Enemies of Honesty: Half-Truths
The second enemy of honesty is telling half-truths. What are these sinister lies? how can we avoid telling them or allowing others to influence us with them?
“The whole truth, and nothing but the truth. …”
We recognize this phrase, whether we’ve been in a courtroom or just seen one depicted on television. Unfortunately, just because defendants and witnesses are told to tell the whole truth before they get on the witness stand, that doesn’t mean they always do. This is why we have the word perjury: human beings have trouble telling the truth even when they say they are telling the truth.
Half-truths are sinister because they involve just enough of the truth to make the lie seem less obvious or offensive. Telling the “whole truth” can be very difficult in many situations, leading to half truths such as: “Technically, I was still working when I billed for that expense” or “I didn’t eat all the cookies like you said; see, there’s one left.”
Half-truths avoid what is actually meant and live in technicalities and “portions” of truth. Make no mistake; these are an enemy of honesty and God hates them. Words that have a sliver of truth may be persuasive (Colossians 2:4), but are still empty and deceptive (Ephesians 5:6). Satan deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9) and often mixes truth in with his lies.
Half-truths in the Bible
As if the blatant lie Satan told Eve (“You will not surely die”) wasn’t enough, Satan also used a deceptive half-truth about the fruit of the wrong tree to further entice Eve: “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Satan mixed truth with a lie with expert cunning.
Eve’s eyes were opened, but her experience of knowing good and evil was far from being like God. It opened the door for humanity to choose Satan’s way of thinking, not God’s way. Satan basically told her enough of the truth to hook her, and left out enough of the lie to make it seem like a “win-win” choice.
Abraham used a technicality about his wife in order to call her his sister in situations where he felt it would be safer for him (Genesis 12:10-20). Of course, it may well have placed her in greater jeopardy! Such is the problem with half-truths.
We need to always be asking ourselves, “Did I just tell the whole truth, or just part of it?” Recognizing half-truths
It is important to have the whole truth, when possible, and not just a manipulated half-truth. How can we tell which is which?
1. Get both sides of every story. Remember the old saying, “There are two sides to every story, and the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.” There are exceptions, but that is the basic rule when it comes to determining half-truths. We need to make sure that we are not just listening to what appears true at first, but instead take all the facts into account (Proverbs 18:17).
2. Consider the wisdom of the source. When hearing something that seems like it might be a half-truth, it is helpful to think of how much godly wisdom the source is using (James 3:17). Is what I’m hearing pure? Is its purpose for peace or not? Is it told gently? Is the source willing to yield to scrutiny? Is the source historically merciful and good? Is this source avoiding partiality and hypocrisy, and has he or she done so in the past?
Now, most importantly, it is our turn. Making sure we always tell the whole truth, and not half-truths, is challenging but not impossible (Matthew 19:26).
1. Remember that half-truths are not the truth. Satan is the father of half-truths as well, not just lies. Half-truths may seem less wrong since there is a smidgen of truth attached to them, but they are still an enemy of honesty.
2. Understand the impact of half-truths and why God hates them. Worshipping God in “spirit and truth” (John 4:24) is hard to do with only half the truth. God’s Word is truth (John 17:17), but so many deviations and half-truths have been taught about the Bible that the world is in complete spiritual confusion. Half-truths are responsible for millions of people avoiding God’s laws and actually using parts of the Bible to justify their actions: “There are parts of the Bible I like, and parts of the Bible I don’t like.”
Consider that some of the most prominent holidays in mainstream Christianity contain half-truths. For example, both Christmas and Easter claim to celebrate events that did occur—but both mix paganism and error into those celebrations. To learn more, read “Holy Days vs. Holidays.”
3. Examine our speech for “half-truths.” We need to always be asking ourselves, “Did I just tell the whole truth, or only part of it?” “Am I hiding a portion of the truth to make myself look good or to escape something?”
The second enemy of honesty, telling half-truths, is just as destructive and prevalent as the first “Enemy of Honesty: Lies.” With God’s help and a dedication to tell the whole truth, we can overcome this deceptive mixture of truth and fiction in our lives. Read also the last in this series “Enemy of Honesty: Spin.”
For more insight into the sin of lying, read “Ninth Commandment: You Shall Not Bear False Witness,” “Lying vs. Telling the Truth” and “Speak the Truth in Love.”