Little white lies can grow into a big problem

The Dilemma

Getting into a magnet high school across town has given Alex the chance to find a new set of friends — guys and girls who don’t know that Alex’s family skated along the edge of homelessness for a few years after Alex’s mom lost her job. Alex has a great friend circle, but there’s just one problem: These friends always seem to have plenty of pocket money to grab some food at a nearby pizza place after school.

Alex gets a small allowance but, more often than not, must make up excuses for skipping these food runs. These little white lies include things like, “I forgot my wallet” or “I’m not in the mood for pizza” or “I have a ton of homework in biology class.” Each would be a valid excuse — if it were true.

The excuses are meant to spare other people’s feelings, but eventually, Alex gets tired of making up stories and “borrows” some cash from Mom’s purse. Mom notices the missing money later that day and demands an explanation.

For Discussion

Read the dilemma aloud with your youth and then discuss these questions:

  • Which action is worse: lying to friends or stealing money from your mom? Explain.

The dictionary defines a white lie as a harmless falsehood designed to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Do you think white lies are OK? Explain your answer.

  • Do Alex’s excuses fit the definition of a white lie? Are they harmless? Whom are they designed to protect? Explain your answers.
  • Assume for a moment Alex is lying to protect others’ feelings. Do you think feelings need protecting? Why or why not?
  • Do you think Alex’s friends need to know the truth? Why or why not?
  • It’s obvious Alex shouldn’t take money from someone else without permission. Brainstorm some ethical ways Alex could get money for those pizza outings.

Next, role-play the conversations, taking the roles of Alex, Alex’s mom and Alex’s friends. Take turns so everyone has a chance to be Alex. Finally, invite your youth to reflect on times they’ve made a bad situation worse.

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