I like to be sincere. I know that lying is one of those sins that God doesn’t like, but every time someone asks my opinion, my answer is not what they expected. This happens a lot with my girlfriend…. It makes her start an argument and then start crying, claiming that I mistreat her and that I am crude….

My question is: When is it acceptable to lie so that other people won’t feel badly? How can I lie and then go on normally as if my opinion doesn’t really matter?

Dear Friend,

What an interesting question! You assume that there are only two choices: to lie or to hurt someone’s feelings. With either choice, you know you have done something wrong. And you want us to tell you which one of the two bad choices is more wrong than the other.

When we speak about right and wrong, there must be a standard that is used to measure whether an action is considered to be one or the other. For traffic violations, there are traffic laws which are the standard. For example, there is a specific law to determine how fast a driver can drive on a particular street. If he drives faster than the law allows, then he has broken the law and his action is wrong. For moral issues, the standard we use is the Bible. We measure all our actions against the teachings of the Bible to determine whether those actions are right or wrong.

You are correct in stating that God doesn’t like lying. In fact, one of the Ten Commandments states that we should not lie.1 However, another Biblical principle, commonly known as the Golden Rule, is that we should treat others as we want to be treated.2 Since we do not want others to hurt us with cruel words, then obviously we should not hurt them with cruel words. It follows, then, that lying and being cruel to others are sins, for both actions break God’s laws as found in the Bible. Is one of these sins worse than the other?

Breaking one of God’s laws is like falling off a cliff. You either fall, or you don’t. You can’t fall halfway. You break God’s law, or you don’t. Any sin, no matter whether it is thought of as an insignificant sin or as a very significant sin, is like falling off the cliff. And when we fall, there must be someone to “save” us. That is why Jesus Christ came to earth to die for our sins: so that he could save us from the punishment of breaking His laws. For God, one sin is the same as another: there are no degrees of sin. So lying and being cruel are both equally sinful.

However, there is an option for you that is not wrong. You don’t have to lie or be cruel, if you just keep your thoughts in your head and don’t speak them. You say you like to be sincere. It is not insincere to keep your mouth shut. When you are asked a difficult question, instead of answering it, respond with a question of your own (in a playful way). “Why do you want to know?” is a question that works well. After you have asked your question, change the subject completely. Always be ready with positive and kind things that you can say to change the subject. Practice thinking about and saying things that are complimentary to others and that are also true.3 The more that you express positive feelings and kind thoughts, the easier it will get.

Stay positive, using the kind and gentle approach!

Linda and Charles
1 Ex 20:16
2 Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31
3 Php 4:8