Do you consider withholding information and/or truth the same as lying?

Recently, a friend of mine and I were discussing whether the withholding of information and/or the truth was the same as lying. This is a hot topic as it has both moral and ethical implications; not only on the home front, but at work, school, the social scene, and even on the church pulpit. In fact, upon research, I learned it is a dilemma many of us face. What’s more, rather than being a solid Yes or No, the answer lies somewhere in between based on intent.

As for detail…in a recent poll on GrassCity. com respondents were asked: Is Withholding Information Lying? 30.23% of respondents said Yes; 55.81% said No; and the remaining 13.95% were compelled to say, “Let me explain” so that specific examples could be cited.


Yes, even if you are being honest with everything else, it’s still deceptive. 13 30.23%
No, as long as everything else is true, it’s okay. 24 55.81%
Let me explain. 6 13.95%

Clearly, the results amplify the dilemma many of us face today in our relationships – whether it be with friends, co-workers, family members, spouses, students, mentors, and even with our congregation! In fact, as this survey indicates, many people claim there are times when it is acceptable or even good to lie and cite specific situations. The trouble with this practice is that it is not only very easy to justify lying in “extreme” cases, but over time it becomes just as easy to lie for any number of reasons! Granted, it may not be his or her intention to do this, but the end is often cited as justifying the means, with a “reason” being given to justify every lie.

As a result, we allow circumstances and opinions to rule our conduct. Over time, we lose any objective, unwavering standard for making moral decisions. If the Bible is one such standard, concrete examples can be provided in terms of how, when, and why it is important to be completely open and honest in our relationships with others. For example:

  • Leviticus 19:11b tells us “You must never lie or deceive another person.”
  • Matthew 5:37 tells us “Let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no.’ Anything that goes beyond this is condemned.
  • Colossians 3:9 focuses on the all-encompassing principle: “Do not lie”. By implication, being truthful – along with having integrity, honesty and other similar traits are to be characteristics of our lives.
  • Even the original commandment, “Do not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16 and Deuteronomy 5:20) tells us not to lie about our neighbors.

So when all is said and done, is the withholding of information and/or the truth really the same as lying? Surely, the debate continues beyond this post with no clear cut answer. I truly believe though the answer is found in the motive or intention of the person doing the withholding. If your motive or intention is pure and altruistic, then withholding information (as in the case of sparing the feelings of another who cannot handle the news) is not a lie. However, if you are consciously aware that, by withholding information, you are deliberately misleading or fostering a misconception in another person’s mind, then YES, withholding information is as bad as an outright lie. In fact, it is a form of deception designed to hide, manipulate, or circumvent the truth. It is for this reason it is just as evil as lying. Also keep in mind that while many withhold information to protect another “from the pain the truth would cause”, it is often a smokescreen designed to avoid consequences associated with the truth coming out.Bottom line: Truth always has a way of coming out… often in unexpected ways and when you least expect it. So, if at all possible, be completely open and honest with those who are in your life. What’s more, do not withhold any details. Finally… be mindful of not only the message you share, but also on how you deliver that message. Along with intent, delivery can make all the difference!!!

Remember … touch a life today “The Little Way” by following the lead and need of others.  Also, if you ever thought to yourself, “I wish my customers, knew…”, then be sure to visit White Light Communications at http://www.tothewhitelight.com.

~ Theresa

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