Associating with a lie

Here’s a bit of a moral dilemma regarding others lying and contributing to the lie.

My girlfriend asked me if she could stay the night this weekend (new years) while she’s home from college, which I said ok. Not remembering that she’s at her parents house, who are very strict and traditional Vietnamese (they basically think she shouldn’t stay the night with a guy unless she’s married).

So remembering this implies to me that she must’ve lied to her parents and said she was staying at a friend’s. This is where I’m not sure what to do. I feel like I’m helping her lie, or at the very least enabling it, which I don’t want.

Even if I were to tell her I’m not ok with her lying to them, she’s most likely going to still do it and show up anyway, only then there will be conflict between us.

From my view and what is conventionally acceptable, it does seem ridiculous that parents wouldn’t allow their 20 year old daughter to stay the night with her boyfriend, but doesn’t make lying acceptable, and that is just my perception. So I’m unsure what to do.

Any advice?

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This is not advice for your specific situation, but more of an overall higher governing principle.

I despise lies of any kind, even white lies.

I found that the people I find the most trustworthy, feel the same way. One of my favorite teachers, a monk with over 20 vassa, is a straight shooter. If he comments on something, negative or positive, I know it’s reliable. He’s one of the very few people in the world that I instantly count on, that I don’t have to second guess. I don’t have to try to measure what he’s saying to discern what his real agenda is, if he’s trying to sugar coat anything, etc.

If he says he’s going to do something, I guarantee there will only be two outcomes. He will get it done exactly as he said he would, or if he doesn’t, he explains why and apologizes if necessary.

This kind of credibility, honor, reliability can only come from someone who values truth and not telling lies, not even white lies for social lubrication.

Now the flip side of it, is if you have thin skin, which is most living beings in the world, then it can be emotionally painful to always hear only truth and nothing sugar coated. But if the fastest way to liberation comes with pain, then gladly I bear it.

People who are willing to tell small lies, even white lies with good motivation, even small white lies that seem inconsequential, that tells me they’re willing, on some level to take a short cut. And someone willing to take short cuts, often are willing to compromise morals when things get tough.

Probably it’s through countless lifetimes of painful experience, but I’ve learned to value the very rare individuals who place a premium on truth, even at a cost of great inconvenience and personal hardship of being a stickler to truth. Too many times, even with virtuous even upstanding Buddhists, I’ve seen those who are wiling to tell social white lies, are people you have to watch out for, because when it comes to something of major importance, they can be morally compromised.

My personal motto is, I’d much rather people think I’m an asshole than a liar. But they will never doubt I am Frank. Another benefit of being Frank is you don’t collect a bunch of friends who like to talk about nonsense. Only dhamma or noble silence.

Of course life often puts you in situations where you feel like you have no choice but to lie, but at least I would want to see someone struggle with that decision and not instinctively, quickly with no hesitation, go with a lie. Someone who does that, watch out. Even virtuous Buddhists.


You know you are doing the wrong thing if you feel guilty about it. So the right thing is not to let her stay.

Now you have to deal with the relationship matter, instead of taking it black or white as stay or not stay, you can offer to take her on a date in those days.

Correct- but some people are too harsh on themselves and feel guilty, when there is nothing to feel guilty about too, so one has to be careful to not fall into the sway of the defilements and feel excessive guilt. I mean this in general, and not for this specific situation.

As for this specific issue, see what your motives are too- are they long term ones? Do you intend for it to end well for all the ‘stakeholders’ (girlfriend, parents, yourself) it will affect? The third precept is broken if one party is under the ‘protection’ (ie doesn’t have the consent of) the parents. IMO this will be mitigated if you and you girlfriend’s intentions are ‘long term and wholesome’, as kamma isn’t set in stone, but that’s just my opinion.

Don’t worry too much about all the possible outcomes over the long term, as if your current intentions are wholesome but over the long term things might not work out, it cannot be foreseen.

with metta


I would like to offer for your consideration what I would probably do in such a situation.

I would tell her that if she has come to me under any pretext or blatant lie I could not accept her staying with me. If we do not agree with a way things are regulated within a certain social constellation than we have to address it for discussion openly or disobey if necessary, but respectfully and tactfully always.

I would consider it as contributing to the lie on our side when accepting someone to stay under the mentioned conditions, when knowing for sure, which one can find out. Sorry to put it that plainly …

Also it is I think very important to consider what implications a confrontation would ensue. Would things, when addressed, turn to calamity? Sometimes it is better to give the benefit of the doubt, I believe, and relax.

Generally speaking I deem it wise to rather keep a distance with people who are not devoted to truth in a similar way Frank has outlined. I think however, that things can almost always be resolved peacefully adhering to truth. Hope that is by and large not too unpleasant to hear but that’s what I can offer as my view on the situation.

Much mettā


I would actually like to know who that monk is :slight_smile:

Thank you very much :pray:

I would offer that if you did not lie, then your conscience should be clear. But if she lies to them she might also find it expedient to lie to you in the future

Hi Frank, thanks for your post.

Speaking from my own practice and experience, I think it would be fair to say that out of the 5 precepts, the precept to be truthful is by far the most ‘breakable’ IMHO.

Sometimes it’s in hindsight, when you’ve gone home after work and then you reflect on the interactions you’ve had during the day and you realize “Oh what I said to this person was not quite right” and therefore a lie.

It might be a ‘small’ lie but a lie none the less.

This has certainly inspired me to work on this particular aspect of the practice so thank you so much.

Sadhu, sadhu, saaaaaaaadhuuuuu!