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I am much too neurotic to tell out and out lies but there are lies of omission that I think is sometimes acceptable. I do not see it as a lie necessarily, it is just that sometimes some things feel better when they are omitted. Like when someone asks, “How are you?” I will say fine even though I feel like crap because they are just being polite — it is part of a greeting. It is better than “What’s happening?” because I always feel the urge to think of the things I have been doing and report back and if I have not been doing much, I do not know what to say that will not make me feel inadequate. So, I guess “How are you?” is an improvement but producing the answer is tricky.


I have been dealing with cancer on several distinct levels for nearly 6 years now. It has become part of my identity so when people ask how I am feeling, I have learned to detect what their real intention is in asking. When I see my sister, I will usually tell her I am fine because I know she does not like to hear about sickness. But I am close to her so not telling her how I really feel seems like a lie of omission, but it is for her benefit, not mine. I do not want to make her uncomfortable because then I will be uncomfortable so we will talk about the news, the rest of our family and what we have been doing. The lie of omission, however, sits with me in an uncomfortable way — it creates tension because I end up acting more cheerful than I really feel. I then feel the need to reach out to my cancer buddies because we talk freely, sharing our symptoms and fears. It is cathartic for all of us.


Then there are people who want to hear facts about tests, procedures, and my symptoms: it is not just because they care about me, it is also because they want to become a cancer expert and tell my story to their other friends. I am mixed about lies of omission with these people. If I am feeling needy, I won’t care and tell all but sometimes their agenda is a little too obvious  and so I become withholding because I don’t want my issues to enable them to be the center of attention in another social circle so I’ll say, “I’m doing well, all things considered.” Now that is not really a lie of omission, but it is not the whole truth either. Is minimizing facts a lie?


Along the same vein are those who want to be the helpful therapist and will encourage me to pour my heart out only to hear advice that I never asked for nor did I want to hear. All I want is empathy, sympathy and/or an attentive ear, but the advice given, “get a punching bag,” or “your symptoms are probably allergies” serve the ego of the person giving advice and totally misses the mark on what I need. On those occasions I become resistant and annoyed but, again, they mean well. I do not always know how to approach advice I do not want to hear but if my well-wishers know anything about me, they should know I do not like unsolicited advice. I always try handling problematic issues by myself first so perhaps I am disappointed because they are not thinking of me as much as they are working at serving their own egos.


Some people who ask, seem to me to be fragile souls, and want an opportunity to tell their story but they do not know how to start so they start with, “How are you?” They are impatient for me to get my story done so they can start telling theirs. When I notice their impatience, I will tell a lie of omission and say, “I’m ok for now, but what about you?” Thats all I need to say.


So, lies of omission serve a purpose, however I get disappointed in myself when I use them because I would like to think I am more assertive than I really am. They are, however, helpful in getting out of situations that make me feel awkward, but I only hope I am not using lies of omission on myself.