Tell the Truth — Always?

Let’s talk about lies. The Bible has a lot to say about it: lying is bad. Bearing false witness is bad. But what about when the truth would do more harm than good, do you tell the truth then? I’ve had conversations with people who said yes, even when it comes to life-or-death situations, you should tell the truth. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I wouldn’t.

Lying is bad because it is the opposite of God; He is Holy, and cannot tell a lie. Lies are what first caused Adam and Eve to decide to fall. Lies are telling non-truths.

Recently, I watched The Debt, a film about Israeli agents sent to capture a Nazi that escaped justice, behind the Berlin wall. The next thirty years is spent living a lie that ultimately destroys all three of them, emotionally. In the end, it becomes a morality piece about telling the truth.

And that’s where I take an issue with it. Granted, I think it’s a great film. It’s one of those rare thinking man movies that asks you to use your brain and consider what you would do in that situation. And it pushes for the truth to be told… but throughout, I was asking, “why?”

Universally telling the truth means sometimes hurting other people. Is a lie always bad if you are protecting someone else rather than yourself? What if someone stuck a gun in your face, and asked you where the Jewish student was hiding? Would you tell the truth then? Would lying be a sin? Of course it would, but can sins be necessary? Sin is sin, and God hates all sin… but is telling the truth always our first option even when it might get someone else hurt or killed? The people who hid the Jews during the Nazi occupation never said, “I’m not telling you that.” They said, “I don’t know.” They did know. And they lied about it. Were they wrong? In my opinion, no, they weren’t… better to save an innocent life than tell the truth.

Once, I read something by a Christian author who said, “If you cheated on your spouse and repented, and they never found out, keep it to yourself: your guilt will be your punishment, rather than the cold truth of it hurting the person you love most.”

Do you agree? Or do you think couples should be brutally honest about affairs? Would the truth do much more harm than good? I don’t have an answer to that. Sometimes I do think our sin is between us and God, and should not be shared by anyone else, but if you made a vow to someone and broke it, maybe they deserve to know about it.

In The Debt, I don’t know that they should have told the truth. Why? Because it is selfish to do so. Yes, it clears Rachel’s conscience. It lets the death of one of her friends be meaningful. But it also stirs up the past in a way that does very great harm to her daughter, both as an individual and her credibility. Maybe Rachel should have simply lived with her guilt.

Maybe I am wrong. What do you think? Tell the truth always, regardless of circumstances…. or should some things be kept to yourself?

13 Replies to “Tell the Truth — Always?”

  1. I thinking hiding the Jewish from the Nazis is a different thing than hiding a sordid affair. I can’t compare the two. One truly is life threatening and the other one isn’t. Since my parents marriage ended over an affair, I honestly don’t think I would ever forgive someone if they cheated on me.

    I would leave. The fact that it hit my family once, is enough of a pain and it does affect children even when parents do their best to make things “normal” again. Sometimes I wonder if the people who claim “It’s selfish” to tell the truth, try to excuse their actions and forget the disgusting things they did.

    How do you know they won’t do it again? So whom is that Christian author? I find it ironic that the bible is full of verses in where truth is honored and instructs its followers to tell the truth and live an honest life, and yet here is a Christian author that claims you shouldn’t tell the truth. That is disgusting.

    How about not cheating in the first place? People make flippant excuses for cheating like they’re bored, their spouse doesn’t make them happy, their spouse is busy, etc. I’ve heard them all and I think it’s sick.

    And I wonder about the couples that have made it past an affair, isn’t there always a scar somewhere in the relationship? When the couple fights, does the wounded party ever bring up the affair. There must be a scar because I don’t know how someone can completely forget that it ever happened.

    Dave Ramsey talks a lot about how he made a lot of bad financial choices and took his family into debt. He said there was a faint scar in their marriage even to this day. Even though they’re now multimillionaires and have worked past their problem, the fact is that he made a huge mistake and it still lingers over their marriage. I’m sure they’re pretty happy these days but I’m also sure his wife Sharon hasn’t forgotten the pain of those years.

    I’m happy to say that my mom eventually found happiness years later when she met my step-dad. But honestly I don’t think you can compare people hiding the Jewish from the nazis and people hiding their affairs.

