“Will You Please Lie for Me?”

Dear Dr. Hurd: I‘ve been put in a very uncomfortable position by my best friend’s girlfriend. Right out of nowhere, she tried to sell me … shall we say … an illegal substance.

Not the end of the world, I guess, but she prefaced her offer by requesting that I not tell her boyfriend – who is my best friend. Apparently he’s not even aware that his girlfriend partakes in these substances.

Now every time I’m with them I feel like I’m perpetrating a lie against my friend.

What to do?


The biggest issue here is not illegal substances. It’s secret keeping.

My first question is: Why did your best friend’s girlfriend think you’d want to purchase an illegal substance? Do you use them? My point isn’t to interrogate or lecture you. If she knew you utilized such substances in the first place, then it really wasn’t unreasonable of her to ask. You probably shouldn’t be so hard on her, in that case.

Regardless, I don’t think the girlfriend has a right to ask you to keep a secret. If she had started out her offer to sell you drugs by saying, “I’m going to ask you something, but I first want your consent to keep it confidential no matter what,” that would be one thing. I don’t imagine you’d have agreed, but at least your secrecy would have been consensual, if so.

However, nobody has a right to put you in the position of keeping a secret—particularly one you don’t want to keep—after the fact. It’s manipulative (i.e., unjust) in the extreme.

At the same time, I don’t think you’re necessarily obliged to spill the beans to your best friend, either. I understand why you want to, and you definitely have the choice. But think carefully before you do so. You’ve heard the phrase: “Shoot the messenger,” I’m sure. No, it doesn’t always work out that way, but surprisingly often it does. Maybe it’s better to let whatever is happening with your best friend and his girlfriend play out on its own. On Star Trek they call this the “Prime Directive,” i.e., the principle of non-interference in what isn’t yours to resolve.

If I were you, I’d say to the girlfriend of your best friend, “No, I’m sorry but I can’t promise to keep a secret. You’ve put me in a bad spot. I won’t necessarily run out and tell him right away, or even at all. But I reserve the right to do so.”

Who knows? Maybe this position on your part will generate a confrontation or opening up between them that is badly needed. The rest is their business, and it’s their own private relationship issue to work out.

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