My writing yesterday about telling the truth brings up a recurring theme.
When is it a lie to omit a full truth?
I’ve written before that it’s a lie when omit the full truth when you
know it’s pertinent to the other person, and you do it to avoid
I still stand by that.
But, how can we tell, really? I mean, I can justify damn near
anything, when I need to, and that makes for a very slippery slope.
So, when is omission not a lie? When is is RIGHT?
I have a few suggestions:
When it’s none of their business.
And this is often when we lie easily. because it’s an intrusion for
them to ask, and we resent it, so we lie, instead of simply saying,
“That’s none of your business,” or telling a partial truth.
Example: I go to a “Slave Hunt” in the spring. Once, a business
associate asked me what I did over the weekend. I said, “I went out into
the woods and hung out with friends. We camped and told dirty jokes
around a fire.”
Not all of the truth.
Because, frankly, that particular business associate had zero need to
know that I flogged a naked “slave” tied to a post, surrounded by over
100 other like-minded people.
When it’s not your truth.
If it’s not your truth to tell, omitting it is not a lie.
However, I will say that there have been times, I have said, “I would
ask _____, they know more about that situation than I do,” or “_____
dated so-and-so, perhaps they will have some insight,” without going
into detail about why.
When it’s a risk to your life and liberty.
This is difficult, but it must be said. When telling the full truth would put you at risk of losing:
- Your home.
- Your job.
- Your income (family putting you through college).
I’m sure there are others. Perhaps you can add your own.
Just to be clear, I still don’t advocate lying. However, there are many ways you can tell the truth and not give it all away.
In fact, there is a word, paltering, which specifically applies:
Telling the truth while misleading others, or leading them from a
dangerous (to you) thought process to another.
There is a series of fantasy books, The Wheel of Time, by
Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson) that I used to read (and re-read
the entire series) every holiday season when the new paperback would
There was a sect of characters who could physically not tell a lie.
It would not come out of their mouths… and yet, they could mislead and
misdirect with the best of them. More, even, because they were know to
be 100% truthful.
It’s a useful skill to have for those situations when it’s called for.
And yet, know your intentions.
Because lying with the truth is just as insidious as a flat-out-lie,
and can seem even more harmful to those victims when (if) they discover
What are your thoughts on lying by omission?