    I mean didn’t Jesus speak against adultery? The bible is a confusing book to read, but one thing that it stands on is the commitment that people make to each other in marriage. So I just don’t see how if you’re a Christian, you can think it’s okay to not tell your spouse about your betrayal. Also the bible has a story of Rahab. Didn’t she lie to hide god’s soldiers from being found out?

    Didn’t Rahab become part of the genealogy of jesus? Because of her act, her household was spared. I kind of wonder if that’s why she became part of the genealogy of Jesus, maybe if the Christian God is true, then he saw it as an act of faith, honor, and truth and decided to reward her by making her a part of his family.

    Yeah I know, anyone that becomes a Christian is part of God’s family, but we’re talking about the official lineage of Jesus here. 😛

    1. I agree that lying to protect yourself and someone else is indeed two very different things. In the case of those who concealed the Nazis, they were risking their lives to protect someone else — through a lie. But it does raise interesting questions, doesn’t it? Lying is always wrong, but in some instances, the lie can protect others. So do you always tell the truth, and at times risk deeply hurting others? Or do you accept that, out of compassion, sometimes we are not totally honest? Does it hurt a friend more to say, “Oh, I am busy that day, sorry — maybe we can have a girl’s night soon?” or to be honest and say, “I really don’t like that guy you’re seeing right now…”?

      You saw the repercussions of an affair in your life. Your parents also saw their own set of consequences — your dad sacrificed his marriage, the trust of his wife, the respect of his children, and no doubt the trust and respect of those he worked with. Was it worth it? I doubt it. I don’t think anyone ever forgets, and you’re right — everything leaves a mark. If two friends fight, even if all is forgiven, that fight is still remembered. It’s scabbed over, but it’s still there — a scar. BUT, and I say this with complete honesty — there IS such a thing as total forgiveness, to the point where you don’t even have those “bad feelings” toward someone who has wronged you.

      Years ago, I had a very nasty falling out with a friend. She attacked me, she slandered me, she tried to turn my friends against me. I had every right to be angry with her for a long time, to badmouth her, to make her life a living hell. But I didn’t. Part of me not doing that was because I wanted it to be over; the other part was, as a Christian, I couldn’t do it to her even if she was doing it to me. It hurt. I won’t lie and say it didn’t. But I did get over it. I did move on. I no longer feel anger, or hatred, or “hurt” over what happened. Christ took that away from me. Oh, the scar is still there, but it’s fading. I remember, but I have no emotional response to those memories. So, yes, total forgiveness is possible. It’s hard, but do-able.

      Just because someone is a Christian does not mean they aren’t still learning. Being a believer is a lifelong process. Sometimes, they are very right. Sometimes, they are very wrong. But the point this author made was that in not telling the truth, you would bear the full brunt of pulishment — guilt, a loss of respect for yourself, etc, rather than drawing someone else into sharing the life-altering consequences. I can’t say it’s right, no, but I do see the logic in their point, however wrong it may be.

      Yes, Rahab lied. And yes, she was in the genology of Christ. In the Old Testament, those who side with the God of the Isrealites are spared — those who do not, are not. The same holds true into modern times. Those who choose God through Christ are spared; those who reject Christ are not. He has taken the place of Israel as a means of reconcilliation with the Father.

      Thanks for commenting, Jamie. I always appreciate your responses.

  2. Interesting. I’m not sure about some of the other examples (like the Jewish one for instance) but as far as the affair goes that echoes something we say in our family – sometimes people tell the truth to make themselves feel better and that is not doing the other person good – it’s only going to hurt them. And besides, a lack of information is not “not telling the truth”. Telling the truth is an action, being honest is a state of being. So maybe the person is being dishonest.

    1. I think you are right — sometimes we are brutally, unflinchingly honest just to validate our opinion and make ourselves feel better… and we leave a line of bodies in our wake. I guess the question to ask is, “Am I being honest out of a desire to love on this person, or to hurt them?” I know that in my case, sometimes, much to my shame, it has been the latter — I’m being honest, to prove I’m right.

