Is It Ethical to Pamper Someone's Self-Esteem With White Lies and Pep Talks?

Updated on March 25, 2020
ValKaras profile image

Val is a life-long practically oriented student of effective emotional and attitudinal responses to the many challenges of life.

An Honest Feeling for Someone Often Calls for Verbal Pampering Not Always Consisting of Truth-and-Nothing-But.
An Honest Feeling for Someone Often Calls for Verbal Pampering Not Always Consisting of Truth-and-Nothing-But.

Sometimes all we need is a little pampering to help us feel better.

-- Charles M. Schultz

A Formula for Harmony Within and Without

Everyone is bound to readily claim about themselves how they are a "truth-loving" person---from a lover, parent, friend, preacher, shrink...all the way to a politician. And yet, as we are about to find out, none of the above would perform effectively in their role without applying a dose of white lies, which in a mega dose would translate to a pep-talk.

How is that?

Those very same people to whom we are tied by trust completely would lose their significance in our lives if they started telling us exclusively the crude truth about ourselves, themselves, and the world we share.

But then, even if it would come to that, what would make us competent judges to accuse them of lying to us? Look, a day doesn't pass without our feeding ourselves a bunch of white lies upon which all our confidence, self-esteem, and the whole self-image are heavily based. For sake of sanity we simply have to think of ourselves as "good looking", "smart", "experienced", "skilled"...etc. How true it really is---that's another story, right?

Are we good human beings? Of course we are---what a silly question, right? And yet, in the relativity of everything, many people of this world might not share our opinion about ourselves, finding a flaw here and a weakness there. And if they cared to dig deep enough, who knows how much would be really left of that shiny front that we are exhibiting for the world---and for ourselves for that matter.

That's why we are so elegantly selective about what is presentable and what is not about ourselves. If we were not, we might get depressed like hell, losing much of that enthusiasm, zest for life, that drive and inspiration to take an active part in the events of life.

Maybe some versions of depression are stemming exactly from this neglect to feed ourselves those white lies, while going too "realistic"---warts and the rest about ourselves and our life. With no white lies a cynic gets born in ourselves.

Thus, by that same phrase "in the relativity of everything", what we have cherry-picked as the truth about us is also a right choice, whether a lie, a truth, or only a half-truth, for all the goodness it does to keep our emotional batteries charged. In a strictly philosophical sense, whatever we say to ourselves is a lie anyway ---so, why not make it a white one?

Indeed, folks, whether we say that life is an "exciting journey" or that it "sucks"---it's a lie, a deliberate fabrication, a positionality, so we can't go wrong by slapping a good coat of white paint on it. Then life has ways of thanking us for that.

Helping with a White Lie Is More Effective Than Telling the Person the Truth--- That She Is Not Good Enough
Helping with a White Lie Is More Effective Than Telling the Person the Truth--- That She Is Not Good Enough

Tact is knowing how far to go too far.

-- Jean Cocteau

Tactfulness Equals White Lying

When our opinion about those we love is not "white" enough to be spoken out, it's our sacred duty to paint it as white as possible. Just for an example, how would you have a heart to say to someone sick whom you love that they look like crap?

Then, as your dear wife, the love of your life is proudly trying on her new dress, for which you paid a lot by the way, and now is parading in it in front of the full size mirror like a movie star---would you remind her of the "fact" that no dress in the world could hide that "spare tire" in her midsection?

If you would, then you don't deserve any better than being told that you are not much of a provider, money-wise or bed-wise. I am sure, that remark about the "spare tire" would make your wifie quite articulate about your negative personal inventory.

So, paying for being truthful would only add up to what you already paid for the dress. Bad move, buddy; so go creative and give her one of those admiring looks; borrow it from those times when you are eyeballing that good looking neighbor---that will do.

Really folks, we all seem to be so sensitive to this word "lie", or "pep-talk", so maybe it's time to face the truth how without it no functional relationship of any sort would be possible.

Now, before you jump me with all kinds of protests, of course, it doesn't cover our "performances", which are an altogether different ball game. You can't give a driver's license to someone who crosses red lights and stop signs, and it's perfectly right to seize it from someone like that who already has it.

Job performance, artistic performance, all kind of performances including the one in your bedroom can get you fired if you don't satisfy the standard requirements. But we are not talking about any of those; we are talking about the models of interacting to each other and to ourselves.

And neither are we talking about those sincere expressions of closeness which don't need any white lies. Our theme is the constructive maintenance of a relationship, within which certain expressions may come out sincere---but some others need that "interactional cosmetics".

We simply can't be "sincere" all the time, because that would not be healthy for the relationship. No one wants you to be "perfectly honest" with them. They need verbal pampering, which also gets to be called "support". To make it apparently a little more complicated---we do our white lying in the name of those sincere feelings.

