Don’t tell them the whole truth…REALLY???

end of an era

by Kenneth Justice

~ The other day at coffee I found myself in an awkward situation. The regulars and I at the particular café I was at have been privy to the fact that this one particular young man comes into the café all the time with the various women he is out on a date with…..the only problem is that he’s had a ‘steady’ girlfriend living with him for the past three years.

Thus, this serial cheater is quite open with everyone at the coffee shop about his indiscretions and when people have tried to confront him about it he just laughs it off. So yesterday….after seeing this guy with many different girls over the past year, he brought in the ‘real’ girlfriend………things got even more awkward when he and the girlfriend sat down at my table to chit chat.

Everything in me wanted to tell the young woman that her boyfriend was nothing more than a cheating bag of s*** but I bit my tongue…….this was my first time meeting the girlfriend and the guy is really nothing more than an acquaintance  of mine….its simply not my place to get involved in their personal business.

So my boyfriend is telling me all the time about this café and all the interesting people that hang out here” she said, “I bet you see some pretty crazy things around here, huh?” she asked

So was that my window to say, ‘Sweetheart, a crazy thing is occurring right now; I’m sitting with the girlfriend of this dude who can’t keep his pants on around every woman he meets!”

But I remained silent. I didn’t tell the girlfriend about what her boyfriend was really like. When I was younger I tried telling a friend of mine that I caught his girlfriend cheating on him and my friend ended up resenting me for telling him the truth……..ever since that experience I’ve been very cautious about opening my mouth about delicate subjects such as infidelity.

Was I wrong? Is it my place to butt into the business of other people who aren’t even my ‘friends’? Should I be the waking voice of ‘truth’ who tells girlfriends when their boyfriends are cheating?

There have been a lot of times in my life where ‘omitting the truth’ is the course I chose. Sometimes I have omitted to the truth in order to protect people’s privacy, other times I have omitted the truth to spare people embarrassment.

Some people, as Jack Nicholson put it, “Can’t handle the truth“.

Many years ago, in another life, I told the Pastor of my friend’s church that his daughter was addicted to heroin. I thought I was ‘doing a good deed’ but the  Pastor wasn’t happy about me coming to him at all. You see, it never dawned on me that the Pastor’s first impulse would be ‘fear’……he feared losing his job and income if the congregation found out about the daughter’s drug problem.

I was trying to do right by the young woman; after all she was barely out of puberty and hooked on a vicious drug…….but the Pastor didn’t give a damn and the entire situation ended up being one big nightmare for me.

I guess there are times in life where parents do not want to know what their children are doing. Perhaps I was totally out of place for telling the father about his drug addict daughter….perhaps it was simply none of my business.

It’s not that some parents want to live in denial and pretend that their children are ‘perfect’….I think that they simply don’t want to have to deal with difficult situations. There are parents out there who would rather live without the knowledge of what their children are doing, ‘ignorance is bliss’.

Yesterday I read an article about bullying and in many ways that is another example of parents living in denial; because if your kid is a bully…why the bloody hell aren’t you doing something about?

There are a lot of us who want to live lives totally blanketed in honesty at all times. But I’m not sure if that is the best way to live life. After all, if your friends always told you what they were thinking you may not like to hear it,

—-) “Janet looks kinda fat today…I wonder if she ate too much over the weekend

—-) “Dude, David is as boring as ever, that guy tells the dumbest stories

—-) “Holy cow, every time Marsha looks away her husband starts checking out other woman!”

Just because the ‘truth’ is that people think those kind of things….it doesn’t mean those things should be said out loud…..sometimes omitting the truth is the best course of action. Sometimes biting our tongue is the best way to love others….even though it means we don’t tell the ‘whole story’.

Many people don’t agree with me on this. I have one particular friend who believes blatant honesty should always be the rule of thumb no matter how much it hurts someone or how bad the outcome could end up being.

But for me, ‘blatant honesty’ doesn’t sound very loving…does it? I mean, its one thing to be honest….its another thing to be ‘blatantly honest’. Perhaps its merely an issue of semantics, but I personally tend to believe that sometimes the best course of action is to ‘delicately‘ tell someone the truth; always being gentle in our words and approach….and other times the best choice is to bite our tongue.

I think I’ll have another cup of coffee and think about this a little longer…




Categories: relationships

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131 replies

  1. I personally prefer that people be brutally honest with me but not everyone feels that way. Some people like the bubble they have created.

  2. I don’t agree with you in these examples. You may be the only person that can provide that person with the information they need to live safely. That woman may be being exposed to deadly STD’s. If the next time he sits down to chit chat with you without her, I would say to him that she needs to know. At least he will think twice about being blatant. I bet he won’t come chit chat again.
    I had an aid in my High School class that I adored. When she had some pills in a bag that she threw out in my trash can, I took them to the nurse. She eventually was so strung out she needed to enter a treatment center. Delicate just wouldn’t have helped her survive with both parents in jail for drug dealing.

