One of the kids got invited to a sleepover at a classmate's - not really a friend. We didn't want him to go, and he wasn't crazy about going either. The reason, which I will not describe here, could have made the classmate feel bad. So I discussed with the kids what to do in situations such as this one. I gave them 4 choices:
1) Go to the sleepover - so as not to make the other kid feel bad.
2) Don't go and spell out the reason - even if that hurts the kid.
3) Don't go but don't spell out the reason - simply say you can't go.
4) Don't go and make up an excuse - e.g., I have another committment that day.
N suggested 1. He hates making people feel bad. P suggested 4. I guess he also wanted to avoid making the other kid feel bad. I disagreed with them. Told them we shouldn't do what we don't want to do and we shouldn'e make up false excuses either. To me, the two valid options were 2 & 3, and I strongly favored 3. I've found that people often provide more explanations for their behavior than is necessary. In this particular case, there was no point in making the other kid feel bad. Simply saying we couldn't go was sufficient. I mentioned to them that I often use the explanation "for personal reasons". This is a way of saying that while there is a good reason for my behavior, the specifics are a private/personal matter.
I discouraged them from making up excuses, as not only it is wrong to lie (even with good intentions), but this often results in the need for more lies to cover the previous lies. And, eventually, the truth often comes out making the situation twice as bad. Maybe the initial lie was truly "harmless", but often there is a snowball effect that makes subsequent lies worst and worst.
I also discouraged them from simply going to the sleepover (in this example) to avoid facing the facts. If they wanted to go for real, maybe because they really cared about their classmate and wanted to do something for them, that would be fine. But to do things just to avoid facing a potentially uncomfortable situation or to possibly hurt someone, is to let other people and external ciscumstances dictate our actions. Not good. We should determine our actions based on our own priorities and preferences.