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What are white liars?

White lies, also known as small lies, are minor lies told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or getting in trouble. White liars tell white lies regularly, though not necessarily constantly. Some psychologists argue white lies serve an important social function and can even strengthen relationships. Others counter they can erode trust. White lies are typically considered harmless, though excessive use may indicate more serious issues like compulsive lying.

What is a white lie?

A white lie is a minor lie told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. White lies are often considered harmless, as they are not meant to deceive someone for personal gain. Common examples include:

  • Telling someone you like a gift you don’t.
  • Saying you’re busy when you don’t want to attend an event.
  • Exaggerating accomplishments to impress someone.

White lies are lies, but they differ from major lies in key ways:

  • Motive – White lies aim to spare feelings, not deceive for personal gain.
  • Scale – White lies are small lies about minor matters.
  • Impact – White lies generally don’t cause major harm.

Some argue white lies are ethical when they serve good purposes like protecting emotions. Others contend all lies erode trust. Overall, white lies are widely considered harmless, though excessive use may signal more concerning dishonesty.

What is a white liar?

A white liar is someone who regularly tells minor lies to avoid confrontation or protect feelings. For example, someone may frequently make up excuses to get out of social events. Or they may exaggerate stories to seem more impressive or agreeable.

Key traits of white liars include:

  • Telling lies regularly, if not constantly.
  • Lying about minor matters, not major deceptions.
  • Lying to avoid hurting feelings or getting in trouble.
  • Feeling lying is justified to preserve relationships.

White liars may lie habitually, but they generally don’t have malicious intents to deceive. Their lies are often considered “innocent” mistruths told for benign reasons. Still, excessive white lying may point to a more problematic dishonesty.

What are common white lies?

Some of the most common white lies include:

1. Exaggerating to impress someone

Many people embellish the truth when trying to impress romantic interests, friends, colleagues, etc. For example, someone may say they run marathons when they’ve only done 5Ks. These lies aim to avoid embarrassment rather than maliciously deceive.

2. Calling in sick when not ill

It’s common for people to fake minor illnesses like headaches or stomach bugs to take a day off work. While technically a lie, “mental health days” are often considered harmless.

3. Withholding criticism

Many opt to tell white lies rather than criticize someone’s appearance, cooking, or other behaviors. Some argue white lies spare hurt feelings in sensitive situations.

4. Politely declining invitations

Rather than hurt someone’s feelings, many make up scheduling conflicts and other excuses to decline unwanted invites. These white lies aim to politely avoid social events.

5. Pretending to enjoy gifts

When opening a disappointing gift, most politely pretend to love it to avoid offending the giver. These white lies aim to prioritize relationships over total honesty.

While some contend white lies are harmless, others argue they can become problematic habits that erode trust in relationships. Moderation and discretion are encouraged.

Why do people tell white lies?

There are several key reasons people tell white lies:

To avoid confrontation

Many opt for white lies to avoid hurt feelings, arguments, or other confrontations. For example, someone may lie to decline an event invitation rather than state they don’t want to go.

To be polite

It’s often considered more polite to tell white lies than bluntly criticize someone’s appearance or behavior. White lies help maintain positive relationships.

For convenience

Some white lies are told to bypass explanations, like calling in sick when you just need a day off. These aim for convenience, not malice.

To impress others

People may exaggerate positive traits to impress dates, friends, bosses, and others. While misleading, these lies often aim to avoid embarrassment.

Out of habit

For some, white lying becomes an unconscious habit. They may lie reflexively, even when the truth would suffice. This may signal problematic dishonesty.

Overall, white lies aim to spare feelings and avoid tension rather than malicious deception. But excessive white lying can become problematic. Moderation is key.

Are white lies ethical?

The ethics of white lies are debated:

Arguments that white lies are ethical:

  • They spare feelings and avoid confrontations.
  • They are told out of politeness, not malice.
  • They do no major harm.
  • Total honesty could damage some relationships.

Arguments that white lies are unethical:

  • They undermine trust in relationships.
  • They contradict the ethical value of honesty.
  • Permitting some lies makes major lies more likely.
  • Some feel they enable bad behavior.

Most ethicists agree malicious deception is wrong, but disagree on white lies told for benign reasons. Some argue white lies may even strengthen social bonds. But lies should be used judiciously, not habitually, as excessive lying undermines trust.

Can white lies be healthy?

Some psychologists argue white lies can strengthen relationships:

  • They avoid hurt feelings from blunt truths.
  • They demonstrate concern for others’ emotions.
  • They uphold important social norms like politeness.

A study found couples who reported white lies had greater relationship satisfaction. Small lies may help partners navigate sensitive topics.

However, lies can become unhealthy habits:

  • They risk eroding relationship trust.
  • Excessive lying may signal psychological issues.
  • Permitting small lies makes bigger lies more likely.

So while white lies told considerately may have benefits, unchecked lying habits can damage relationships and integrity. Moderation and discretion are key.

When do white lies become problematic?

White lies told occasionally may not be concerning. But some patterns of white lying can become problematic:

  • Compulsive lying – An inability to be totally honest may signal pathological issues with truth-telling.
  • Lying out of habit – Lying reflexively rather than intentionally undermines trust.
  • Lack of discomfort – Lying very easily without remorse may reflect impaired morals.
  • Escalating deception – Increasingly bold lies may reflect deteriorating integrity.

While the occasional white lie may not be worrisome, these patterns can damage relationships and indicate psychological issues requiring attention.

Signs someone is a white liar

Some signs someone may be a frequent white liar include:

  • You frequently catch them in small lies.
  • They lie easily without much discomfort.
  • Their explanations for things often change.
  • Details they provide are inconsistent.
  • They exaggerate stories or accomplishments.
  • You feel less trusting of them over time.

While occasional white lies aren’t necessarily problematic, consistent lying to impress others, avoid confrontations, or for no purpose may be signs of an unhealthy lying habit.

How to stop telling white lies

To break a white lying habit:

  • Reflect on why you lie – is it out of habit, anxiety, or convenience?
  • Consider how lying impacts your relationships and integrity.
  • Commit to being totally honest, even when it’s uncomfortable.
  • Think carefully before responding reflexively to avoid lies.
  • Accept any discomfort you feel when being truthful.
  • Apologize and come clean if you slip up.

Creating new habits around honesty takes time. Be patient and keep trying until truth-telling feels natural. Consider therapy if lying feels compulsive.

Coping with a white liar

If a friend or partner is a frequent white liar:

  • Gently highlight when you catch them lying.
  • Express how the lies impact your ability to trust them.
  • Ask them to thoughtfully reflect on their motivations.
  • Encourage counseling if lying feels compulsive.
  • Set boundaries like taking space when lies damage the relationship.

You can’t force someone to be honest. But clear communication, patience, and boundaries may help them become aware of and address unhealthy lying habits.


White lies are minor untruths told to avoid hurt feelings or confrontation rather than maliciously deceive. While isolated white lies may seem harmless, a consistent pattern of lying about small things can erode relationship trust and integrity. Moderation, communication, and setting boundaries are important in addressing white lying habits in oneself or loved ones. With self-awareness and commitment to moral growth, unhealthy lying patterns can be overcome.