There is a time for honesty and a time for kind, warm-hearted honest lying. For example, here are questions that absolutely require a “yes” as the answer, no matter what think:
“Do these jeans make me look fat?” If you say anything except NO, you’re too stupid to deserve a relationship.
“Were you cheating on me in … (a date more than 5 years previous) …?” Unless you are still in that relationship and intending to break up your marriage, the answer is NO. All you will do by telling the truth is hurt your partner and maybe (but probably not) relieve yourself of guilt. The odds are very good that you will also relieve yourself of your relationship.
“Do you still find me attractive?” Any answer other than yes can cost your life.
On the other hand, failure to communicate critical information can ruin lives. I always think about Cathy and Heathcliff. He eavesdropped on half of her conversation and stalks off in a rage. He never considers asking her if what he partially heard was what she meant or what the context was. Of course, if he had, it wouldn’t have made a very dramatic story, but that’s a different issue. A ten minute conversation could have salvaged three lives.
In the movie “Fanny,” she never tells him she is pregnant, so he goes off to war (convinced she doesn’t love him) and gets killed. If she had told him, everyone — including the child — might have been happy. Every time I’m forced to watch one of these movies, I just get annoyed.
Brutal honesty is always more brutal than honest. If you are forced to say something you know will hurt, at least be gentle. Brutal honesty is not honesty. It’s a brutal agenda wrapped in fake honesty. Don’t eavesdrop. If it just happens, you are not allowed to use whatever information you think you’ve gained by eavesdropping in an emotional confrontation. No one ever hears anything good while eavesdropping.
Use your judgment. If you care about someone, don’t make them miserable because you feel guilty about something. Your guilt is your problem, not his or hers. Making yourself feel better by traumatizing someone else is not being honest. It’s narcissistic.