Is it sinful to act like you're okay even if you're really not?

A mother arrives home depressed after being fired from her job, but she puts on a fake smile and happy tone to keep her children from worrying. Does that count as lying? I’ve had similar experiences when I fail exams and I pretend to be fine even when I’m really sad so that I won’t catch unwanted attention and to prevent friends and family from feeling sad for me as well. Is that all right?

Interesting question. I would say, it depends.

On the one hand, people do not generally have a right to know what you’re feeling, so withholding this in a given case would not be sinful in itself. And most people don’t have a right to know about your misfortunes, either, so in most cases it would not be a sin to withhold this information from them.

On the other hand, if you are constantly withholding your emotions from, say, your spouse, I think that would be wrong, since you’d be putting up an obstacle to intimacy (though some people may be less culpable due to emotional defects in themselves).

And depending on the type of relationship, if the parties in question would be seriously affected by your misfortune (not just emotionally, but say, financially), or if they have responsibility for your welfare (e.g. parents) or some other right to know (e.g. an insurance agent), it would be wrong to withhold this information, at least indefinitely.

In general I don’t think children, especially young children, have a right to know the ins and outs of their parents’ doings and misfortunes. Parents, however, have rights to know things that concern the welfare of their children.

One more thing. If one is withholding information out of pride (e.g. you don’t want to look bad in front of others, because of an inordinate attachment to yourself), this would be at least venially sinful.

That’s a good question. Most of the time when people ask, “How are you doing?”, they’re not really interested in how you are doing; it’s just social “lubricating oil,” to which the expected response is, “Fine, and how are you?”, even if you’re feeling like a bug that’s just been stepped on. If you treat the question like a true question and start telling how things really are going, in about 10 seconds you’ll find yourself talking to the back of the person’s head.

I have a pretty good façade, but there are people in my life with whom I can be truthful when I feel like doo-doo, and they sympathize.

My wife and I used to go to one of those ecclesial communities where they stressed “Positive Affirmations” Once a guy asked us how we were doing and we told him how it ACTUALLY was rather than what he might have wanted to hear. It was that we felt like “a bug that had been stepped on” as he walked away he said “That’s great. Keep up the good work!”:shrug:

There is also the fact that actions affect emotions. If you act happy, your emotions will change. By acting happy, you may become happy. Mental attitude makes a difference in how you feel and how you interact with others.

If you act unhappy and depressed, your negative feelings will be reinforced.

Great question.

I agree that acting happy will often bring about genuine happiness, while focusing on and re-telling the tales of woe will make people more unhappy.

My question regarding this would be when and how often is it acceptable or right to tell close friends that you’re really having a hard day? When is it time to let someone share the burden and help you carry it?

For instance, I have a relative who is insatiable in re-telling stories of things that happened as much as 60 years ago. She seems to revel in her misery and her view of herself as a victim and martyr. (Truth is, she has garbage and heartache in her life like all of us, but she also has a beautiful home, financial security, decent health, the opportunity to travel, and many other blessings.)

By contrast, I have a friend who is going through HUGE difficulty in her life–questionable fidelity, large amounts of the marital bank account unaccounted for (missing), her husband twisting stories and making her look bad (he tried to suck me into it and nearly succeeded), divorce, her family supporting her ex-husband, her son going into a tailspin that has led to day programs, psychologists, refusing to go to school, and suicide attempts. :frowning: It’s been a nightmare. I appreciate that she can still smile and find some positives, and yet…I’m appalled at how much she has been trying to shoulder this burden alone. No one should have to carry so much weight by themselves.:frowning:

It is actually can be an act of good mortification to smile etc even if one is having a bad day…

It can be an act of love etc etc.

It can be morally acceptable for the mother who lost her job to withhold the truth, for a short time, for the good of her family. For example, she may avoid telling the whole story at the dinner table, so as not to interrupt the dinner ritual and worry her children. If her husband asks “How was your day?” she can answer truthfully “It was a hard day, honey. I’ll tell you all about it later.” If he has any sense, he will recognize that she is speaking in code and that he had better set that topic aside for now.

