Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine

I know we shouldn’t lie, but what should we do when the truth will really hurt someone?

New Era

Honesty is a great virtue. In fact, we declare as members of the Church, in the 13th article of faith [A of F 1:13], that “we believe in being honest.” Also, the Young Women have chosen integrity as one of seven values that should be uppermost in the minds of girls in the Church.

The scriptures are also full of advice on the evils of lying. In Proverbs 12:22 it says, “Lying lips are abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight.” [Prov 12:22] In other words, the Lord has told us that we should always be truthful.

The world also appreciates an honest person. Employers place a great deal of trust in their employees and appreciate those who live up to that trust. Friends also enjoy being with someone who is always truthful and kind.

That’s the dilemma here. How do you be both honest and kind at the same time? Sometimes people excuse cruelty by saying, “But it’s the truth.” Gossip may be accurate, but passing along details of events that were being corrected or repented of in private when you are not personally affected, is both unkind and unnecessary. Just because it is technically true doesn’t always make it right to talk about. The hurt caused by gossip can be difficult or impossible to overcome.

The best solution is to be honest in all your dealings, but when someone confides something in you, treat those confidences with as much care as you would if your friends gave you their money to take care of. You would be careful to make sure their money was in a safe place where people who had no business with it couldn’t get it. Treat what they tell you with the same care.

Words can cause a lot of hurt feelings. And the hurt they cause can be difficult or maybe even impossible to apologize for. Some things really are better left unsaid. It is not helpful to pass on every comment you hear made about someone you know. For example, one of your friends may not like another person the first time they meet. But it is not very helpful to inform both sides of everything the other is saying as they are coming to know each other. They could change their initial impressions and become friends.

Sometimes the truth, even if it is hurtful, needs to be said so changes can take place. When your friends need to know some things in order to change their lives for the better, approach them with sensitivity and consideration. Keep the Golden Rule uppermost in your mind. What would you want your friends to do if the situation were reversed? If you need advice, approach your parents or Church leaders with your problem. Also, be prayerful about all your concerns.

Readers

Telling the truth is always the best thing to do. But in cases where the truth will hurt someone, use caution and be extremely sensitive to their feelings.

Matt Traynor, 15 Tucson, Arizona

I would try to change the subject. Or if you know that they really should know, you should tell them.

Layla Olea, 13 Rialto, California

There is nothing better in the world than an honest friend.

Ryan J. Bushnell, 16 Tucson, Arizona

We shouldn’t lie, but when telling the truth hurts someone, we should show empathy and let him understand that we care and want to help.

Elder Victor Amakom, 20 Nigeria Lagos Mission

Put yourself in their position and ask yourself if you’d like them to tell you the truth. Maybe after you tell them, you could ask them to put themselves in your position.

Sunny Johnston, 16 Grand Terrace, California

If someone asks you if you like their shirt, but you really hate it, find a color or design that you like on it and compliment them on that. If it’s something much more serious, try to think of what would be best for that person, pray about it, and go with your feelings.

Melody Arrington, 12 Hesperus, Colorado

Yes, we know we shouldn’t lie. Read 2 Nephi 28:8–9. [2 Ne. 28:8–9] You should not have to lie or hurt other people.

Job Cyril, 17 Hyderabad, India

I was in a situation where someone lied to me about something to protect my feelings. When I finally did find out the truth, I cried and cried. I wished that I would have been told sooner. I was angry and hurt. Now I have problems trusting the person who lied to me.

Brandi Kerr, 18 Tripoli, Iowa

I know that when my friends are going to be hurt by the truth, I try to cheer them up by giving them a vote of confidence. I tell them the good things about themselves, too.

Annie Bedell, 14 Brandon, Vermont

I think you should tell the truth anyway because after they get over the hurt, they will think more of you because you told the truth. You will be setting a very good example by telling the truth.

Nancy Toye, 13 Hugo, Oklahoma

[photo] Photography by John Luke

[illustration] The Prophet Joseph wrote in the 13th article of faith that we believe in being honest. But in addition to honesty, we also believe in treating each other with consideration. The truth can be tempered with kindness. [A of F 1:13]