Some people feel it is better not to tell a person information that they feel would be hurtful to them. Is leaving information out considered lying and is that acceptable or an act that needs forgiveness?
This is an open ended question which has many variables.
When you say the information is hurtful, if it is gossip, that comes under the category of tale-bearing, or conveying gossip, which is clearly prohibited.
It is not lying to not tell everything one knows. Lying is when one distorts the facts, or says something which is untrue. When Rabbis eulogize, they are not obligated to tell everything about the deceased - every temper tantrum, every negligence, etc. It is not a lie. It is just being discreet about what one shares.
Perhaps you are referring to something that might be hurtful, but necessary for the person to know. This could cover a wide range, including that the person has bad breath, or their zipper is not closed, or something even more serious, such as that their partner is stealing from the company.
In such case, when you are sure of the facts, and the facts hurt, but at the same time are helpful, then it would be the right thing to convey in a respectful manner that eases the hurt but achieves the desired end result.
The best approach is to reverse roles, to assume that you are the other person, and to ask yourself - would I want to know? If thre answer is a clear "no," then not telling is probably the correct approach. It is not lying, and therefore in no need for any forgiveness.
All this comes under the vitally important directive to "love your fellow as you love yourself." Behave to them the way you want others to behave toward you.
Most interesting is the fact that the Torah never precludes lying per se. Rather, it commands us to distance ourselves from falsity (Exodus 23:7). So while there is an explicit law against lying for personal gain (Leviticus 19:11) or as a witness (Exodus20:14), there is no law forbidding lying universally. That is to say, lying for good reason is not only justifiable, but meritorious. Compare this view with the categorical imperative of the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant. On Kant’s view, if lying is forbidden, it is forbidden under any circumstance. But we can imagine circumstances in which lying would be ethical. Suppose a (polite) serial killer came knocking on your door asking if your mother was home so that he could dispatch her. And let assume she was indeed at home. I think everyone would agree that if by lying you could forestall the death of your innocent mother, lying would be the right things to do. Kant would hold you accountable for violating an ethical standard but Judaism would not.
The Talmud (Ketubot 15b) records an early scholarly debate on whether or not it would be justified to offer a compliment to a bride, saying she is beautiful and pious, when she - by any factual standard – is not. Jewish law follows the view that says a compliment in this circumstance is precisely what is warranted. The Talmud (Ta’anit 20b) also tells us how a certain rabbi was condemnable because he truthfully told someone he was ugly. Telling the hurtful truth, it seems, is wrong. That conclusion is supported by another passage (Baba Metzia 23b-24a) that allows a scholar to lie if it means preserving humility, privacy, or protecting others from unfair solicitations. Moreover, there are a number of examples in Rabbinic literature (cf. e.g. Yevamot 65b) where lying to promote peace or create harmony – like complimenting the bride - is encouraged.
Rather than lying – even when it is authorized – some people prefer to be more evasive and simply omit some facts or engage in circumlocutions. This is understandable but entirely unnecessary. To be clear, Judaism does not give a blanket endorsement to lying. But our tradition has come to the pragmatic conclusion that an absolute insistence on truth-telling would not serve every social circumstance.
The simple answer to this question is yes and no. Leaving out information is lying, but if the information serves only to harm or hurt the individual, then it is an acceptable act that needs no forgiveness.
There are two Jewish principles at play here.The first is from the book of Leviticus when we are told not to place a stumbling block before the blind.While this is understood in its literal sense of don’t go and trip a blind person, it is also understood metaphorically. Basically one of the metaphorical understandings of this commandment is that we should not withhold information from someone if that information will help them in the long run (even if it is hurtful in the short run). Therefore if we know someone’s spouse is having an affair, it is our duty to tel that individual, even through it will be very hurtful because in the long run that person is in a broken marriage and does not know it. By having the hurtful information that person can then either work to repair the marriage or get out of an unhealthy situation.
The same goes for a business deal.Both sides need to be upfront and honest about all the pros and cons of a deal and not intentionally mislead the other.Furthermore third parties have the obligation of revealing information that could be harmful to either sides’ interests.Therefore in this type of situation as well, it is crucial not to withhold information.
The second principle that must be dealt with is the commandment to not embarrass each other. The ancient sages considered intentionally embarrassing someone to be equal to murder because of the shedding of blood (i.e. the blood all runs to the face when someone is embarrassed). Therefore if the information will only serve to shame or embarrass someone, with no chance of being helpful in the short run or long run, there is no sin committed by concealing the information. There may be social or professional situations where withholding information may avoid awkwardness or discomfort on the part of one or more parties. In those cases as long as there is no chance of the information coming out by accident, then there is no obligation to conceal the information.
Furthermore in the case of an elderly or sickly relative who has been given a poor prognosis by a doctor does not need to be told of that prognosis on the chance that the doctor is wrong.
In short, if the withholding of information ultimately causes someone harm or keeps them in a state of ignorance about crucial matters, then it is incumbent upon us as Jews to reveal the information (or have someone else do so). If the revealing of information will only cause embarrassment, discomfort or even harm without any benefit, then it is our obligation to hold the information and not share it. Of course there are many grey areas between those two points.
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