Sometimes a Lie is Kind

As kids, we’re told, time and again, that lying is wrong. Do you believe that’s always true? In your book, are there any exceptions?


We all lie, so let’s just clear that one out of the way so we can respond to the prompt. The Bible, in Jeremiah 17:9, says that the human heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.  Can’t get around that.

What is important to me is the context in that verse, which makes deceit and wickedness clearly connected. To deliberately lie with the intent of deceiving others for nefarious purposes is wicked. To lie to avoid punishment is wicked. To lie to make someone else look bad is wicked. To lie when one is in a place of power, in order to pass one’s pet legislation, is wicked. To lie in order to impose one’s own will against the express will of others is wicked.

Do you see where I’m going here?

Now, let’s change the setting a bit.

My mom was living out her last month of life. Most of us were fairly certain that the doors of heaven were about to open to receive her, and we were as ready for that as anyone can ever be.  She’d been ailing, in great pain, for way too long.

This was Mom's last birthday on earth, her 87th.  I wish the lighting in this snapshot was better so you could see her wonderful smile.
This was Mom’s last birthday on earth, her 87th. I wish the lighting in this snapshot was better so you could see her wonderful smile.

Mom was always a bit vain. She  needed Dad, for instance, to compliment her often on her appearance, and when he died over 20 years before she did, she lost her main source of encouragement in that regard. So she would ask other family members, “Do I look all right?  Do you like my hair this way?  Is this outfit a good style for me?”

I didn’t always tell her the truth. She was visiting in our home for a month or so, and there were a couple of things she wore that I felt were very unflattering. But when she had finished dressing and came out for her inspection, I always found a way to compliment her—because she needed it. I would have been cruel to tell her, “No, that’s not a good color for you any more because you’ve changed. Your hair is almost completely white now, and you need more color.”  No way, not me, not on your life.

And I don’t believe it was wrong to lie.

Just before she died, we got permission to take her out of the nursing home to a Fourth of July gathering. Her hair had grown too long, and hadn’t been set or styled.  I brushed it for her, trying to keep it under some sort of control, but her hair was soft and fly-away, and I could see that it wasn’t going to cooperate. So I told her she looked just great, and everyone would be so glad to see her that her hair was the least of her concerns.  She had a wonderful time. My son and I started singing, and soon my sister joined in, and then most of the other 30+ people who were there. We sang all the old hymns she loved, and whenever I glanced up at her from my seat at the piano, she was glowing. She’d forgotten about her appearance in the joy of being with friends and family who loved her.

A little less than two weeks later, she was gone. She looks perfect now, and I really don’t think she bothers to think about it at all.

9 thoughts on “Sometimes a Lie is Kind

  1. Pingback: Bitter Little Lies | story de-pot

  2. When it comes to the “lies” you describe here, I’d make this difference: a judgement of your mother’s appearance would come through your whole cultural perception of what looks attractive, nice, or suitable. But when you said your mom looked great, it came from your feelings of love for her. And is that not the greater truth?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I loved your piece. I feel the same way. I thought Christine Goodnough take on your post was intriguing and comforting. A lovely way to look at the times I find myself in similar situations. Thanks for the post.


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