Lieing to keep a secret


I am having the hardest time convincing my wonderful boyfriend that even lieing to keep a secret or a surprise is a sin.
I really have a HUGE problem with ever being lied to period. But I honestly feel like there are so many ways you can get around keeping a surprise a secret without lieing to anyone. It really bothers me.
So am I off the deep end here or is it morally wrong to lie to someone no matter the circumstances?
I can give the example later if needed. But like he even thinks telling a little story/lie isnt a big deal and says “I’m not going to go to hell over it”
But it still scars your soul right?
Please help with some convincing lines of defense!
Thank you so much!


There appears to be a need for you to feel in control of things here. The person you marry will make the biggest impact on your life so choose with your mind, not just your heart. The best advice my mother gave me was to look closely at a man’s faults before you date him and make sure you can live with those faults. Then the rest is a bonus.

If your boyfriend is OK with lying on a regular basis and that upsets you, he may not be the right person for you to be dating. You might need someone more direct and blunt. However, I see nothing wrong with “lying” about a surprise. As a hospital chaplain who regularly works traumas, I need to refrain from telling family members that their loved one has died because that is the doctor’s responsibility and I need to wait for the doctor to decide it is time to tell the family. My job is to offer pastoral care. So, as I minister to a family who is anxiously waiting to find out if their loved one is going to make it through a bad accident, I can prepare them to anticipate the bad news but I am not morally allowed to tell them. This is not a stain upon my soul. This is doing my job and allowing others to do their jobs. However, it is not much different than what you describe as lying to keep a surprise secret.

May God’s peace be with you and may you know that whatever decisions you make in life, God will journey along right beside you where ever you go. You will never be alone. There is no perfect decision in any situation. The bible says “perfect love casts out all fear.” I hope you find the man to marry that will help you to overcome your fears and become the best version of yourself. Peace and Prayers.


You’re not entirely correct there. We are not to “bear false witness”. But we ARE allowed to keep certain things secret. I would suggest that you read the Church’s teachings on truth, and respect for truth, and whether someone has a right to know every single truth about every single thing:

For example:
"2488 The right to the communication of the truth is not unconditional. Everyone must conform his life to the Gospel precept of fraternal love. This requires us in concrete situations to judge whether or not it is appropriate to reveal the truth to someone who asks for it. "


What is wrong with a surprise?
If my partner said it is a surprise, I would trust that, after all, I love her unconditionally, so why worry about it.


Lying is always immoral. But often a lie is only a venial sin. We should all take great care to avoid all mortal sins, first and foremost.

It is a mistake for couples to treat the smallest lie between them as if it were the greatest sin. Venial sins should be treated as venial; mortal as mortal.


Keeping something secret, especially fro the purpose of later joy, is certainly not a sin.
You are off the deep end, yes. The scenario you describe isn’t even and instance of lying.


There’s another angle to this not touched upon yet.

Some people’s idea of “surprise” is rather manipulative.

Is he one of those?


It’s not always immoral. If I had a Jewish family hiding in my house and the Nazis bang on my door and ask whether I do, and I lie, that’s not even remotely sinning.


There is actually a fair amount of debate over this, even in Catholic circles. Some hold the position that to ever say something that is (or you think to be) false to another (sometimes add “in an attempt to make them think it is true”) is a sin, and some say that there are conditions where this is not so. There are fairly well known voices on each side. (Occasionally I hear the argument that it is always sin to lie, but not always a big sin which makes it ok(ish) on occasion - this position can, I think, be rejected out of hand. Sin is never ok, ish or otherwise.)

For treatment on this issue by Jimmy Akin, see:

That article focuses on lying to save a life, which is an important question and touches on similar arguments, but I think the question regarding preserving surprise is better handled slightly differently. It is my own view that lies for the sake of preserving surprise are not sinful at all, provided that the surprise is well intentioned, the lies are not cruel, and the relationship between the two people is such that this is understood to be something that might happen sometimes. For example, my dad once arranged for my mom to meet a childhood friend at the airport and then go to a play and stuff by inventing an elaborate story about hosting an official from a sister city in Russia (which was similar to things we’d done before, and so actually reasonable).

My mom likes to be surprised, and does not mind if my dad pulls one over on her occasionally for that purpose. In my view, this last part (that my mom does not mind) is fairly important. Such a lie can be compared to the slight of hand by a stage magician - yes, it confuses us, and it’s supposed to, but the purpose is to astonish us, and we all know it’s a trick even if we don’t know what the trick is. We consent to be fooled. The difference in the case of lying to preserve a surprise is that we do not know we are being fooled, but the purpose is similar. I would argue that we can provide this same sort of consent to be fooled to those we know, even if we don’t know when or how it will be done, under the trusting assumption that it won’t be misused.

The Catechism says “To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error [CCC 2483]”. As mentioned in the above link, this is (and the surrounding passage) is not infallibly defined, and there is debate about it. Various people argue that this definition is right or wrong, and that it does and does not include lies such as to preserve a surprise.


My boyfriend and I are very open about everything to eachother and lieing is a pet peav of mine so this definitely stems from that. But I had a tendency to be untruthful as a child and I conquered it as I got older. That’s why it bothers me.
So I get what a lot of you are saying but I just don’t believe that you have to lie in order to keep a secret. There are so many ways to avoid it.
The situation was: he had found out the closing date of his house and didn’t tell me for a week. He continued to drag it out saying all kinds of stuff that I now know was a lie. Bc he knew his closing date and all kinds of stuff. He also told me he didn’t want to tell his family for a week but he had already told them. So that was a lie too.
I see how withholding the truth is necessary in some cases but when is lieing purposefully ever really necessary? Honestly there are so many ways to he truthful and not give anything away.
Though shalt not bear false witness doesn’t seems to have any conditions.


