One evening at work I quipped to a co-worker, “I lie a lot.” He answered, “But they’re white lies.” I grew up firmly believing that lying was wrong, a sin, a breach of one of the Ten Commandments. Then, as an adult living and working in an Asian culture for several decades, I learned that what I considered lying in my Judeo-Christian, American sub-culture was quite different from the Chinese perspective of not telling the truth. Lying was not so black and white.
And now I find myself in a new world and culture. In my present job I spend many hours among those suffering with dementia.
And sometimes I lie.
As evening approaches, I try to comfort one who is wondering how he can go home. Another wonders if we can all fit in one car to leave. Yet another worries if her family knows she is here. Another is concerned that our voices and music may disturb those trying to sleep upstairs. Someone starts looking for keys, another wants to go and take care of her elderly mother.
And as I enter into their “here and now” perhaps I am not lying. In their world they are the driver, the care-giver, the one going home, or going to their night job. And I am affirming what they are living in their mind, their reality.
And so, my internal dialogue continues to analyze and understand as I work and relate and connect with these suffering with dementia. Perhaps that connection is through a touch, a song, a smell, a picture.
And, yes, sometimes it’s through words that are not truthful today in my world, but they ring true in their mind and their world that moment.
And so I wonder, am I really lying?