‘Lutheran Liar’ explained


‘Lutheran Liar never lies; she edits.’

The notion of the “Lutheran Lie” all started as a gentle social maneuver learned from my mother when I was a girl in the Midwest.

Let’s say that George asks you to the movies. George has bad breath, worse clothes, and a locker full of plastic dinosaurs. You could tell a “white lie” and say that Sam the Basketball Captain is already taking you. But on Monday George might ask you how your date with Sam went. Or, worse, he might see Sam at the movies, but not with you. Busted.

So instead you say “Gosh, George. I already have plans.” Your “plans”, my wise mother explained, might be washing your hair, or babysitting your little brother. Or just watching TV. But they are, in fact, “plans”. So you haven’t lied. And you’ve let George down easy, bless his little dinosaur-loving heart. Besides, it’s a small town. It doesn’t have enough bridges to make it a smart move to burn any.

That’s the origin of the “Lutheran Lie”. As you can imagine, the concept translates ever so well to life after high school, no matter where you live or what you do.

Here are a few examples.

Suppose someone asks to stay with you. I mean as a houseguest. This happens with alarming frequency. I guess most people weren’t raised like I was, in the Midwest, where it was considered extremely inappropriate to invite yourself anywhere, and most decidedly uncool to propose yourself as a houseguest.

So what would Lutheran Liar say? “We have a family obligation that weekend.” (The “obligation” being to spend time with The Dude and The Child and not with the person who asked.)

Or, say someone asks you to help with a project that you’d rather lie in the street than take on.

The Lutheran Liar way to respond? “I have a prior commitment.” (The commitment being to do the laundry, scour the bathtub grout, fill out the Times crossword — basically anything except work on that stupid project.)

And my favorite, on meeting a person with an extremely unattractive baby (which happens more often than people dare to admit):

“Oh, gee…what a baby! You must be so proud.” (Alternate second phrase, if baby is really ugly and you really don’t like the parent much: “He/she looks just like you.”)

Okay. You get the idea. And now you’ve picked up some useful tactics as well as gained an understanding of just what the heck I mean by “Lutheran Liar”.

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28 thoughts on “‘Lutheran Liar’ explained

  1. Maximillian Thanxamillian

    According to one hugely important internet page, bearing false witness is an “important social skill”.

  2. We call that sort of truth bending the Obi Wan Kenobi lie for when Luke confronts Obi Wan about his father not actually being dead but being the dreaded Darth Vadar.

  3. Unbound Roots

    I have to say, I was itching to know how you came up with your blog name. AND, I was so excited to see a link in your “Three, and you’re under the host” post. Being that I’m a Lutheran from the Midwest, I was extra curious. Now I know, and I have to say that I appreciate your blog even more (if that is even possible). Thanks for being you! 🙂

  4. Beverly

    Hi Alice! This is aunt bev. in Detroit. Kathy set me up to get your blog and I am loving it. These are great stories –Keep writing!

    • Why, thank you Moose (and Michelle!) So glad you can identify with the concept of the ‘Lutheran lie’. I’ve done it all my life; works like a charm in all kinds of awkward situations (!)

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