“Sometimes, even the truth must not be told.”

Via Waylon Lewis
on May 27, 2011
get elephant's newsletter

What’s your philosophy on gossip?

Do you believe you should never criticize anyone, ever? If it’s mean, sure. But what if it’s honest, and helpful, in a critical way?

Is the difference how we do it? Directly or behind their back?

It’s our responsibility to help our friends and enemies see stuff they’re not good at seeing. We can be constructive and helpful. Being mean is just laziness or insecurity.


Just read the below quote, and thought I’d ask you all for your insights. I don’t believe that being critical is bad. I do think truth ought to be told, but it’s hard, and sometimes a “white lie” as my mom calls ’em is an easy way of sparing someone’s feelings. But are we trying to spare their feelings, truly, or sparing ourselves the discomfort of being honest and helpful to someone?

I’m not so sure about this:

A wise man knows how to behave in a gathering. He knows well that he must not ridicule or talk harshly to anyone (even when they are his opponents). Sometimes, even the truth must not be told. Especially when it is sure to hurt some one.

~ Panchatantra – Kakolukiya


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


9 Responses to ““Sometimes, even the truth must not be told.””

  1. elephantjournal says:

    Good tips from Tobye: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/11/the-three-

  2. Katherine says:

    The truth is so subjective, it's always best stated in a neutral or friendly tone. At least then you leave yourself open to changing your mind if you receive information not previously known, and you don't end up looking like a flip-flopping ass. :o)

  3. luke says:

    I think it is ok to say something if it’s accurate, but of course you have to accept that “ok” isn’t always “best” and makes enmity and enemies, like that chatty crow did for all crows. If one is speaking out of ego or malice, or good intention/caring, that needs to be a part of a statement if it is to be accurate; gossip is rarely so reflective.

  4. elephantjournal says:

    John D. Cater Gossip is the asp in the wine grapes.

    Mary Coleman I think a lot of people criticize it and don't see it when they do it themselves. I find it esp annoying because they use it to endear themselves to others.

    Music for Deep Meditation We are mirrors or each other, so if we are criticizing another human being or disliking someone else, we better look at what is about them we don't like in ourselves. Language creates reality so focusing one's mind on gossip is generally not helpful. xx Vidura Barrios

    elephantjournal.com Mary, are you talking about others' actions behind their backs? Or are you including yourself in this? We allllll cross that line, no? ~ Waylon

  5. Tact tone and intention. 3 things to keep in mind when dealing with things of this nature.

  6. Ben_Ralston says:

    I would make a very clear distinction between awareness of truth and expression of truth.
    We all have different levels of awareness. Speaking your truth can be extremely hurtful to another person on a different level of awareness. Sometimes, often-times, it is better to hold your tongue.
    It is enough to be aware inwardly of the truth. It is not always necessary to speak it.

  7. Nadine says:

    Ben, I would further add to your comment that in relating with others, we need to meet them where they're at. In other words, we want to create a backdrop of relatedness so that our attempts at communicating are fruitful. It is for this reason that your distinction made vis-a-vis awareness and expression is so poignant. Thank you!

  8. yogiclarebear says:

    So many factors will contribute to whether or not speaking the truth is a kind and constructive thing versus harsh and harmful. Intention, timing, necessity, tone, receptiveness, EGO awareness…to name a few. I think a good tool when considering a criticism is meditation. Maybe its a breath or two, maybe its weeks or months of offering the consideration up for an answer. Either way, a pause will help lay out the facets of the situation.

  9. taliasukol says:

    i learned not too long ago a lovely pearl of wisdom. When you're at an art opening, don't criticize what you see. To me this means that it's ok to think critically about work you're seeing, but that the situation of the art opening, the event, is not an appropriate forum for harsh critique. I like this advice. It's very respectful of the artist, for whom the opening is a big deal. FInd the kernels of praise at that moment, and save the critique for when you're writing the review.