    • Ellen,

      I can’t disagree with you…..situations like this are simply very difficult; I said in a previous comment that because Id never met the girlfriend before I had no idea of knowing whether she was emotionally strong enough to have me (a stranger) tell her what is going on….for some people that kind of interaction could be very difficult to handle….

  3. I think it does depend on the situation. I say I prefer honesty but there have been times lately when I’ve been told things I just couldn’t handle. I’d say the softly softly approach is probably the best way forward, as you say, while you work out just how much truth a person can take at that particular time…

    • “while you work out just how much truth a person can take at that particular time”

      Exactly! That was the one and only time I’d ever met the girlfriend so I had know way of knowing where she was at in life to know if she could even “handle” hearing the truth…perhaps telling her the truth would of done more harm than good….

    • Yes, it might have been a bit brutal…

  4. Hard questions. No easy answers.

  5. I think there has to be some basic level of relationship and accountability with another person before you can effectively share these kinds of truth.

    • Befell,

      Thank you…that’s the key right there; the guy is merely an “aquaintance” of mine…I simply don’t have a deep enough relationship with him…and I don’t even know the girlfriend at all….

  6. I would be incredibly grateful for the truth so that I didn’t end up with a man like that. The “girlfriend” will find out eventually and when she does I hope she doesn’t have children and end up one more single mother, struggling to make ends meet because no one gave her the information she needed to make an informed decision. I would definitely want to know. This information might save her years of pain and suffering. But, that’s just how I feel about it. Maybe she does know he cheats and doesn’t care. Maybe she sees other guys. Who knows?

    • I think the emphasis I tried to make in the article is that the guy is only an “aquaintance” of mine…and that was the first time I’d ever met the girlfriend….so I simply don’t have enough knowledge regarding their relationship to know if it’s my place to say something….perhaps the girlfriend “knows” but turns a blind eye and doesn’t want to hear about it; I’ve actually known of people in that kind of situation before….

  7. I rather not bite my tongue. hurts to much.i do however try to bring it is a delicately as possible as you said.
    One way of my reasoning is that if we all would be honest there is no room for lies. or hiding. That said you end up being honest but not rude or blatant.
    And to be honest it does not matter what they think of me as long as I know I am speaking the truth.
    The pastor though in fear for loosing a job could have taken that opportunity to show how he cares about others instead of himself. Now what truth does one prefer. or better which one would have made him feel better as a person. Because that we all pursue to be a better person. starts with excepting the truth.

  8. To thyself be true. And, always with love. Those two things for me decide what I should do. I figure out if it is going to go against my conscience if I don’t say something (or harm someone if I do), then usually pray about it and give it my best guess. Most of the time, for me, it has to do with delivery–and it sounds like you strive to do the same. Doing the “right” thing, is often not what the world wants, but then, I set it before my Savior, and, look at how others responded to him when they didn’t want to hear what he said.


    • Well said Dana,

      Many people think that every situation in life is an “open and shut case”…as though there is always a simple straightforward choice we have before us…but sometimes, situations are much more complex;

      —) was the girlfriend emotionally strong enough for me (a stranger) to “tell her the truth”?
      —) would she have “wanted” me to to tell her the truth ?
      —) would she have even believed me (a stranger) ?

      I don’t know the answers to any of those questions….cuz I simply don’t know her at all…we only chit chatted for ten minutes or so…..

      The way I often look at situations like this is not “what would I want someone to say/do towards me….but what would “they” want…..because everyone is not like me….we are all so different and the key for me is to figure out where someone else is “coming from”…..

      For some people they might think I’m contradicting the golden rule…but I’m not; because ultimately the golden rule is about treating others with love; and in love I would want others to consider where I’m coming from, what kind of language I understand best………learning the language of other people is often the biggest hurdle in connecting and communicating with others……

  9. I just thought of a good name for your blog. Culture Monk – Listening to the Listener 😀

  10. After all a truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful. We are meant to buy the truth and not to sell it (including wisdom, instruction and insight). An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.

    I believe you did the right thing though, because it was not your place to butt in. The only thing that we must not do is lie. We may not speak the whole truth depending on how close we are to the person and how well they will be able to handle the truth.

    Don’t rebuke a mocker or he’ll hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Some find it difficult to accept the truth because they can be stubborn and close-minded in some sense. They don’t want to face the pain. I wouldn’t either, that is if I didn’t have Christ with me.

