Do you consider it lying when someone tells you only part of the truth?
For example, you ask someone in your life details about an event, and you are only given partial accounts of the evening. Perhaps drinks at a bar were omitted or a particular person was left out of the story. You didn’t specifically ask about going to a different venue; nor did you ask if so and so was there, but if you were not told and then later found out, would you consider the neglected part of the story a lie? Would you feel deceived?
The other day my friend was telling me how she asked her son how his school day had gone. He replied by saying it was fine. He didn’t elaborate either way. She continued to ask him what he studied; if it was anything interesting, who he sat next to at lunch, and what games he played during recess time. He answered all of her questions. Later, though, she got an email from his teacher saying he got in trouble at school. When she asked her son why he didn’t tell her, he said she never asked.
He was right. She didn’t specifically ask if he got in trouble at school, but one would think he would or should have mentioned the incident when asked about his day. He didn’t say anything to his mom, because he didn’t want to get in trouble. Clearly, he was hoping she wouldn’t find out and he lied by omission: A perfect example of telling half of the truth.
I find children are masters of leaving out information. How many times have you asked a child a question and gotten the answer, “I don’t know,” knowing full well that child has information, but doesn’t want to share it. I see it with my son and his friends all the time. I also see adults tell half-truths, even though we know better.
How many of you have failed to divulge information to your healthcare provider when questioned about certain habits or activities? You give enough information for your doctor to make a diagnosis or assessment, but probably could have shared more. For instance, your love of eating a bacon double cheeseburger several times a week, or how you relax with a cigarette and a glass of wine every night. You didn’t because you wanted to avoid a lecture of some sort.
Whether it’s shame, fear, embarrassment or something else, omissions let us manipulate the way we want to be seen by others. Even if there isn’t emotional motivation, half-truths can be used to sway people to think a particular way. Advertisements have underlying truths that have been twisted or stretched to persuade viewers one way or another. Political commercials, product endorsements and classified ads all leave out important information to create a false impression.
Most people would say always telling the truth is the best policy, except when there is a good reason to lie — which means lying isn’t always a bad thing. For example, I’ve spared details of my night when I have been invited to a party or an event and know my friends are not invited. When I’m asked, I usually say I am going out to a restaurant or something along those lines. I am vague and do not offer the who, what, when and why’s of my night, because I am trying to avoid hurt feelings. So, in those cases, I feel like lying isn’t wrong.
What are your thoughts on telling part of the truth? Is there a time and a place for it? Or is honesty always the best policy?