Lies of Omission: Choosing the Wrong Things to Share

a closeup of a jigsaw puzzle that is missing a single piece
Image by KatieThebeau / CC BY

“I get really uncomfortable when I’m not telling somebody something,” CC says. “It’s a lie. A lie of omission.”

And it’s at that moment I realize that I’m a liar. That we all are.

Because we think in clusters and long strands of ideas. But we speak in single bits. Discrete nodes.

And there’s no way to catch it all before it slips away from us, let alone deliver that message wholesale to someone else.

So much is lost in the edit. And this loss isn’t moral or immoral. It’s inevitable.

Especially since we’re both writers. We make shapes from shadows, prop up old memories with bits from others. It all makes me wonder if the best we can do is tell the truth? Or if we’ll all have to settle for being the best, most efficient liars that we can?

Instead, I smile at him. Remark for the third time on how good and crunchy the Korean barbecue chicken is.

“Right?” CC says. He loses focus for a second and grabs my drink instead of his. In one smooth motion. Like a bear scooping up salmon from a stream.

“Hey, that’s my–”

But it’s too late. He can’t stand the taste of diet soda. His facial expression is amazing. Like a toddler tasting a lemon for the first time.

I laugh. “That’ll learn ya.”

Errors of Judgment, Choosing the Wrong Things to Share

While there are lies that are born of intentional deception, whose purpose is to mislead and manipulate, far more mistruths arise not from moral failings but from errors of judgment. Miscalculations. Leaving out something we would want to know and would find important.

When we lie by omission, we’ve made the wrong choice, not by leaving something out, but by choosing the wrong things to share. Because everything we say is painfully incomplete, inaccurate. In a sense, we are all liars.

And in my travels I’ve found that folks who make a big show of how they always tell it like it is or keep it real? Are some of the worst offenders. They view communication as simple, clearcut. And so they’re monstrously incompetent at it, and through their lack of skills and overconfidence, they end up lying more than most. Via omission or imprecision.

See Also: Real Cheating Is Not Honoring Social Reciprocity: Hypocrisy and Lopsided Consderation

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Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory

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