A friend who works investigating social security fraud once said to me, “Everybody lies.” I thought, “Wow, nothing like law enforcement to craft a lovely, generous, cherry outlook.”

Of course he was right — and of course he wasn’t. Blunt, extreme generalities seldom shelter complete truths.

Not everyone cheats the government out of social security money, not everyone is fundamentally a liar, but all of us sometimes fudge the truth a bit with each other, and perhaps for good reason. We do so to be sensitive, perhaps to be successful; some at times simply to be safe.

Some one recently asked me, “How do you like it? ” It was about their hair. “Careful, careful,” my mind whispered frantically. “Your life depends on your answer.”

We prevaricate, or at least dither with the truth, to be kind, sensitive, supportive.  It works, kind of, but let’s be honest here. We do lie. All of us, and it has come to me in moments of personal clarity that perhaps the most fundamental lies are the ones we tell ourselves.

Recently I dialogued with myself about a certain kind of success. I muttered internally, “I don’t really care.” I really do. My accismus is self-protection. If you can’t get something, pretend you don’t want it. “Ah,” that’s painful.”

But there is hope, as we blunder towards Bethlehem, as we muddle toward the kind of truth that can set us free. Truth is a process — with our Caesars, with our friends and family, with ourselves.

Someone told me recently, “I trust you.” I trust this person too, and yet a deeper level of trust still needs to be and can be constructed as we get to know each other better. Trust takes time.

Consider ritual deference. It is a game we all play. Flatter publically; mistrust privately. And let’s not act uppity about this.

Who hasn’t been obsequious? Who hasn’t fawned, flattered, flirted and flummoxed the truth, to ingratiate ourselves to another person we wanted something from, even if it was something good, perhaps simply mutual respect.

It isn’t all bad. Recently someone asked me if I liked a purchase they made. “It’s great,”  I said. “Nice. Good job.” In a way I covered my opinion, but I did so because I wanted them to have the say, make the choice, enjoy their selection. It didn’t matter what I really thought. What I was saying was that I supported their right to make this decision independent of me.

The dispensing of truth is a lot about discernment, roles, dosage, timing —  even love.

I love you so I will tell you the truth. I love you, so I will be very careful with what and when and how I speak to you.

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