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Writer's Block: Pants on Fire?

Is a lie by omission truly a lie?

In a situation where you've promised or implied that you are telling the whole truth, and there's plenty of time and a suitable setting to discuss the matter, yes it can be.

In most circumstances, however, no. You omit things all the time because they aren't pertinent or relevant, because you value your privacy or because they're somebody else's story to tell. Sometimes you omit things because you just didn't think of them in that moment. Sometimes you omit things because there's someone else listening, or because you just can't find the right words or the emotional focus to speak. Sometimes you are just out of spoons. Sometimes other stuff is more important. Heck, the things you think are most important might not be the ones that the person you're talking thinks is most important. Or you might be unsure of your facts. You might be certain that passing on information would do more harm than good, or might do lots of harm and no good whatsoever.

In short, there's lots of valid reasons not to tell everything you know.

However, even if it's not a lie, sometimes withholding information can have serious consequences and get people hurt--as can sharing information. Like everything else in life, what to tell to who and when to tell them isn't a simple matter, because it does matter.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Feb. 4th, 2012 11:08 pm (UTC)
I would be inclined to say that deliberately creating a false impression is a lie. Whether one does it by speaking untruth or by clever cherry-picking of bits of the truth is a matter of technique. Technical expertise, while admirable in its own right, does not change the ethics of convincing someone of something that is not true.

Note that in my opinion the ethics of deliberately persuading someone to believe something that is not true are not necessarily cut-and-dried. Otherwise known as "sometimes it's okay to lie."
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


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