    It’s difficult for someone who hasn’t accepted Christ whole-heartedly and understand His values. As Christ adjusts his actions (e.g. throwing out moneychangers from the temple and being gentle with the woman caught in adultery), we must adjust to those we want to help. As Paul puts it, if one says ‘I have the right to do anything’, but not everything is beneficial nor constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

    By the way thanks for sharing your experiences in the cafe! 🙂

    • It’s interesting to me how varied the response is among people as to whether or not the woman should have been told…..ultimately every situation is definitley unique and has different angles tha should be considered

  11. Truth will set us free, but if everyone would be honest we would never known the lie, right?
    I think I can handle the truth, so don’t waste my time and screw my life. Lol
    I agree that situation, time, place and connection to the victim matters a lot.
    The Pastor should of appreciated your concern about his daughter, but I guess he felt that wasn’t your problem or you were too nosy. ( you did the right thing) for your serial cheater needs a lesson, maybe his girlfriends were playing the same game.( can’t stand cheaters)
    If I keep something to my self I’ll share it with my special one, want to know a secret, you must keep it! 😀

    • I agree with all you said……and your right; the pastor thought I was being nosy but I felt that a fifteen year old doing drugs….well, seems like the parents needed to be told

  12. I agree that I don’t like “blatant” or brutal honest… to me that’s just an excuse to be mean and that’s not okay either. I think there’s always a way to be honest with someone without intentionally hurting feelings. Truth may hurt as is, why make it worse? It may not be your place to tell that girl what you know because you’re only an acquaintance but is it really right to allow this young lady to continue to waste her time on a schmuck? That is one instance in which I probably wouldn’t say anything either… but only because the guy is just an acquaintance, but I struggle a lot with this one. My personal moral code would just not allow me to sit there. Once he sat down with his girlfriend and introduced us, I’d probably come up with an excuse to leave… I may not tell her the truth but I sure as hell don’t have to subject myself to feeling like an a**hole by sitting there either (not that I’m calling you names Kenneth lol – just my thought on how I’d feel about it if it had been me). If you ask me, if you had told the truth – the way I see it, it’s just karma on his ass for being such a loser. Yep, he’d be mad but guess what, he would have done it to himself, NOT you (maybe in the literal but not really). There are many parents who are in denial and refuse to see the truth about their kids and they have no idea how much harm they really do when they do that. It really infuriates me. I’m all for loving your kids and thinking the best of them, but when it gets to the point where you defend a kid for being a bully that ultimately leads to another kid’s death… no that’s not okay. Or denial of a nasty drug habit that leads to the kid’s death… no that’s not okay. I know there is still some etiquette to be used when it comes to telling the truth but ultimately, I’d rather err on the side of truth (not brutal mind you unless it’s like that cheating bum you’ve described… he has it coming if you ask me). Actually, it just came to me LOL I know how I might have handled it – he’d introduce us and I’d say… oh really? I thought that woman you were with last week was your girlfriend… you were all kissy and snuggly then. Oh no wait, I confused her with that third woman you were with two weeks ago, also all cuddly and making out with. My mistake! 🙂 I’m never evil or anything… ever. *evil grin*

    • Love your comments Jen, you being a journalist; you may actually be privy to a lot of information that the average person in your city doesn’t know about…but you don’t print everything because, well….you can’t always spill all the dirty laundry on people

    • Yes well that’s different Kenneth – there tends to be a thing called a lawsuit involved for that LOL. Without something being absolute fact, it can be construed as heresy, at least for those considered private citizens. Public figures have to just put up with that crap or at least more of it because they’re public figures. Go figure. 🙂 Yes, sadly I am privy to a lot of information that I don’t really want to know most of the time and no I don’t print it namely because none of it has anything to do with what I’m actually trying to do.

  13. you gotta know when to hold them . . . and know when to fold them. . .

    For me, if I have to force the issue past my intuition, I stop forcing . . .

  14. I think the general consensus, and I am going to agree here…tell the truth. Not about if someone looks a little fat today. But, ask yourself this…would you want to know? Of course, put it delicately. Don’t do it out of malice. But it seems to me your only conflict is with how people respond and how it always falls back on you. That’s not the real issue. The first stage of grievance is denial and anger. So that will most likely be first reactions. Also, people don’t like the righteous. People don’t like another person putting up a mirror in their face and seeing ugly. Yes maybe they do want to live in a bubble world. So they will do what they want with the info and all that matters is you tried to help.
    In some form this was all abuse. The parent’s abuse of neglect and the emotional abuse of a “loving partner” all in which very likely will result in the destruction of another human being. You merely have to feel a slight whiplash which you will definitely survive.
    If it’s a friend you go to the friend who is doing wrong first and let him know you don’t support it and give him the chance to be honest. If it’s an acquaintance “she” may believe a stranger first. A lot of people will actually believe a stranger than their own family.
    It’s right to tell the truth, never wrong, in matters of great importance. You knew it in your gut and tried to suppress it. Any “destruction” you may cause is the least of what destruction will acquire. Karma will protect you. If you lose a friend or two along the way…were they really your friend to begin with? What are you trying to protect here?