Election speeches are all about who can tell more effective white lies and give a better pep-talk.
Election speeches are all about who can tell more effective white lies and give a better pep-talk.

An occasional compliment is necessary to keep up one's self-respect.

-- Mark Twain

We Are No Robots Acting Upon Facts

A preacher sweet-talking to you about your being a "lovable child of God" simply has to do it in order to be called a preacher and not falling on a level of a cynic who might analyze either "what's so lovable about you", or "what's so wrong about God's taste".

What they are calling "constructive criticism" is merely a logical step-ladder which is to uplift us to a level where we would deserve a certain white lie.

So, is all that about white lies and pep-talk morally justifiable?

Well, our natural model of functioning would make it so, because there would be no escape from it but straight into insanity---since we cannot function like biological robots being fed an input of dry facts. We have to give everything a "significance". Even this word contains a part of the word "signature", meaning that we just have to slap all factual input with a result of our inner processing, intellectual, emotional, and attitudinal.

Without doing that, the whole life would turn into a sterile professional meeting where only facts are allowed. This alone may explain why a shrink or a priest are not really welcome at a party. They make us self-conscious and inhibited in our free flow of being a silly bunch of happy and imperfect humans.

For another brief moment just try imagining how disastrous would be the results of our joint sticking to the fact of all politicians being professional liars. There would be no elections; I mean, none of those happy and perky party conventions, no campaigning---as every candidate would be booed even before starting his brainwashing speech.

Hey, folks, isn't this telling you something? Damn it, we simply love being brainwashed, don't we? Let's call it a "high level pep-talk". And to make it just a little more ridiculous, we call the opposition leader a "liar" with such a dark passion, while completely blinding ourselves from the truth that our candidate is just as full of brainwashing crap---which they are bound to keep proving for four years if they get elected.

Pep-talk is empty if it doesn't mobilize someone's own resources.
Pep-talk is empty if it doesn't mobilize someone's own resources.

Find your fucking balls, Mitch, and reattach them.

-- Jacquelyn Ayres

Let Us Make Our Lies Helpful

But well, that's our nature, we can't help being very selective about which lie can qualify to be called the truth---our truth, that is. Thus, there is nothing basically wrong about white lies and pep-talking, since it seems to be in our default nature to do it.

When a motivational speaker fills your heart and your guts with a new zest for living, it's nothing but a noble attempt to instill into your self-talk a new program of white-lying. Hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, positive affirmations, and positive thinking are all based on re-programming that inner chat that we constantly have with ourselves.

In other words, they are reprogramming our belief-system. Hey, did I just dump this sacred word "belief" into the "white-lie" business? Yes, because belief is really nothing but a thought chosen to stay as a mental signpost in the structure of our personality. It may, or may not have something to do with the factual reality supported by evidence.

That's exactly what makes "believing" and "knowing" different. Technically, every positive belief is a white lie sustaining us in our life-orientation. And it's O.K. like that, folks. Isn't that a sort of a paradox that the truth about lying justifies it?

From the perspective of modern science---and also an ancient spirituality---everything is anyway an illusion, a maya, as it's called in Hinduism, or call it a virtual reality in which we are guided by some deliberate truisms, not the ultimate truth. And I hope I don't have to tell you---something being only a partial truth is not truth, no matter how elegantly painted by our belief and sentiment.

Therefore, let's you and I keep lying to each other and to ourselves about how great people we are; for if everyone's self image was a true reflection of who they really were, this world would look quite a gloomy place, don't you think so? Thinking like that about ourselves at least makes it more true than not doing it.

A moment after we take shower our skin gets full of microorganisms, and it doesn't bother us one bit, because we don't choose to be hard core realists to think about it, but rather enjoy in that illusion of "now being so clean".

One way or another, all of us are quite able "poets of deception", creating our inner and outer world---not to make it "real", but the one that may pamper our existence by lulling us into a comfortable version of the dream called life---whenever we are not in a business of making it a nightmare, that is.


In the short video below you will learn how white lies may be constructive to our relationships---as long as we don't overdo it.

White Lies Are O.K.---but Not As a Habit

Your Thoughts about White Lies and Pep-Talk

Are well measured white lies and pep-talk:

See results

© 2017 Val Karas


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Val Karas 

      3 years ago from Canada

      Nadine---I believe you might agree that interacting with a variety of folks and their emotional needs for a support may take some improvising. It certainly consists of telling things as they are, or staying quiet (which you are mentioning), or telling a white lie as a balsam for their hurting wounds.

      Besides, we are hardly ever "perfectly honest" with ourselves while assessing our own qualities---in a process of building our self-esteem. At best, I would say we are quite selective in the above way---telling as it is, turning a blind eye on something, or patting ourselves on the back with a little more than we deserve.

