Dear Lauren,

I’m 13. I have a friend who is very close to my teacher. My teacher told me that he is disappointed in my friend, but that I shouldn’t tell my friend what he said. My friend told me that my teacher said he really doesn’t like me. I can’t discuss this with anyone else (not even any other adult) because the friendship between my friend and my teacher is a secret. I’m getting pretty creeped out by this whole situation, but I’m embarrassed to talk about it to another adult….

Lauren Roth

Lauren Roth's Answer

If I were living in that web of secrets and unknowns and second-hand information, I’d be creeped out, too. Jewish philosophy states that the “signature” of God is Truth. There is a reason for that: life is so much more beautiful, so much more straightforward, so much more livable when everyone is open and honest with everyone else.

I was recently seeing a client who came from a family where secret actions and secret liaisons and secret motivations and “Don’t tell her I’m telling you her secret” and “Don’t tell him I’m tell you his secret” and “Don’t tell her that I’m telling you his secret” and “Don’t tell anybody that I’m telling you everybody’s secrets” were everyday occurrences. What a crazy way to live! Lying, sneaking, faking, not knowing whom to trust, never knowing the truth: sounds awful, right?

And the client and I explored the “novel” idea of always telling the truth. Of always going to the source and asking, “Is it true that you said X?” “Is it true that you feel Y?” Do you know how he feels now, after living that “clean and honest” way for a while? Liberated! Free! Relieved! He feels so much better. So much more real. At least he’s being honest, no matter what anyone else in his family is doing. And he loves it.

We have the rules of lashon hora – rules of proper speech, rules against slander – for a reason: to help us achieve the truthful, sincere, transparent life that God wants us to live.

You said: “The friendship between my friend and my teacher is a secret.” That sounds quite scary to me, and not necessarily “kosher.” Why should a relationship between a teacher and a student be a secret? Is there something inappropriate occurring? In my opinion, you must talk to your parents about all of this. Your principal or another teacher would also be a good resource to consult.

The only thing you should ever be embarrassed about is when you’ve done something wrong. And even then, you should still talk to an adult, despite your embarrassment, because kids need adults to help guide them so they can make healthy, responsible, correct decisions about complicated, confusing situations.

Confide in your parents, confide in your principal, confide in a teacher, and let truth shine its healing light on you.

The situation you have described is not tenable. It’s not possible to live happily and comfortably within the secretive, “I don’t know whom to trust,” “I can’t tell him how I really feel,” “I have to keep his secrets secret” scenario you’ve portrayed in your question. Confide in your parents, confide in your principal, confide in a teacher, and let truth shine its healing light on you.

When people lie and create webs of untruths, it unmoors us. Lies create complications and trip-ups and slip-ups. We don’t remember whom we said what to, and whom we’re supposed to be with whom, and what story we told to which person…. The truth is so much easier. The truth will absolutely set you free. It makes life pure, straightforward, easy, and greatly reduces complications.

I always advise my clients to word things truthfully. I help them create scripts that are both true and as not hurtful as possible. It’s ALWAYS easier to say the truth, however difficult that might be. However hard it is to say the truth, the truth is always easier than creating a web of lies.

The truth is so much easier. So much less complicated. The truth is so right, and it’s always the way to go.