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drdoombot's avatar

I told a white lie to an old friend to avoid embarassment; now I'm trapped in it! How do I extricate myself from this sticky situation (more details inside)

Asked by drdoombot (8135points) September 28th, 2010

An old friend contacted me recently and I lied about being a graphic designer in need of clients. He happens to have several important graphics projects that need to be done. He has now been incessantly calling me to have a meeting and I’m avoiding his calls.

I told the lie because I’ve been unemployed for a long time. In fact, the last time we spoke (a couple of years ago), I was unemployed. I was too embarrassed to admit I still don’t have a job and didn’t want to go into the (private) reasons why.

He sees me as the answer to his problems. I don’t have the skills nor the interest to do the work he needs.

How do I get out of this without admitting my lie? Considering the culture I come from, him finding out I was lying would hurt his feelings and probably end our friendship. Obviously, my intentions were not to hurt him, but to avoid embarrassment myself. What do I do now?

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31 Answers

deni's avatar

Maybe you could say something like, the type of graphic design you do is different from the type he needs and it just wouldn’t be a good fit?

drdoombot's avatar

Without going into too much detail, I told him I do web design and logo work (which I did do, only once or twice, several years ago). He wants to completely redo his business website, which is a perfect fit for what I claimed I can do, but in actuality, cannot.


Austinlad's avatar

Me, I would write him a note and just come clean—let the chips fall where they made. It’s likely to get worse—and make you feel worse—if you don’t. And chances are, if you do, all will be well.

deni's avatar

I agree with @Austinlad then. Things could get messy and you could feel a very heavy guilt weight on your shoulders for a while if you keep up the lie. No fun.

chyna's avatar

Yeah, it looks like you are going to have to come clean. I can’t think of any other way around this.

lillycoyote's avatar

Well, that’s a bit more that just a little white lie. I don’t really see any way out of it but to come clean and tell the truth. Just tell him the truth and what you told us. That your intentions were were not to hurt him, but to avoid embarrassment to yourself. The only way other than the truth is only going involves more lies.

augustlan's avatar

There are really only two ways to go… total truth or dive headfirst into a string of ever bigger lies (I’ve been stricken with a deadly disease/called out of the country/kidnapped). Only one of those ways will make you feel better in the long run. And of course, the more lies you tell, the greater the chance of being caught.

Vunessuh's avatar

You know what, not to get all cheesy anshit, but if this guy is your friend, he’ll understand if you come clean as long as you do it honestly and respectfully. I’m not even your friend and I feel empathetic toward you because I understand the situation you’re in as far as being unemployed and how it can be embarrassing and I also understand why you told the lie that you told. In which my point is, someone doesn’t have to be your friend to understand the decision you made. If he becomes offended and pulls this, ”how could you do this to me” bullshit, then he lacks the empathy he should contain as a human being to be your friend anyway.

Rarebear's avatar

Yup. Apologize and come clean.

Randy's avatar

For the sake of interest (and because you, @drdoombot, don’t think honesty is the right move even though it always is) I’m going to say lie about the lie! Pile ‘em on!

Tell him that you’ve recently been arrested for hacking in some important websites and changing their logos to a kitten playing with yarn GIF. Tell him that you’re no longer allowed to get within 100 yds of a computer.


Find a graphic designer and pay him/her to do the job but pass it off as your own work. (Dirty, sneaky and unethical, I know… but so is the way of lying.)


Tell him that you don’t do work for friends because one time, you mixed your business with pleasure and now your pubes grow in the shape and color of a jack-o-lantern… Or some other bull shit.


Tell him you just don’t have the time because, although you needed clients before, now your swamped and are having to outsource. Then give him the name of a real graphic designer and say that’s who you’re outsourcing to.


Just tell him the truth.

The first one is my favorite. That or the pubes one. Always use pubes in your lies/excuses. It embarrasses some people and they won’t ask too many questions or dig any deeper to find the truth. Good luck!

skfinkel's avatar

I’m with most of the others who have responded to you here. Tell the truth—and try and do it with humor—perhaps you can save your friendship.

daytonamisticrip's avatar

Look him straight in the eyes, tell the truth, and apologize.
I see a very easy way for you to solve this without admitting you lied but if I told you how would you learn.

Trillian's avatar

I’m with @Randy Keep lying. Bare face it like you were George Costanza walking out into the ocean to save that whale because you’re the only marine biologist on the beach. You might stick your hand down the blow hole and pull out a hole-in-one!

lillycoyote's avatar

I will add one more whopper to @Randy‘s very fine list.

Tell your friend that you had a miraculous vision and now feel truly called to a life of prayer and contemplation and you are leaving immediately to join a monastery where you will be allowed no contact with the outside world. Then you move far enough away that you don’t risk running into him, enroll in a Graphic Arts and Design degree program, work day and night to finish the program as quickly as possible, then return home, tell your friend that it turns out that the monastic life was not for you but the monks have requested that you not speak of your experiences to outsiders and you’re going to honor that request (that will keep you from having to make up a whole other pack of lies about your brief stint as a monk) and then tell him that if he still needs help with his website you’ll be more than happy to do it.

