Little White Lies… of Omission!
One of the things about my career in therapy is that it prompts me analyze my beliefs/opinions at a deeper level. I had a client recently who was having some issues with honesty in their life/relationship and they asked me whether I considered purposeful omission of facts to be in the same category as lying. We’ve all engaged in “lies of omission” at some point or another but I’d never really truly put thought into it. I think it absolutely falls in a grey area.
So I started thinking about my opinions and beliefs about 1/2 truths. It’s not an easy answer.
Plenty of factors come into play:
- Intent – When the omission is purposeful the intent is to deceive. Deception is deception regardless of whether it’s spoken or unspoken.
- Beneficiary – It depends on whom the deception would benefit. Is it self serving? Or for the benefit of other persons well-being?
- Relationship – What is the level of importance of the relationship between the parties involved. Is it an acquaintance? Is it a close friend? Is it a significant other?
- Trust – If the full truth was discovered would it have the potential to destroy trust? Could it instil doubt into an otherwise stable relationship?
- Consequences – Would the other person need the information to make a fully informed decision?
- Golden Rule – If the the other person engaged in the behaviour, would you find it acceptable if they opted to omit the same type of facts to you?
There are no hard and fast rules with Lies of Omission. On one hand, for civility reasons it’s the norm in our society… “Oh my! What a beautiful baby!” We’ll say to the parents of the less-than-calender-worthy infant. Although that type of omission is based purely on opinions vs facts, and sometimes opinions are best kept to one self.
But when it comes to the people who are integral parts of our lives, I stand firm on integrity and honesty. Even when it’s hard. Because I think Trust is a huge component with relationships (platonic, familial or intimate), and doubt and mistrust can be insidious. Our actions and words generally do one of two things, they either create love & growth OR they promote fear and destruction.
If your relationships/friendships are of value, and you are trying to decide whether to do/say something or NOT do/say something, one way to decide is to ask yourself if the words or actions will promote Love or fear in the relationship.
And then choose Love, every single time.