Friday, June 11, 2010

On Breakups and White Lies

The threads of alleged niceness that are taught and encouraged today are, in actuality, anything but. This point has been brought up ad naseum by numerous authors and bloggers, so I will not spend any time supporting such a transparent fact. In this post, I want to take a brief look at the idea that using white lies is the best and kindest recourse, when instigating a breakup. Readers of my blog already know where I stand on the use of vacuous phrases utilized in the midst of a breakup. Yet, there are some who take the stance that it is better to cushion the blow and use white lies, rather than risk upsetting or hurting the self-esteem of a soon-to-be ex.

While it might seem that using trite, unaccompanied, meaningless phrases such as, "I just don't feel we're meant to be together," "It's not you, it's me," "This is just not quite working out," would be the kindest way to end a relationship, it really is anything but. My first objection to such a method is that it is primarily concerned with keeping the peace and avoiding confrontation. From a Biblical standpoint, one's primary motivation in any action or method should be love and a genuine desire for the best of the other person. When one's motives are skewed, it is certain that one's methods will be far from ideal. A fear-based mentality that seeks to avoid conflict is a selfish one rather than an others-centric love-based mentality.

If one does have a genuine care for the well-being of another, then love dictates that one's actions should be more concerned with helping a person and pointing them in a direction of personal growth, than of attempting to help them avoid unpleasant feelings which might be stirred up in the process. That some truths are unpleasant and uncomfortable does not mean that they should not be faced or dealt with. Similarly, if one does have a true love for another, such a person will limit their statements to that which can lead to real change and growth. Alternately, it is a sign of malicious intent if one expresses things simply to cause pain or inflict emotional distress. Wisdom then reveals that the most loving method of breaking up involves a clear and candid statement of those real reasons for the breakup which offer the opportunity for personal growth, stemming from a motive of love.

Secondly, a problem with the use of ambiguous or misleading language in the midst of breakup is that such verbalizations often cross the line into dishonesty and deception. A person of integrity may not fully reveal their entire stance, but they will never willfully deceive or mislead another. When the reason for the breakup is stated solely as, "It's not you, it's me," this is generally a flat-out lie. The intentional deception of another person is something that is not kind, loving or righteous in any regard. It is an evil of the highest sorts.

In considering the effect to the self-esteem of the soon-to-be ex, we must first consider the proper place of self-esteem. Proper self-esteem is a right estimation of oneself and one's standing in life. Viewing oneself as more perfect or less flawed than one is, results in an attitude of pride. Viewing oneself as more flawed or less capable than one is, needlessly inhibits one's ability to function in the world. Self-esteem, then, is only a good thing if is it founded on facts and built on a proper assessment of oneself. If a person's self-image is skewed, their self-esteem will be based on an illusion rather than truth. Therefore, the very best thing for a person's self-esteem is that it be based on a right estimation of self. It is necessary to be cognizant of one's strengths and weaknesses in order to rightly estimate oneself. In the process of a breakup, then, the best thing is for a person to be made aware of those strengths that they do not realize and also of those shortcomings, of which they are unaware. Anything else ensures that a flawed self-image is retained.

Regarding the clear exposition of reasons for a breakup, there is no mandate that such a thing occur. However, it is in the best interests of the other person that such an exposition be made. When vague and ambiguous reasons are offered, the person on the receiving end of the breakup lacks the peace of mind to know what caused the breakup. In the long-run it is far more troubling and emotionally painful to be left in the dark than it is to come to accept clearly-stated reasons given. Additionally, when no reasons are given, there is nothing that a person can do to attempt to avoid a similar future outcome. When clear and specific reasons for a breakup are given, a person is able to recognize their own flaws and deficiencies and grow in those areas. The correction of character and personality flaws in oneself increases the likeliness of better future relational outcomes. For those two reasons, it seems that it is far better to offer clear and specific reasons for a breakup, as opposed to explaining nothing.

Therefore, despite the initial attractiveness of the use of white lies or statements of ambiguity to preserve the feelings of another in a breakup, rational minds will conclude that such an approach conflicts with love and a genuine desire for the well-being of another. Lies, motivated by fear and selfishness, are incompatible with a love of truth, a pursuit of integrity or a lifestyle of love. Avoidance of real issues rather than a candid addressing of such issues robs someone of real opportunities for personal growth. As such, a clear and specific exposition of the issues leading to a breakup, offered from a heart of love, out of a genuine desire for the best of the other, is the most wholesome and caring method of ending relationships.


  1. The best and worst break up? if you could call it that was with a guy I was desperately crushing on. We were friends and finally I told him I was in love with him, at the tender naive age of thirteen. He told me he was gay and that he was not interested, true. he also told me that I couldn't be in love with him, I was just projecting my desire onto him. It stung at the time to here it, but it taught me an important lesson about when is the right time to confess feelings, about focusing more on others, and most importantly about how I break up with others. I never contacted him again, but in the end it was teh best thing he could have said to me.

    This year when a boy had pretty much the same reaction to me, putting me on a pedastle, without listening to the fact that I wasn't interested, I gave him the same speil. He hasn't contacted me since and I hope that he is growing in the same way I did.

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