Trillian's avatar

@drdoombot So…what other lies have you told? Are you in the habit of lying to people? Can we trust anything that you say? Allow me to reference George Costanza again, and to anything you say in reply, I say ah-HA!

josie's avatar

Go to a bookstore and find a book on the basics of graphic design. The principles are not that difficult. Read the book. Take on the jobs. Use one of the many available computer programs, some for free, to complete the job. Do your best and sell the shit out of them. Voila! A new career for an employed seeker. This is how success stories are made!!!! Do not miss this chance!

Your_Majesty's avatar

I’ll go with @Randy for this one. If you can’t tell the truth,of course.

GingerMinx's avatar

Let the friendship go. It can’t have been much of one if you felt the need to lie to them over somethign so trivial.

jrpowell's avatar

Just tell them you don’t do work for friends. It is my policy and I do the same type of work.

drdoombot's avatar

Well, the main objection I have to telling the truth is that I don’t feel like revealing the reasons behind my unemployment to him. He is my friend, but my reasons are something only a very small group knows about and I’m not letting any more people in. Telling him the truth will inevitably lead to questions I’m not comfortable talking about.

srtlhill's avatar

That’s why you should be honest now. Let your friend know you don’t want to get into the details and that’s why you’ve been lying up to now.
If their a good friend they’ll accept your apologies with out digging deeper into this sticky situation. If their to hurt or to offended at least you can move on with less mental baggage. To be honest now is better than to continue to deceive them.
The fear is worse than the pain. Good luck

BarnacleBill's avatar

I suggest that you tell him that you don’t feel comfortable doing work for a friend, and would prefer not to because you would like to keep his friendship. These things often end badly, usually for the designer.

GingerMinx's avatar

You could simply have said, I am unemployed right now but don’t really wish to talk about it and changed the subject. If they are a friend they would let it go. So much simpler than lying.

zen_'s avatar

It really depends on the nature of your friendship. A true friend is someone you can tell the awful truth to – and they will be there for you. What kind of a friend is this that you are embarrassed to say you are unemployed? Doesn’t sound a like a close friend at all. In that case, one more little lie won’t make a difference. Use one of the excuses mentioned above.

truecomedian's avatar

I say bite the bullet and come clean.

lillycoyote's avatar

@zen_ Is right. A true friend is someone you can tell the truth to. Yours is not just a little white lie but it is not so very bad a thing to have done that a true friend shouldn’t understand. And, you have a better chance of keeping him as a friend, I think, if you own up to what you have done. Most lies will eventually be uncovered. It’s the physics of lying and you have a better chance of maintaining your friendship if you own up to it now than to pile other lies on top of it that will eventually be uncovered. I suspect that if you tell your friend the truth he will forgive you and a tremendous weight will be lifted off your shoulders. If not, then he may not be as much of a friend as you imagine him to be.

Cat4thCB's avatar

Whenever I hear the term ‘old friend’ I think, “a used-to-be person once in my life but not anymore”. I will assume this to be your situation because of your statements that your unemployment has been for a “long time” and that you last spoke to this person “a couple of years ago.”

There are those in my life I regard as intimates: loyal friends, loving family, anyone I am willing to have an influence in my life. These are the ones to whom I divulge, confide, and apologize.

By this definition, this person is neither a friend nor one you owe explanations or details of your life.

Have you ever seen hulls removed from seeds? Seed is put into a shallow and wide basket, thrown into the air, and falls back into the basket. While the seed is in the air the dry hulls — chaff — fly away in the wind.

Ask yourself: When circumstances in your life are jumbled up and tossed around, who in your life sticks with you? Who is in your life is fickle and easily taken up by the wind? Of what use is it to explain yourself to someone, running after them as they disappear in the wind, returning only in erratic intervals?

Ask yourself: Will the energy of chasing after this person add value to your life?

Being unemployed is beyond stressful. Why add to your stress by worrying about chaff? Why add to your stress by worrying about the opinion of chaff?

What you owe this person is “No. I cannot help you.”

You do not owe this person an apology.
You do not owe this person an explanation.
You do not owe this person an accounting.
You do not owe this person clarification.
You do not owe this person a rationale.

What you do owe is letting yourself off the hook.

jca's avatar

I would tell him “I am absolutely swamped with work right now, and I just don’t want to commit to you when I won’t be able to get around to it any time soon.”

chyna's avatar

So how did this end up? Did you tell him the truth, some version of the truth, or other?

drdoombot's avatar

Update: Wow, forgot all about this question.

In the end, I told him that I didn’t enjoy that type of work any longer and was trying to do other things instead. During our “catching up” with one another, I did end up revealing some of the (health-related) issues I had going on. He was kind of enough to offer me all kinds of different positions at his small business, but I politely declined due to the aforementioned issues.

augustlan's avatar

@drdoombot Thanks for the update. Good to see you again!

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