Recently a situation came up with one of my children. My two youngest are teens and they are every bit normal teens. My daughter and I were talking about telling the truth and how much is appropriate to reveal about your personal life to strangers. She has a very similar thought that I did when I was young…she believes you should be completely honest to everyone you meet.
It is a bit confusing because when we are growing up, most of our parents try to teach us right or wrong. We are taught that it is wrong to hit, wrong to take things from others without asking and wrong to lie. Often, when we did these things and our parents asked us, “Did you hit your sister?” “Did you take that without asking?” “Are you telling the truth?” Many times as we answered dishonestly; in doing so we felt a ping of discomfort inside. In some cases our face told the truth regardless of what our words were saying. I never liked the feelings of guilt. Even to this day I don’t like to be dishonest. Which leads me to the questions, is honesty always best?
Over the years I have struggled with how much information I tell a stranger and is it being dishonest when I don’t reveal everything about me? With time I learned that I don’t have to tell everyone I meet everything about me; especially strangers. That doesn’t necessarily mean I am misrepresenting myself or being dishonest. Each of us is entitled to a little privacy and it is necessary to use discretion when revealing personal information.
When I was younger, I found myself revealing everything about myself in order to be honest. I think I was missing the point about honesty. I still believe we should be truthful and not lie but experience has told me that a stranger doesn’t necessarily need to know everything about me. As I pondered this, a scene from the Goonies came to mind. The scene where the kid is being interrogated and he spits out every deed he has ever done wrong. Did the bad guys really want to know all of those details, was it necessary? No, on both accounts.
In life, we all make mistakes. As Catholics we go to confession and are released from our sins. Of course, there are times when we must make reparations for our sins or apologize to someone for our actions but I think with absolution and penance, come the freedom from the obligation of sharing every sin we’ve committed to every person we meet. Revealing private information to a person comes with time, as we develop a sense of who the person is and nurturing a healthy relationship, based on trust.
Often I tell my children, your private information is yours. You don’t have to reveal your entire life story to every stranger you meet. Sharing personal information should be done between people you trust and have developed a relationship with. Although it may seem like a contradiction, I stand firm on not hitting others, not taking things that aren’t yours and telling the truth. It is such a fine line; I still struggle with to this day…always tell the truth but don’t reveal everything to everyone you meet… Many times I still rely on that “ping” feeling inside and try to be honest in all ways, without always revealing everything. Perhaps I am wrong; if so, I know God will continue to guide me on journey towards him in faith, truth and love.
Copyright 2011 Lorrie Lane Dyer
About the Author
Lorrie Lane Dyer is a facilitator for the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation with the University of Dayton as well as religious education and parish coordinator. She is working on her Masters of Leadership Development, with a focus in Military Chapel programs at St. Mary of the Woods College. Her faith provides her with inspiration for many of her poetry collections, columns and short stories.