  15. I believe you did the right thing by not saying anything in this situation. I agree with bwdell that there has to be some type of relationship before exposing that kind of painful truth to someone. I read an article by someone from the UK who said he doesn’t understand why Americans can’t be blunt with their feelings. If we want to tell someone we don’t like their shirt, we sugar coat it or more often, lie. There are other cultures where they just come out and say how they feel and there are no hard feelings. They accept the other person’s opinion and either act on it or disagree. Americans get bent out of shape if it’s not presented politely. I wish I understood why. It would make returning gifts at xmas time more guilt free. 🙂

    • Thank you….a lot of readers seem to think that I should of told the young woman…..but perhaps I failed in the article at making the emphasis on how “little” I knew these two people…..

  16. I often make the mistake of saying everything I am thinking. Even though being honest is what I can’t stop, I need to consider whether any good can come from knowing the truth.

  17. You did the right thing. That guys sin will catch up with him and you’ll be in a position to tell him about Jesus. To bad another of his girls didn’t walk in while they were there.

    • The saga of these two people is actually quite a bit deeper……and in a future article I’m sure I’ll tell about another time when he brought his girlfriend in and one of the girls he cheats with happened to be there at the same time……..

  18. To tell or not to tell? This could be a Seinfeld episode 🙂

  19. There is, unfortunately, no clear cut answer, just as you said. How you respond, when you respond, and where you respond are all very much dependent upon the person and situation. I would say, however, that a public place, such as a coffee shop, would not be good choice for pointing out the truth to anyone unless there was a very pressing need to do so. In most cases, privacy would be the number one priority.

  20. I like the angles you address this issue with – it is such as sensitive area!! And we have seen people react angry defensively (like the pastor you noted that was fearful of losing his income and support). I say go with the truth as well, and to speak up if the Holy Spirit is telling one to do so – but to also know that it does come with backlash – and last summer we heard some well-meaning Christians accuse a “truth deliverer” of not having enough trust developed with someone to be “that” open and honest – huh? But we live in a culture where people need open and honest advice, but sadly we do not leave open the trust lines to have this kind of sharing happen – or worse – some circles only gossip ins tea dog going straight to someone. I could write a mini book about some of the things you touch upon here – but the quote that came to mind when you shared this was “don’t kill the messenger” – lol

    • “don’t kill the messenger” love it! Lol wish I had thought of that when I wrote the article (actually this particular article I wrote nearly a six months ago……..I wanted to wait until I could publish it at a time when the privacy of the people involved would be entirely protected)

    • I think the corresponding Turkish proverb is: “Tell the truth, with one foot in the stirrup.”

      To unpack the implications a little bit, that means:
      1 – You have a duty to tell the truth;
      2 – You have a duty to protect your own safety;
      3 – Since truth-tellers are often physically attacked, you have to prepare a quick getaway *before* telling the truth.

      Telling the truth is serious business, like calling 911. If you call 911, you can expect legal troubles, even if you did nothing wrong.

  21. I don’t think honesty needs to be brutal, but I do think when it is something that affects a life to the degree that habitual infidelity can do it is necessary to be honest. After all, we don’t live in an innocent era where only hearts can be broken —bodies are “broken” these days by STD like herpes and AIDS.

    Personally, I don’t consider physical fidelity the earmark of a good relationship; but since we live in an age of infections that can kill? I do consider honesty about the risks a primary need.

    Biting your tongue to not tell a friend who thinks he sounds like John Lennon when he actually sounds like Bob Dylan is one thing; or smiling with teeth in tongue to tell a woman the dress she is delighted in is lovely even if it is not is one thing. Biting your tongue when a young woman could be at physical risk from STDs is another thing entirely. And further? It is a permissive attitude about a pervasive male attitude of sexual conquest that makes women into mere place markers on a chessboard made of beds.

  22. Truth is only true to the one telling.

  23. I respect your decision, but I also think too many people are unwilling to get involved. If I were the girlfriend, I would want to know even if the truth hurt, in the long run I would be better off for knowing.

    • It’s really interesting how varied the response has been as to whether or not the woman should …I think it all comes down to people being at different places in life and having different perspectives

  24. A person advising me once suggested that I should consider whether or not the “truth” I wanted to tell would help or not.