In a given situation, there may or may not be a reasonable way to keep the secret without lying (in the life or death situations, for example, if the murderers looking for the guy you hid in your house detect equivocation, they’ll likely barge past you and search). Keeping the secret itself may or may not be justified, whether it can be done without lying or not.

But I think there are two facts here that are important: 1) this is not settled teaching, and 2) it nevertheless bothered you that your boyfriend told you things that weren’t true to surprise you.

  1. is just a fact. Many people have strong opinions, but it has not been settled.

So if, knowing this, you are still bothered (as you seem to be), then the real issue here seems to be that you feel your trust was violated, not whether or not it is theoretically acceptable for someone to lie in some abstract situation involving a surprise. I would suggest approaching the issue from that angle, while keeping in mind that many reasonable people (including, it seems, your boyfriend) think that small lies to keep surprises are fine. Your boyfriend wasn’t breaking some universally accepted rule - so even if you want to ask for him not to do things like that again, you can’t really accuse him of knowingly or should-have-been-knowingly doing wrong in this instance.


There are differing schools of though about this subject. One school says that one is never permitted to speak an untruth. The other says that we are sometimes driven by circumstances to be less than truthful depending on the situation and the circumstances. Ultimately, there are times when we must let the greater good prevail. If it takes a “lie” to protect an innocent person from an unjust death, then so be it. After all, which would be the better result; that one didn’t “lie,” or that an innocent person was unjustly killed? Is it better for an entire family to be murdered by evil people or for a person to be free from such a “sin?” Does not Justice demand that we do what we can in such a situation or should we simply let the innocent suffer and die?


This reasoning is actually dangerous - there has to be some sort of control on it, or it just becomes ends justifying the means (which is directly contradicted in scripture: we may not do evil that good may come of it).

If it is true (and I think it is) that lying may sometimes be justifiable, there has to be a reason why lying in such a case isn’t evil. My own view is that telling an untruth is like violence: generally bad, but sometimes justified. Killing in self defense isn’t murder, etc. Or in detail, that a person can lose both his right to know the truth (and the related right to have what he is told be true) through his own evil actions, thus justifying using lying as a tool against him to stop him from doing evil.

But it can’t just be “lying is ok because sometime the consequences are better.” That could justify all kinds of things that are not justified, from saving several lives by murdering an innocent on up.


The rational behind the act must be that it is objectively just. To “lie” to save an innocent life is moral because we all have an objective right to life free from unjust aggression.

One is never permitted to murder an innocent person so that others may live. That would attempt to use an ends justifies the means argument. It doesn’t work. Murder is objectively unjust.

In these situations, when our options are limited we have to do what we can to let the greater good prevail. A person who lies to save an innocent life knows deep down inside that the reason for doing it is to ensure that the just thing is done. If we know deep down inside that the reason we are doing something is selfish or for personal gain, then one would sin by such an action.

The determination of sin or not lies very much in the judgement and the reason for the action.


The argument that lying is always wrong is that lying is objectively unjust as well. There is a distinction between murder and killing. If lying is at times both justifiable and at other times not justifiable, then there must be a reason why, and it has to be more than because of what the outcomes will be (similar outcomes can, for instance, justify killing, but not murder).

In these situations, when our options are limited we have to do what we can to let the greater good prevail. A person who lies to save an innocent life knows deep down inside that the reason for doing it is to ensure that the just thing is done. If we know deep down inside that the reason we are doing something is selfish or for personal gain, then one would sin by such an action.

The determination of sin or not lies very much in the judgement and the reason for the action.

But there are still objective principles. Those may be hard to understand, and of course we all act off of our best application of what we know of them in the time that we have, all that is granted. Nevertheless, if it sometimes right to lie, then there must be a reason why that lie is not evil while the same lie in other circumstances would be evil, and that reason cannot be a reason that would also justify things that are evil.


It seems you don’t know this guy all that well after all.
I’d be very careful if I were you.


From your account, he’s manipulative as I suspected. Avoid him.


The Magisterium has sided with Saints Augustine and Aquinas on this question. They both taught that lying is wrong, even to save an innocent from murderers.

Augustine, On Lying
“suppose a man should seek shelter with you who by your lie may be saved from death?.. never for any man’s temporal life must a lie be told.”

Aquinas, Summa Theologica
“Therefore every lie is a sin, as also Augustine declares (Contra Mend. i).”
“Therefore it is not lawful to tell a lie in order to deliver another from any danger whatever.”


It’s not always wrong to tell a deliberate falsehood. The scenario of Nazis at the door asking about Jews hiding in the attic has already been put forth.

Look at it this way: stealing is the deliberate taking of someone else’s property without permission. Yet it is not a sin to take a gun away from a madman pointing it at a child nor is it a sin to take away the car keys from a drunk.

There’s the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. We must always follow the spirit of the law.


Apparently, Pope Pius XII and the future Pope John XXIII thought differently.

It is certainly a grand statement to say it is more righteous to let an innocent person be murdered than to make a statement that may not be completely true. I think that Kay Cee is correct; we must follow the spirit of the law.

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