When Omission Becomes Deceit, You Lie

I recently received a very long and heartfelt email from a woman who recently lost her husband; I will only share a snippet.

“It has been almost two months since James went out with his friends one Friday night after work. I was home with our four children when around 12.45am two policemen came to my door to tell me there had been an accident and to make a long story short, James was involved and died at the scene. I thought it must have been a mistake, after all, James wasn’t even supposed to be on that side of town based on what he told me, but where he was found was nowhere near where I thought he would be”.

Deception is rampant—and sometimes we tell the biggest lies to those we love most. We have all been in relationships where we have withheld things from our partners to spare their feelings or to avoid a fight. That is all well and wonderful until your partner figures out that you were actually out clubbing the previous night and not where he or she assumed you to be based on the limited information you chose to provide. When this happens, whose fault is it? You defend yourself by saying that this person never asked exactly where else you went or would be going that evening, yet your partner assumes that you would be forthcoming in these types of situations after all that is what you both agreed to when you said you would love and honor one another.

Deciding not to reveal or conveniently omitting information, or worse yet determining the other person doesn’t need to know is usually easy, while deciding to reveal it is difficult. Some think they are innocent if they say what is technically true, even though they intend to mislead others to believe what is not true. It is possible to tell things that are technically true, yet we leave out pertinent facts or otherwise so speak that we lead others to believe untruths. Genesis 37:28,31-33 “The definition of ‘lie’ in any dictionary is, in essence: a false statement made knowingly and deliberately. A lie is something you say, not something you don’t say.” Does this distinction simply serve as a rationalization for a person to engage in any action he or she feels like taking part in? When does, an omission become a lie? Or does it ever become a lie at all? A lie is not in the words or the lack of words, and it is in the intention of the deceiver; the intent is to elicit a specific response from the asker. Exodus 32:4,24 Is an omission only a lie when there is an expectation of a truthful answer to a question, where the answer was deliberately used to obfuscate the truth? 1 John 2:21 – No lie is of the truth

Like everything in life, nothing is completely black or white. There is somewhat of a spectrum in situations such as these. Some omissions are harmless, while others are necessary. A deliberate omission can be considered a lie if the lack of information alters outcomes, be it discernment or decision. The omission seems to become a lie when you intentionally hide something from someone. Whenever you’re withholding or chose to withhold information from someone with whom you’re intimate—a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a best friend—even if it need never come up, it represents a barrier, a division, between you and that person. One of the saddest forms of deceit is self-deception. People who don’t want to face reality can sometimes convince themselves to believe things that they know are not true. Maybe you can tolerate that schism by simply not thinking about it. 1 Corinthians 3:18 – Let no one deceive himself. But maybe you can’t. Which is why, it seems a good rule of thumb by which to live your life is to try not to withhold information—that is, not to do anything you can’t tell the people who matter to you most.

Galatians 6:3 – If anyone thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Lies work not only to deceive others but to deceive ourselves. James 1:22,26 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

God’s Peace!

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