    In this case, your acquaintance put you and everyone else in a very difficult situation – and I would even go further and suggest that he knew what he was doing. He made his bed, and he can lay in it.

    As for upsetting his “girlfriend” – of course she would be upset upon hearing this news. But she could waste another 3 years of her life with this loser and in hindsight, might appreciate knowing, upsetting as it was.

    Not to say that anyone should have said anything right there and then,….

    Or one could have said, “Did you color your hair? Because, didn’t you (looking at the guy) come in here yesterday with a blonde? Yeah, I am pretty sure you did.”

    Take care and thanks again for the thoughtful discussions.


  25. ‘Sweetheart, a crazy thing is occurring right now; I’m sitting with the girlfriend of this dude who can’t keep his pants on around every woman he meets!” I almost spit my coffee after reading this, Kenneth. 😀 LOL

    I agree treading lightly is the way to go. I often find myself changing the subject for their benefit, especially when I feel they aren’t ready for bad news. I’ll spill it if pushed. I know myself all too well. I guess I don’t know if I’d rather they were up front with me or not. Most days, I suppose I’d like to take the news rather than be the one someone feels sorry for or questions. Better to deal with it up front, I’d say for me personally.

  26. Such an interesting topic. I consider myself an honest person, meaning that I value it and can’t stand to be lied to or have someone shade the truth. It’s been something my husband and I have had to work on in our marriage because he wasn’t raised with the same ideas about honesty. I’m pretty good at figuring out when someone is lying to me though, and asking if it’s important. So I’m not sure I feel too sorry for the woman in your story- she must know that something is up and chooses to stay with him anyway.

    The strange thing is, for all my “honesty”, I never tell people outside my immediate family things if I suspect they might be hurt or offended. I’m deeply uncomfortable with that and most of the people I’ve known like that are a little mean. So I value kindness more than honesty, at least with friends and acquaintances.

    • Great comments, once I publish the article that is a follow up to this one, it will become very apparent that u were right; the woman did suspect her boyfriend was cheating…

  27. Kenneth, does this man show any physical attentions to any of these women while having his coffee?

  28. Ok. This is important because . . he may be someone who wants to look like he has these women. When what really happens is … nothing.

    • There is definitly more to the story….at the time I wrote this particular article (nearly six months ago) I didn’t have the whole picture regarding what was going on….but as time went on more came out…..

    • “Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.” F. Scott Fitzgerald ~ Thank you for having me on your blog. Really enjoyed chatting with Audrey. Best wishes to you and yours for the Christmas season Kenneth 😉

  29. I am bi-polar and there is no filter between my brain and my mouth. I have found out the hard way that people don’t want to hear the truth. I knew my sister-in-law was cheating on him and didn’t tell him because he would have gotten mad at me. I slow up on telling the truth when I’m on medicine.

    • That’s a very interesting perspective; the medicine played a part in your interaction with them…..

    • Yes. Medicine helps me keep my mouth shut and not tell them the truth. Before I couldn’t do that. I would tell the truth to my family, friends and co-workers and bosses. That did not go over well.

    • I deal with bipolar too, and I sometimes have a hard time being blunt.

      I’m reluctant to say if my meds make a difference in precisely the same way– but there are a few I’m taking for chronic pain that do overlap.

    • Yeah, I’m on the same page with you there. Meds affect everyone differently. My doc just kept upping the dose until I shut up. Lol. (he doesn’t know, I lowered them on my own.)

    • Totally hear you… you probably know that you’re far from being the only one that does that. Me, I’m a bit repressed, so I used to beg for med changes– until I got tired of the deadly side effects. When I got to what worked, I said things like, “No more, don’t mess” or “Yeah, I don’t feel like playing the odds for tardive dyskinesia” (permanent facial spasms).

    • I know!! If I took the recommended dose, I can’t think clearly or sharpely. It really effects my writing. I sit on the couch and don’t give a rat’s potu if the sun shines or it doesn’t. I look at the house that needs cleaning, but don’t do anything. That was existing not living. So I took it down a level.

  30. A tough situation to be in for sure. I’m not sure I would want to be told…but, I’m sure on some level she knows, we women tend to know. I wonder, maybe they have an “open” relationship? I don’t think I would have told her…if she were a friend, then yes.

  31. Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away I ran into my brother-in-law (BIL) with another woman. Because I charge in where angels fear to tread it got ugly fast. If not for my SO’s intervention I’d have clobbered my BIL right in the middle of the fancy restaurant. Instead I humiliated him in pubic as the horrified woman took off and later suggested removing certain of his body parts if I ever found him with another woman again. (Did I ever mention I had a terrible temper when I was younger?)

