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Good Reasons to Withhold the Truth
Even good people withhold the truth on occasion and, in many instances, it is the right thing to do.
You read that right.
Those among us who believe withholding the truth is never justified haven’t thought deeply about the complexity of human relationships and how to resolve the inherent conflicts of competing goals in social situations.
The point here is not to condone lying or to justify the need to exaggerate, embroider, or deceive. Good leaders are truthful people who work hard not to distort reality. They rightly believe dishonesty is a tragic flaw and is to be avoided at all costs.
Yet, there are occasions where withholding the truth is absolutely the right thing to do. Opening your eyes to this reality will not make you less honest, but it might get you to appreciate relationships in a different way.
Consider the idea of withholding the truth or lying to prevent violence to a third party. Imagine being confronted by an aggressor who asked if you had seen their friend in a recent social setting. Furthermore, presume you believe that telling the aggressor that you did witness their friend in that setting would result in violence or abuse to the friend. Would you tell them the truth? Didn’t think so. Deceiving others to prevent violence or abuse is still deception. Yet, it is the right thing to do.
In less dramatic circumstances, good people withhold the truth for other sound reasons, as well: When honesty would wound or deeply hurt someone, when denial is the only way to protect a confidence given to another person, when telling the truth will greatly embarrass someone but has little other consequence.
When we fib or withhold the truth to protect other people and not ourselves, we truly value relationships and take the high ground. Good people don’t make a habit of deception to protect others, nor do they believe there is never a good reason to withhold the truth.
Of course, the more candid and forthright we can be in our relationships, the stronger the long-term connection we create. Honesty matters and it garners respect, trust, and credibility in the eyes of others.
Dishonest relationships don’t endure or prosper over the long run. Yet, on occasion, the only way to do the right thing in a relationship is to deceive others or withhold the truth. Relationships are complex and occasionally require small doses of dishonesty to safeguard others from harm or hurt.
Protecting others is a noble ideal.