The first call came within a week of my book's hitting the stores.

A lady from the far north contacted me asking if there were exceptions to my chapter urging spouses to tell each other the truth about everything. It shocked her when I said that there are exceptions to that principle. She told me what she had done years ago and asked if she should tell her husband.

I asked her three questions, and then suggested she take her secret to her grave.

Soon another lady called — this one in the south —a sking about possible exceptions to telling one's spouse everything. She, too, told me what she had done and asked if she should tell her husband. After asking her the same three questions, I suggested that she tell, even though there was a very real danger he would divorce her when he learned the truth.

Would you like to know those three questions?

Back in the 1970s I acquired the original idea from a speaker whose name I have long since forgotten. He based his presentation on Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." That admonition came just four verses behind "…each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully..." Telling the truth is the rule; however, there are times when one actually demonstrates more concern for the other by not saying anything at all.

Lying is wrong. On the other hand, telling the truth isn't always beneficial.

Before getting to the tough applications, note this smaller example. I am possessed of a nose of sterling character and abundant volume. Reminding me that my nose is large would be telling the truth, but I assure you that it would NOT build me up according to my need. As I recall, the speaker said something to the effect;'"It's not speaking the truth in love to point out negative things a person cannot do anything about."

As simple as that may seem, my experience with thousands of married couples proves that his point about this is major. Hurting someone who has no control over their uniqueness is never adequately defended by claiming that you "just told the truth." That's not living by truthfulness; it's being mean.

Now, let's get to the tougher subject. What about those times when you have done something that you know will cause great pain to your spouse (parent, brother, sister, friend, neighbor, whomever) if they were to find out? Should you tell them what you did? If you decide you should tell, is there a "best scenario" as to when and how?

In my experience, the answers to those questions lie within the answers to three crucial questions. I base these questions on Ephesians 4:29, the principle of telling what builds them up according to their needs.

Not yours.

First Question: Is there any other way the person can find out? As much as it will hurt if you tell your spouse about something that you've done, it will hurt much, much more if they find out some other way. Whether the issue is porn, adultery, alcohol, gambling, spending money, being where you said you weren't, or anything else, when they discover you hid the truth, they will be devastated. That devastation will be exponentially larger if they find out what you did by hearing it from someone else.

If there is any way they can find out, please care about the person enough to be the one to tell. It may hurt you more to share it, but it will help them more to hear it from you.