    I never told my sister at the time. Why? Because she would never have believed me. It wasn’t until long after the marriage was over that I mentioned anything. She asked why I didn’t tell her. I replied that she was trapped – she had two small children and one on the way. She ran his business and that was their only income. She was “born again” and would not have considered leaving him – and I knew she would have believed him over me. She thought about it and said that I was right – all things being equal it would have made things worse rather than better. She was lucky to get out with her life as it was.

    That being said, in most (but not all) cases, individuals tend to know something is off kilter about the relationship and chose to close their eyes to it.

    My careers have been ones where information given out is on a “need to know” basis. You did not know this gal, nor her actual relationship with her boyfriend. She might not have been in a situation where she could leave safely or easily. Its easy to want to confront bad behavior when we see it, however, we are rarely privy to all the ins and outs of what’s going on in that person’s life. If I actually knew the man well it would be him I’d be addressing, but not someone at a coffee house or cafe.

  32. Someone in my earlier life had one word for these moral dilemmas. Jurisdiction. Truth might be opinion might be belief might help might not might help or harm. Jurisdiction.
    Think in that sense I would chat to the fella. He is within my jurisdiction their relationship is not.

  33. If you don’t feel right about not revealing something, but don’t want to get killed as the messenger, there’s always the anonymous letter.

  34. Always a moral conundrum. Is honesty the best policy? Generally, I’ll keep my mouth shut unless I am asked directly, then I will be cautiously honest. It’s scary, though. Codes of silence allow bad things to go on, but speaking out can jeopardize your personal well-being. I struggle with this every day concerning trauma that a loved one endured.

  35. Kenneth,
    I have to respond to this….
    I can see the position you are trying to point out…yet I offer the what if’s..
    What if the young lady who’s boyfriend is quite busy, ends up with a disease..? And we are not just talking venereal diseases…we are talking about profound diseases, which can be transmitted sexually…do you honestly believe..she would not want to know her boyfriend was cheating on her…how is this loving to keep it a secret…
    Think for a moment..when she finds out..and she will..and she knew others knew and no one had the grace to tell her…?…I would not want to be anywhere close to her when this is revealed….
    How is it loving to not tell someone something that is doing damage to them…? One does not have to be vicious in their can be done in a very kind manner….and no one is going to like what they one…
    What if the young lady who is doing heroin…and dies…? And then her father finds out…? What then…and if he is more concerned about losing his position ..oh my what will people think…we see what his god is…and the value of his own child is based on…what she does right…
    One of the most loving acts….(and this is not assumed from response)…is to tell another of something which is damaging them…and then to be with them as they attempt to get from the deep end of the pool to the the end of the pool where they can stand….
    We make love this fairytale…and sparklers…
    Love is in the trenches…
    and in truth it offends…especially when we make it into this parade float..all tissue paper and no substance…
    We keep ourselves safe….
    And then when another is hurt..finds out the truth…we silence them and make the lovely statement of…”well you should have known better…”
    Maybe if someone had spoken up…they would have known better…

    • all of your ‘what if’s’ are very true… of the things that makes the situation I was describing difficult is understanding where the people are coming from; since I was trained as a counselor; I realize that some people are not at a place to hear certain ‘truths’…and since I didn’t know the young woman I could have no idea what effect telling her the truth would have on her…..I didn’t know what her emotional and psychological state was; I know of one story where someone was told the truth about their husband’s infidelity and she committed suicide… that’s obviously an extreme example (and probably VERY rare) but it points out how sensitive I try to be in understanding where people are coming from.

  36. The cheating thing is tough, though; that always has a way of blowing up in the face of the person that tells the party being cheated on. I just can’t understand why he wouldn’t leave if he didn’t want to be faithful to her. Cheating just makes a bad situation a million times worse! Could he at least have been honest with himself and decide not to be in a relationship? Clearly, the guy isn’t into being committed… or at least not to the girl he’s supposedly in a relationship with!

  37. What a weird scenario to end up in. I would have played dumb and treated her just like another one day stand….that might have helped her understand what was going on….you know asking if they had just met…perhaps asking where the girls he was with yesterday had gone. You said you had never met her before so how did you know this was his long term girlfriend.
    I’m a very open person so no way I could have colluded with this creep!

  38. Too little time to read all the comments, but to be honest, I think you should keep quiet on this one.

    People presume too much.

    1. This young guy could have many female friends.
    2. He could have been doing an unusual interview (of females) for some kind of job.
    3. He could have been getting together with his live-in girlfriend’ friends trying to arrange some sort of surprise party for his girlfriend. He might kiss & hug all his girlfriend’s female friends as a way of greeting.
    4. He could be just one of those people who is very tactile (assuming he gave the girls arm/eye contact).

    There could have been a whole host of reasons for this young guy bringing lots of different girls to the cafe.