  3. Truth is a tricky subject. Sometimes people tell the truth to be vindictive and then that is entirely for the wrong reason.

    It’s funny you should do a post about truth. Lately I’ve been watching Pushing Daisies and it really has a lot to do with truth and lies. In the 2nd season I feel really bad for Olive Snook. She knows all these secrets but not the ones that would help the other secrets make sense. She’s hurt because Ned doesn’t love her the way she loves him but she still doesn’t tell secrets because of vindictive reasons, even though she could. Truth can hurt, a lot, and sometimes that pain is necessary to promote healing and other times truth needs to be kept secret or it might cause a lot more damage.

    As to an adulterous husband telling the truth or being found out by someone else, I don’t know if that helps or hurts. Usually that type of thing leads to divorce and not reconciliation, at least today. But for myself I would want to know if my husband (when I have one) is cheating on me. I don’t want to sleep with my husband who I thought was faithful and be ignorant that he wasn’t faithful. That make the pain all the worse. I’d rather know the truth and go on from there.

    I think I need to watch The Debt now and see what it’s all about. I’m not a Sam Worthington fan which is why I never bothered but now you have me very curious.

    Carissa

    1. Mom and I were touching up paint this afternoon. Guess what I got her hooked on during our break — Pushing Daisies. Oh, the irony. Olive is a … sweet character. Misguided, full of unrequited love, and often overlooked while Ned and Chuck make eyes at one another. Poor Olive.

      Where cheating husbands are concerned… if it happens once, in my mind it can be forgiven … with a lot of hurt, and effort, and determination and mutual accountability. But if it becomes a habit, I would not put up with it. As I told Carol, I don’t know if I would rather know the truth … or live in ignorance of it. Both have benefits. Both have negatives. Each comes with consequences. But sometimes clearing the air, and helping yourself feel better in sharing the truth CAN hurt the other person worse. It’s never good when you feel better — and they are destroyed.

      I rented it for the plot, Cirian Hinds, and Helen Mirren. It was better than I anticipated. I would have kept it for this weekend, but wasn’t sure if it would be to your and your sister’s style. It flashes back and forth between modern times and an earlier mission three agents went on. It’s very well done, and has a bit of a shocker ending.

  4. Here’s my two cents. I think the ones hiding the Jews were right–they had a choice between two sins, lying about the Jews they were hiding, or telling the truth and being responsible for the death of those they’d promised to protect. In that instance, a lie is definitely the better option.

    In the case of a cheating spouse, I think the cheater should come clean. I would hate if Jon ever cheated on me, it would be a betrayal that would be incredibly hard to forgive (and I can’t predict how I’d react), but we made vows to one another, and if he broke it, I’d want to know so we could work together to put our marriage back together.

    I haven’t seen your movie, so I have no idea how the characters should have acted, but I think you really need to weigh the outcome. Which is the bigger sin, lying, or the consequences of telling the truth?

    1. I don’t know what I would prefer, if I were in the situation of a cheating spouse… for one thing, knowing would give me a chance to work through my anger and disappointment and extend forgiveness — which would be a huge blessing to him as well as myself. But would knowing that about him mean that I trusted him less? Would it make me paranoid? Would it do even more damage to our relationship? I don’t know.

      In a nutshell, three people in the film take the credit for something that never happened — they let people think it happened one way, when it really happened another. Years later, Rachel’s daughter writes a book about the incident in question, so Rachel “telling the truth” means that her daughter’s credibility is shattered.

      1. Yes, I think you would trust him less, and be paranoid, and with good reason. But can you imagine the weight on your husband if he had to bear not just the guilt, but also could not have your forgiveness? Obviously, in both our situations, this is hypothetical, and I hope it never happens. And I say I want to know, but I’m sure there would be a lot of heartache and a part of me would wish he’d never told me.

        Gotcha. That’s a hard one. :/ I don’t know. I think telling the truth is something that should happen almost all the time, but there are times when a lie is the lesser sin.

  5. Very thought-provoking post, Charity.

    I believe in always telling the truth – and it was what I was brought up to do… but I am sure there could be a situation that would call for half truths in order to accomplish something greater.

Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s