      Thank you for commenting. LOL, now I know, if I ever need my emotional batteries to be recharged---not to come to you for it.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      What an interesting article. My husband often calls me radically honest. It must be a Dutch trait. Over the years I have mellowed somewhat but I still rather keep silent when I truly have nothing positive to say in a situation than to come up with a lie. I love what you wrote: A belief is really nothing but a thought chosen to stay as a mental signpost in the structure of our personality. Indeed.

    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Val Karas 

      3 years ago from Canada

      Rachel---Glad you got my point. You see, people could easily view my hub out of its context and say how sometimes we have to tell that hurting truth for others' benefit. And yes, it would be a right thing to say---but I was not writing about those "eye-opening" moments.

      Truth, when said in a proper manner, can do so much more than a bunch of white lies which would only sugar-coat an important issue.

      However, again we come to the same point---generalizing in this topic doesn't help, so we have to view the use of white lies and truth-telling separately, and my hub was exploring only the use of white lies as important part of relating to others and to ourselves.

    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Val Karas 

      3 years ago from Canada

      Ruby Jean---Isn't it funny how readily people will deny or question white lies they constantly use without even noticing it? We just don't like the word "lie", but so much of our being tactful and emotionally supportive is based on it.

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 

      3 years ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      Val, I love that you love people and don't like to hurt feelings. I don't either. When I say my family, I mean my immediate family; my children and husband. I for the most part feel the way you do in not wanting to hurt feelings, especially if what I am asked is not that important. So what if the hair do isn't perfect!! It's not worth hurting feelings over.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I must admit that I agree with your philosophy. It would be a horrible world if we spoke our thought's out loud. Why hurt someone when we can just as easily say something nice. Interesting!

    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Val Karas 

      3 years ago from Canada

      Rachel---Generalizing about people is not my cup of tea, but sometimes it may look like I mean "everybody" when I say "people". So, as long as you and your hubby got this nice "chemistry" going on without much white lying going on---more power to you.

      I don't have a heart to tell people everything I see about them. If I did, trust me, I would have no friends, no family. And I am even claiming how I "always look for that best in them"---I must see all that "problematic" from my "peripheral vision", LOL.

      I love people too much to be "perfectly honest" in my interacting. Being well familiar with the sub-science of hypnotism and suggestion, I admit, I may even catch myself messing a little with their minds---for their own sake, to calm them down, to uplift their spirits, to make them laugh.

      I can't see people suffer without being urged inside to apply some white lies or a pep-talk. Sometimes, truth is like a "dull knife to dig out a bullet"---pep-talk and white lies are like a balsam that makes the "bullet" evaporate.

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 

      3 years ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      Hi Val, I hate to tell you this, but my "dear hubby" is one of those who would tell me about my spare tire in the middle. He tells me just like it is and how he sees it. I have to tell you, I'm glad he does at times, because after looking at a new article of clothing, he sees things I don't and I'm glad in the end that he points them out. Of course, he does try to do it tactfully. My parents always told me, "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." So my family knows when I'm not saying anything, that it says a lot. lol

    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Val Karas 

      3 years ago from Canada

      Bronwen---All of us do it all the time---by complimenting, by giving an emotional support to those stricken by sickness or misfortune, by encouraging those who have no confidence---and all those white lies are coming from a loving and caring heart.

      The article goes a little further than that, much of our very self-image simply has to gravitate around those personal qualities that are usually less present than we like to ascribe to ourselves.

      So, in my mind, white lies are a necessary and permissible part of a healthy relating to both others and to ourselves.

      Being "perfectly honest" to others and to ourselves could be quite hurtful.

      Thank you for the nice comment, Bronwen.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      An interesting read. It brings up the question: Is a white lie ever permissible? In what circumstances?

    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Val Karas 

      3 years ago from Canada

      DreamerMeg---I am happy when my readers are on the same page with me, because sometimes I do write this stuff that naturally comes "easy to object".

      Yes, if we could symbolize everything with that "spare tire", it's a nonsense to spoil the fun by going too "realistic", and by also voicing it. At this age of 72, I still buy my wife flowers for no occasion at all. In my loving heart her age doesn't matter. Like I said in my article---we create our reality, it's not that life dumps on us a raw realism to deal with, which would make us something like biological robots. Life is so much more than the "facts" of it.

    • DreamerMeg profile image


      3 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Interesting and very funny. The areas in which we tell white lies are opinions, not the evaluation of hard facts like driving ability. And because they are OUR opinions, sometimes we concentrate on unimportant things like a spare tire. If that new dress makes your wife feel good about herself, why should a spare tire detract from that? It may mean that you are so used to seeing all the good points about your wife that you miss them in the normal day to day life and only see those items, like the spare tire, that are normally hidden.

      It's that area of opinions and what is important to you or to me or to everyone where white lies are often used (IMHO) and it's vitally necessary there because your truth and mine may not coincide.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)