    Where I used to work many years ago, males & female colleagues would often have coffee to discuss something and I happen to know sometimes it ‘looked’ like they were on intimate terms. Unless you are a close friend of this young guy, I say everyone should mind their own business.

  39. In both of your examples, I think you made the most reasonable decisions. Chances are, the girlfriend might be more apt to come by the coffee shop more often now that she has been introduced there which could allow for connections to be made and for the truth to open up more naturally. Sometimes it’s important to communicate the truth in a more upfront manner, other times a more patient approach can allow the truth to seep out in a more manageable way.

    And another thought – Hell follows sin until forgiveness is sought. The guy’s selfish choices are bound to fill more and more baggage until he isn’t able to lug it all around anymore. He might see it as rather rude for you to open up his luggage and toss it about. Soon enough his luggage will spill over on its own and no one will be to blame but himself. If anything, it would be more appropriate to show concern for the amount of luggage he is carrying in hopes that he will realize that it would be wise for him to lighten his own load.

    • >Sometimes it’s important to communicate the truth in a more upfront manner, other times a more patient approach can allow the truth to seep out in a more manageable way.

      In that vein, it’s important to pick your battles. Prioritize the most important task first.

      Each one of us has limited resources.

      If I choose to do my duty of telling the truth by exposing fraud at a local bank, that’s going to eat up all my resources. I’ll probably be emotionally, financially, and mentally exhausted after I blow the whistle on that.

      On the other hand, if I just have to tell a sloppy drunk, “Nobody likes because you smell like vomit all the time, and we’re afraid you’re going to drunk-drive into us and kill us when we’re walking on the sidewalk,” – well, that’s pretty easy. I could tell that kind of truth three times a day, and still have enough energy left over to wash some dishes.

  40. Yesterday I read an article about bullying and in many ways that is another example of parents living in denial; because if your kid is a bully…why the bloody hell aren’t you doing something about it?

    Sometimes, the parents are still bullies themselves. Some are obvious– some time back, we had a local news segment about two children slugging it out while at least one of their parents was shouting encouragement. Some are not; I can’t remember where I read this but I remember a woman talking to the parent of a bully who condoned his child’s behavior, and to her reckoning, was probably just as bad as a child himself.

    On another subject, Kenneth, have you heard of Robert Altemeyer and his book The Authoritarians? I read it a few years back, and thought of it reading many of your posts, since you have touched on religious authoritarianism quite a bit. Apparently Altemeyer is still adding material.

    • “Sometimes, the parents are still bullies themselves”

      makes me think of Biff from back to the future….his mom was the bully if I remember correctly 😉

      I had to use altemeyer’s book as a reference for an essay I wrote in college…Im pretty sure I didn’t read the whole thing but I got the jist of it 🙂 (I’ve read a ton of books with similar constructs)

  41. Oops, I keep forgetting comments with links get sent right to moderation status.

    There are a lot of us who want to live lives totally blanketed in honesty at all times. But I’m not sure if that is the best way to live life.

    What I was always told is that honesty should not give way to cruelty, or other behavior that might seem unkind. At least, I think it would be when such “honesty” is delivered directly to someone’s face– wouldn’t the examples you bulleted be considered backbiting, or gossip?

    If Jesus stated that the law (the five books of Moses) and the prophets (other books of the Old Testament, not including chronological books) hang on the two great commandments– loving God with your whole being (I’m paraphrasing) and loving your neighbor as you do yourself– shouldn’t that take precedence? Someone in your examples might say, “I’m not bearing false witness– it’s totally true,” but could they say, “I am loving God, myself, and my fellow human beings as I say such things”? I would say no, they wouldn’t be.

    • No prob Jaklumen you can post any links you want…I approve all your links dude, its just a matter of when i log onto my computer 🙂 (If I could get a present from Santa this year it would be a feature on my blog that allows me to tell my dashboard which readers can automatically post links that aren’t moderated 😉 )

    • That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

  42. I totally agree with you. Not everyone is designed to Handle truth and I agree in most situations even i find it better to Omit some hard facts, I am not encouraging Lying, All i am saying is Sometimes it is really best to let truth find its own way to unveil itself….

  43. I think the best policy is to avoid people like this”acquaintance” of yours. Some people are toxic and this man might be just an instance of such a character. I would refuse to engage with him and his poor girlfriend. I do understand your hesitancy to tell her about the infidelity, just not your place. But that doesn’t mean you can’t let this guy know you disapprove of him by ignoring him and/or telling him you’d rather not interact with him!

  44. Kenneth- Thanks for posting on this topic. You obviously tapped a nerve here.

    In reading all the comments, most seem to fall on a black or white, tell/don’t tell line. But what about the third rail that says, “don’t involve me in your deception?”