When the time is right, she should tell her family the truth. Then they will be able to act upon that truth, for example, by looking for ways to spend less money, helping her to find another job, and lending emotional support.

On the other hand, if she lies about it and hides the truth for a long time, they will go on spending money as usual and will not be able to help her find work, so causing harm to the family finances. Also, and more importantly, the deception will harm her relationships to her family. Even before the truth comes out, the deception will strain and erode her relationships. When the deception is discovered, the sense of trust will be broken.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a section on telling the truth (paragraphs 2464-2513, about the eighth commandment), and here are a few brief excerpts related to this situation:

"To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error."
(excerpt from #2483)

"The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims."
(excerpt from #2484)

"The good and safety of others, respect for privacy, and the common good are sufficient reasons for being silent about what ought not be known or for making use of a discreet language."
(excerpt from #2489)

Peace and Blessings to all.

When someone asks me “How are you?” I don’t ever say “I’m fine.” Because, usually I’m not. I might say “I’m ok.” Or something like that, or say that I’m about average. Most people understand that. It would only be the real bonehead who wouldn’t get the point and be ok with it.

As far as losing the job, why not call the husband and tell him on the phone so as to not talk in front of the kids, but still let him know what’s going on? Usually the man is at work too, right? So, give him a buzz and tell him. Telling the kids is another thing. A lot of it depends on their age. If they are teens, and suddenly mom is home all day, then obviously something’s up. Younger kids might not catch on at first. But they might get the hint as well. Being picked up by mom at school when they usually go to after school day care or whatever is going to tell them a lot. This isn’t a perfect world, so we have to make a lot of guesses on what’s right in a particular situation. Ok, we have God’s word to go by. And church teachings. But we still have to apply it to daily life. That’s the hard part.

My mother-in-law (who is 92) always answers that question with: “Perfect” Then she adds with a smile “But my standards aren’t very high” She makes those around her happy even if we all know that she suffers from back pain and other problems of a long hard life of caring for her family.

The world has an expression “Fake it till you make it!” Is this what you are talking about?

Another expression is “Attitude is Everything.” If you act happy, you’ll be happy. If you expect good things, they are more likely to come about. If you expect the worst, it’s likely to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.


I like it!

I don’t believe this for one blessed second, and it’s almost always trite enough to the ears to make me want to cringe.

As to the OP:

As some others have said, it can be a good act of penance or suffering, a prayer if you will, to smile even when you don’t feel like it. That smile helps others, and regardless of how we feel (or how many “happy thoughts” we fling at ourselves like orangutans on Prozac), we can know that the action we just undertook did something good for someone.

A lot of professional comedians their personal lives are a wreck, yet they go on stage or tv and make people (other people) laugh. So even though the comedian may not feel too good after a session of telling jokes at least he/she has done something good for others by tickling their “funny bones”

The priest that started our parish in 1964 and was the most beloved and respected priest I’ve ever known would ALWAYS answer “Excellent” when asked how he was. In the last year of his life, we knew better, but the answer was always the same.I would never, ever even consider to think he was a lire or committed any sin whatsoever. The parishioners even had a personalized license plate with the word “excellent” made for him and the tradition continues in our parish five years after his death. If this is sinful, half the people who attend our Mass are sinners.

Leno Rulee on the Catholic Radio Channel, when someone asks how he is, says “MINT”!

EXCELLENT :thumbsup:

I’m not trying to say that I’m gloomy gus all the time. It’s just that sometimes it’s easier to say “I’m ok” when that’s what you are. I don’t like saying I’m fine when I’m not. But I do try to smile at people, but don’t try to fake it. That “fake it till you make it” stuff is a bunch of hooey. I tried that for years, and it only made matters worse.

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