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Is Omitting the Truth Considered Lying?

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

There are a lot of motivators for lying. Some of us lie because we want to avoid punishment. Some of us lie to protect ourselves or others from harm. And some of us lie to maintain privacy or to avoid embarrassment. The list of reasons why people lie can go on and on.

However, is omitting the truth considered lying? When someone says “I didn’t lie, I just didn’t tell you.” they are omitting the facts from the conversation. When you omit the facts, you lack transparency and can be seen as distrustful. Let’s discuss the reasons why we may do this, and how this can sometimes be damaging to our relationships.

Why We Omit the Truth in Certain Situations

Omitting the truth is not always intended to be harmful. The biggest reason why we omit the truth is to spare others’ pain or to protect them from harmful news. While it is not meant to be harmful, it can still have lasting effects on your relationships. The top three reasons people omit the truth are fear, guilt, and shame.

Sometimes, we fear the punishment of telling the truth, as we do not want to be on the receiving end of someone else’s anger. Other times, we feel guilty about what we did to cause that omission in the first place. And the last reason is we may feel ashamed of what telling this truth would do to our reputation.

When we omit the truth, we are subconsciously assuming how the other person is going to react. Our nerves and anxiety tell us that something bad will happen if we tell the whole truth and that we will be better off leaving that information out. When we omit the truth, does this mean we are lying?

Is Omitting the Truth Lying?

Lying by omission is the failure to correct pre-existing misconceptions, or misrepresenting the entire truth. While you are not technically telling a lie by making something up, you are leaving out important facts that often mislead the recipient. Lying by omission is a form of self-preservation, and it can be scary to tell the whole truth when we don’t know the outcome. But it can also sabotage your relationships and your mental health.

What Makes Lying by Omission Unhealthy?

Lying by omission means, whether you know it or not, you are keeping secrets. Keeping secrets is stressful, and can cause anxiety and loss of sleep trying to keep everything under control. By being honest, you can free yourself of the burden and anxiety about what the fallout may be if this person knew the whole truth.

Lying by omission also damages your mentality, and makes you less credible. You are no longer being your most authentic self, and it can take a toll on your emotions. Lying by omission also breeds mistrust. If the other person finds out you withheld the truth, the chances of you gaining their trust back are slim.

How Can We Stop Lying by Omission?

Honesty and transparency are the best qualities to have in any healthy relationship. Sharing our full, and flawed, versions of ourselves will help us form deeper connections with those around us. It’s okay to make mistakes, we’re human! We are all worthy of acceptance, and being our true selves is what makes it that much more empowering.

Source: Sandra Alvarez (2021) What is Lying By Omission?, https://www.aconsciousrethink.com/6477/lie-of-omission/

Source: Sally Clarke (2021) How Lying by Omission harms Us and Our Relationships. https://salcla.medium.com/how-lying-by-omission-harms-us-and-our-relationships-db7585bf714e

Source: Barrie Davenport (2021) Lying by Omission: What it is and Why it Sabotages Relationships, https://liveboldandbloom.com/11/relationships/lying-by-omission

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