I mean, they vent to me, but if I do the same even just a few minutes, I get back a condescending remark of "we allll deal with that". It's dismissive & upsetting. I don't dismiss my friends feelings if they need a little time to vent or are trying to work through an issue--I think that's part of being a friend. But if I were to follow this person's lead, I'd be saying things like--yeah, well your partner has been doing that for 5 years, so I don't see why you would expect anything different. Actually I did that once when I was worried about their physical safety and have been listening to the drama of a bad relationship for 4 years--not that blunt, but very concerned. My friend didn't speak to me for 4 months. I stupidly apologized, as if it were my fault, & they said--well your comments shocked me and were offensive. Now they act as if I'm a burden even if 98% of the time all I do is listen to them venting. I feel like I've lost a friend.

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