To Tell the Truth

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“Yes, Aunt Carol, your hair looks great!”

“No, honey, that dress does not make your butt look fat.”

“The boss just stepped out of the office.”

“I didn’t eat all of the cookies, Mama.”

“I caught a fish that was two feet long.”

These are all examples of everyday lies that we tell. As a former high school principal, I met fairly often with a parents who had been confronted with their child’s misbehavior. The parents’ frequent response was, “We asked Sally if she did XYZ, and she swore that she didn’t. And our daughter doesn’t lie to us.” I always tried to refrain from rolling my eyes, but I usually responded with something like, “Well, Mom and Dad, that was your first mistake.” 
In Lesson 32: To Tell the Truth, author Steven J. Cole reports that 91% of people surveyed reported that they lied regularly: “the main reason for their lying was to save face, and 98% said the reason they told lies was so as not to offend people.” We convince ourselves that telling a “white lie” is acceptable, because after all, we’re not supposed to say hurtful things to others. We believe that not telling the whole truth is acceptable, as long as we don’t tell outright lies.
Even good people in the Bible told lies: Abraham and Sarah were not always 100% honest (Genesis 12:11-13 and Genesis 18:11-15), and Peter clearly told three whoppers when he repeatedly denied knowing Jesus (Luke 22:54-62).
Perhaps we’ve convinced ourselves, because of these Biblical examples, that as long as we mean no harm, everything is hunky-dory. But brothers and sisters, as much as I hate to admit it, we’re creating our own versions of fake news.
Those of us with any moral compass at all know that it’s wrong to lie. Sunday School teachers hammered us with Bible quotes, starting with the 8th Commandment—“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” 

And there many more:

Colossians 3:9 “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.”
Psalm 34:13 “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.”
Proverbs 19:9 “A false witness shall be punished, and a liar shall be caught.”
Of course, the Bible also has plenty to say about telling the truth, too:
Proverbs 12:22 “The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in those who tell the truth.”
Zechariah 8:16 “These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgement in your courts.”
Ephesians 4:15 “…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

Ephesians 4:25 “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”

If you want to read more about what the Bible says about lies and truth, here’s a bit of further reading: 166 Bible Verses About Lying and 136 Bible Verses About Truth.

What’s really wrong with half-truths? The best example I can think of is the first lie that was told in the Bible. In Genesis 3:1-7, Satan, the father of lies, tells Eve that if she eats the apple, her eyes will be opened and she will be like God, knowing good and evil.
In “Enemies of Honesty: Half-Truths,” Eddie Foster explains that “Eve’s eyes were opened, but her experience of knowing good and evil was far from being like God. It opened the door for humanity to choose Satan’s way of thinking, not God’s way.” 

The real question about whether or not half-truths are acceptable is this—do we want to be like Satan or like God?

But how do we obey the 8th Commandment while simultaneously keep from hurting someone’s feelings when we are 100% honest? And how can we keep from revealing secrets that we promised to keep? In other words, how do we tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
Because I am no expert, and because I am guilty of every sin described above (and because plagiarism is a form of lying), I refer back to the Steven J. Cole article cited earlier. In fact, because his answer to this question is so beautifully simple and eloquent, I’m going to quote a couple of his paragraphs in their entirety:
God is the truth and He always speaks the truth. Falsehood or lying is any deliberate misrepresentation of the facts. Also, keep in mind the directive of Ephesians 4:15, that we must speak the truth in love. We must be kind and gracious when we speak the truth.
We need to phrase the truth in a way that is least offensive and most sensitive to the other person’s feelings. We need to apply the golden rule: how would I want someone else to tell me this truth? I must speak it in the same manner.
Also, being truthful does not mean that we need to reveal everything we know about a matter. God does not do that with us. If you need to keep a confidence or if you think that making the truth known would be damaging, you may simply reply, ‘I’m not free to talk about that matter.’
Being truthful does not require sharing your thoughts on everything. If being silent would imply agreement when you disagree, you may need to clarify things. But, sometimes wisdom requires keeping your thoughts to yourself (Proverbs 10:19).
Speaking the truth in love. The Golden Rule. Keeping my thoughts to myself. Pretty good advice, I think. Lest you believe that I am an expert in truth-telling, I must offer a BIG disclaimer: Hi, my name is Teresa, and I have been guilty of lying–more than once. Thank God, literally, for forgiveness.

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