White lies


What are your thoughts on telling “white lies.” Or perhaps, dodging a question, saying something that’s not a direct lie, just doesn’t tell the whole story, so to speak. Take the following scenario…

I had an issue with self inflicted injury for a while. For about four years I would delibrately cut myself to deal with guilt and anxiety. By Gods merciful grace I’ve now gone over 6 months without cutting myself (doesn’t sound like much, I know) but I have many scars all over my arms and shoulders from my ordeal.

I am going back to college next week:D , at a new school, and am going to have a roomate (I had a single last year) she is bound to notice the scars eventually and will probably ask questions. I don’t want to lie, but I don’t want to make her uncomfortable either. I’ve never met her and don’t know what kind of person she is, but I guess there’s always the concern if I tell her the truth she’ll be like “Wow, this person’s messed up” and then it will be akward for the whole semester. She might just feel akward about being told somethings to personal by someone she barely knows.

So what do you guys think? Should I just be straight up with her?


See a counselor about this problem. Even if you’ve pretty much “dealt with it”, it never hurts to let someone outside of yourself know (who can be with you in person) if this is going on.

If your new roommate doesn’t ask about the scars, I wouldn’t bring them up. It wouldn’t be polite to ask someone you don’t know very well about marks on their body, but if she does ask, simply give her a vague answer that doesn’t really mean anything- or just tell her the truth if she’s going to bring it up.



This is a good question. I had a discussion with others recently about white lies. I have two points on to make.

First, white lies are common in our society. People commonly use them to reply with regrets to an invitation RSVP. They may say they have a conflicting engagement or something like this. I believe this is wrong and is a stepping stone toward telling lies habitually. If Jesus said the devil was the father of all lies, then we should take note and avoid this like the plague no matter how small.

Second, we all make mistakes in conversation with others and may slip up and say something that is not truthful to make life easier for us. Even a small lie should be recognized almost immediately after the words leave our mouth. When this happens, I keep the thought in my heart, try to reform my life, and go to the sacrament of penance within a few weeks.

One more point. There is a good argument for not revealing the full truth when we are protecting another from harm. This is a great discussion for a group and with input from a priest.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Let us all strive for all three.

God bless you and I ask Saint Josemariea Escriva to pray for us.


The Church teaching on lying:

CCC 2483 Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring man’s relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord.

CCC 2484 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. If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity.

CCC 2485 By its very nature, lying is to be condemned. It is a profanation of speech, whereas the purpose of speech is to communicate known truth to others. The deliberate intention of leading a neighbor into error by saying things contrary to the truth constitutes a failure in justice and charity. The culpability is greater when the intention of deceiving entails the risk of deadly consequences for those who are led astray.

CCC 2486 Since it violates the virtue of truthfulness, a lie does real violence to another. It affects his ability to know, which is a condition of every judgment and decision. It contains the seed of discord and all consequent evils. Lying is destructive of society; it undermines trust among men and tears apart the fabric of social relationships.


I think it depends on the level of trust you have established with your roommate at the time when the question first comes up.

If she has already proved herself compassionate and discreet, you might want to tell her you used to have a problem, but that thankfully you think you have it under control.

If you’re not so sure about her character, just tell her it’s something you don’t feel comfortable discussing yet.

And I do encourage you to establish a preliminary contact with the mental health professionals on campus, letting them know of your past history, just to identify someone you can trust and talk to should the problem come back.


People who dabble in the occult will justify it by saying it’s “white magic”. But magic and spiritism of all kinds is condemned by God.

There is a difference between lying and practicing discression. If the gestapo shows up at your door, you are not required to be truthful about the Jews you are hiding in your cellar, for example. So there are very rare instances where telling the truth can be sinful. But malicious lying is a sin.


Thank you guys so much. You are all so wonderful and caring. I think I will be however direct as she is. If she asks simply “How’d you get that scar” I’ll say something like “It’s a long story.” Which really would be true in a sense. But if she is so inclined as to prod I feel I would be better off to just be direct and tell her the truth rather than fabricate a story.