    You may not have wanted to tell the girlfriend anything because of what Paulfg called “jurisdiction” (good word, I agree) but at the same time sitting there in a conversation seems to make you complicit in the lie and the boyfriend gets to feel smug that you won’t out him either. That gives the rule-breaker too much comfort.

    To me, the middle ground says, I may not tell your story today, but you don’t get to have my help in pulling this one over on this lady. When they approached to sit down, a look to him and your (now famous) “Really??? I hope you’ll excuse me, I was just leaving.” No further explanation from you is necessary- HE is the one who has to explain what that was all about. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t, but the lie is on him then.

    Tough call on this one. Hopefully the opportunity comes to the girlfriend (real one) to get the truth.

  45. I’m probably more like your blatantly honest friend, depending on the situation. You are right that saying things that aren’t really your business can cause more harm than good. For that reason, I would give a lot of thought about saying anything. For example, I had a bunch of friends that got married the summer after college graduation. I doubt half of them will be together for a decade (but I would like to be proven wrong as I don’t wish them any pain). I did a lot of thinking on whether or not I should say anything. In 10 years, will they be saying “I wish someone would have told me?”

    The deciding factor ending up being a discussion with my parents. They said they went through the same thing at my age and that there’s nothing you can do. They told me stories of their friends who dared tell another friend they shouldn’t get married. It destroyed the friendship and made no difference in the friend’s decision to marry (and eventually divorce). So, I decided no good would come from that confrontation.

    Then there are stories like the one you told about the Pastor’s daughter. Would he rather stay in the dark until she dies of an overdose? Maybe his initial reaction is fear, but wouldn’t a loving father want to know something like that so he can take action. If she dies, will he wonder why no one ever told him? It sounds like I’m wrong in this case, but I feel like the likelihood of a positive outcome to the confrontation would be worth it.

    • ” For example, I had a bunch of friends that got married the summer after college graduation. I doubt half of them will be together for a decade (but I would like to be proven wrong as I don’t wish them any pain). I did a lot of thinking on whether or not I should say anything. In 10 years, will they be saying “I wish someone would have told me?” ”

      Tk, I’m glad you mentioned this. I think the people who say we should always be ‘blatantly honest’ forget about examples like that of people getting married. I had one friend who got married at age 23 who I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt would get divorced..but did I say anything; nope. Because he would have hated me and resented me for telling him not to get married……..and no matter what I would have said he was going to get married no matter what… would have been pointless for me to have said anything.

  46. I wish there was a good answer to this. If one values the truth above all else (including happiness) then the way is clear. If one is trying to help, then it is unclear. I think it’s a myth that somehow the truth will magically make lives better. More often than not, it will destroy relationships and leave no one better off.

    Very often, people who “want to hear the truth” really want to be lied to while being assured that these comforting lies are the truth.

  47. I’ve experienced a similar situation, except it was my best friend and her cheating boyfriend. I told her the truth and we are no longer friends. I still stand by my choice to tell her, it was the right thing to do. Sometimes people don’t want to know the truth. I believe there are right and wrong times to tell the truth and generally a person knows the difference when dealing with loved ones, it’s the friends and acquaintances where the lines blur.

    • Ryetzer,

      it sounds like you were strong enough to weather the storm of losing the friendship….

    • It was hard but it happened at a time when I was cleaning all the unhealthy thoughts, choices and relationships from my life. Sometimes doing the right thing is not beneficial in the short run but it all works out in the long run. Life balances out.

    • I had a similar experience with a friend years ago as the one you described….well I ended up not saying anything to him and keeping silent….it didn’t really matter because after being super close friends for years he ended up dropping out of my life later on as he pursued a different life altogether….so maybe it’s a good thing u said something, cuz even if you hadn’t the circumstances today might still be the same

  48. I once told a girlfriend that her boyfriend was lying and cheating on her. I knew it for a fact, straight from his mouth. She didnt believe me and he conned his way out of it. She didnt appreciate me telling her. I think I did the right thing and I’d do it again, for someone else because I would want the info. Its up to them what they do with it.

  49. I think tact is necessary and we don’t always have to say everything that pops into our head. Some people call it blatant honesty, most times I call it lack of tact and a blatant disregard of another person’s feelings. However in the things that matter I think it’s important. The guy you are talking about could be bringing home STD’s to his girlfriend … That she has a right to know.. If she chooses not to believe it at least she was given the choice.. 🙂 Thanks for opening up the debate 🙂

  50. Difficult subject, brought in the perfect way .. and yes, most people cannot handle the truth — but if we are afraid of their reaction, the we act out of fear too, isn’t it?

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