Fabricating a story would be wrong, however until she is a “need to know” person (someone with whom you feel deep trust) just saying (after you say “it’s a long story” and she keeps asking) that “I don’t want to talk about this right now” should be enough, unless she’s not courteous at all.
That said, since it has not been a very long time since the cutting and since she is to be your roommate, then she might have more “need to know” than ordinarily. Maybe, as soon as you feel trust at all, she should be told.:confused:



**## A lie is a lie - as such, it is never allowed. To complicate things, telling the whole truth can also be sinful. But to lie, is not allowed under any circumstances whatever.

Or perhaps, dodging a question, saying something that’s not a direct lie, just doesn’t tell the whole story, so to speak.

## To leave things out is not always wrong - doing so can come within the allowable type of mental reservation

Take the following scenario…

## All lies are always wrong. I always find this passage very inspiring (the author is J.H. Newman, writing of St. Philip Neri):
*]To one other authority I appeal on this subject, which commands from me attention of a special kind, for they are the words of a Father. It will serve to bring my work to a conclusion.
*]“St. Philip,” says the Roman Oratorian who wrote his Life, "had a particular dislike of affectation both in himself and others, in speaking, in dressing, or in any thing else.
*]"He avoided all ceremony which savoured of worldly compliment, and always showed himself a great stickler for Christian simplicity in every thing; so that, when he had to deal with men of worldly prudence, he did not very readily accommodate himself to them.
*]"And he avoided, as much as possible, having any thing to do with two-faced persons, who did not go simply and straightforwardly to work in their transactions.
*]“As for liars, he could not endure them, and he was continually reminding his spiritual children, to avoid them as they would a pestilence.”[/LIST][LIST]
*]newmanreader.org/works/apologia65/chapter5.html[/LIST]& there is this:
*]We have seen how gentle and kind St Philip always was toward those around him. He also demanded absolute honesty and integrity in his relationships. “He could not bear two-faced persons,” Cardinal Newman tells us, and “as for liars, he could not endure them, and was continually reminding his spiritual children to avoid them as they would a pestilence.” Lying to avoid embarrassment was even worse; he insisted that his followers accept the crosses that came to them daily, since “he who runs away from the Cross the Lord sends him” through daily humiliations “will meet a bigger one on the road.” The faithfulness that St Philip practiced and demanded of others was not relaxed in the face of adversity or hardship. On the contrary, he insisted, “poverty and tribulations are given us by God as trials of our fidelity.”
St Philip recognized how difficult it is to maintain this fidelity, especially toward God, in the face of trials…[/LIST]
*]http://www.secularoratory.com/HolySpirit.htm[/LIST]**What we are allowed to do - but should not do unless it is absolutely necessary - is, use a mental reservation. There have been two sorts - one has long ago been declared morally wrong, the other is permissible. This article from the old Catholic Encylopedia gives a good account: **
*]http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10195b.htm[/LIST]What that article called “the common Catholic teaching” is affirmed in the CCC:
*]http://ccc.scborromeo.org.master.com/texis/master/search/?sufs=0&q=lying&xsubmit=Search&s=SS[/LIST]A few of the references to lying are to the bodily extended sort, but you can always undertake a different search :slight_smile:

Hope that helps


Being in the same situation with self-injury I do not tell everyone about that part of my past. It simply is none of their business. I see no reason to feel compelled to reveal very personal information about myself to people I don’t know well.

If asked, I generally give a vague answer or simply change the subject and provide no answer. People usually get the hint.


The kids and I were reading the Baltimore Catechism on lying just a couple of weeks ago.

It said that white lies are a venial sin, but you are not obligated to answer a question in which someone is not entitled to know the answer. So, it’s okay to change the subject or be evasive without lying.

For example, if asked, you might say, “I’d rather not talk about it.”

That’s fine. But, it would also be a good exercise in humility to talk about it, too. And, it could help that person if he is tempted or knows someone who cuts. I would take it to prayer.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.