“With a pious person, be pious. With a man of integrity, have integrity. With the crooked, act deviously.” (Psalms 18:26–27)

“Be your authentic self” is a message that we often hear in today’s culture. So it may be surprising to see that Psalms itself advocates deception when necessary. Although many people pride themselves on being honest and authentic and letting others know exactly how they feel, there are many instances when it is best to mask our thoughts and feelings, such as:Psalms itself advocates deception when necessary

1. To avoid insulting others. We might show interest in what others are saying even if we are bored, welcome guests graciously even if we’d prefer to be alone, or tell people we like their ideas even if we don’t.

For example: “I work from home, and my job is very demanding. Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of something, and a child will want to talk to me. At first I feel like I’m wearing a mask of interest when I don’t really feel it, but then I allow myself to get into his world and feel his excitement. Afterward, I’m so glad that I remembered that my family is my priority in life.”

2. To protect our boundaries. When people are domineering, intrusive or nosy, it is best to withhold information or pretend to agree in order to protect personal boundaries.

For example, when people probe or question, “Which doctor are you using? Where are you going on vacation/sending your kids to school? How much did it cost? How much do you make? Why don’t you move, get a different job, or get a degree?” it is perfectly acceptable to answer with a white lie: “I don’t know” or “We haven’t decided yet.”

If they demand, “You must come for the holidays,” you can say, “We’ve already been invited elsewhere.” When they insist, “Forget all that health food stuff! It’s a bunch of malarkey. Sugar is good for you. Don’t be such a fanatic,” you can simply say, “Thank you for your opinion.”

3. To calm us down. When we feel hostile, we are like nuclear reactors, spewing toxic negativity all around. Words spoken in anger are often irrational and always harmful. The pain of being silent is better than a lifetime of regret, for once trust in a relationship is lost, it may never be fully restored.

For example: “I was raised with a lot of criticism, so it doesn’t feel natural to act loving. What feels natural is to be angry and tell everyone how miserable I am. So I’ve learned to wear a calm mask when I’m agitated, overwhelmed and sleep-deprived. I put on a mask of love before I arrive home and greet my family members happily, even if I feel overwhelmed by their demands, their noise and my own fears. The mask is actually helping me to feel better about myself and my family members.”

4. To inspire ourselves. Talking about faith, courage and acceptance can arouse those feelings, even when we don’t feel them inwardly. The Chovot HaLevavot states, “A pious person’s countenance is cheerful, even when his heart is troubled.”1 We are also told, “An external mask of positivity will awaken internal positivity.”2

For example: “Being an older single is not easy. By a certain age, I felt so ashamed that I stopped going to social events and became quite depressed. My therapist was sympathetic, but after speaking about my pain for weeks, he told me that the only way to break this downward cycle was to start talking the spiritual talk even if it felt phony. I was angry with him at first, but then I tried it out. When people asked how I was, I’d say, Things really are perfect—from G‑d’s point of view‘Everything is perfect!’ After all, things really are perfect—from G‑d’s point of view. Even if I sometimes feel like I’ll go crazy from the pain, acting happy makes me feel powerful and inspired. Over the years, I’ve begun to be truly accepting of G‑d’s will at a deeper level.”

5. To make peace. We might compromise or agree to maintain a relationship. Agreeing with people who are nasty or punitive may avoid their wrath.

For example: “My in-laws are very contentious people who argue about everything and constantly put each other down. It doesn’t seem to bother my husband, but I cringe in disgust and try not to visit. When we must make an obligatory visit, I pretend to be dumb and numb. Unfortunately, one of my children has inherited their oppositional nature. Whenever she doesn’t get her way, she goes into a hostile snit. It’s like undergoing a root canal: I have to bear the pain and act like she’s not affecting me. Any form of engagement makes her more violent. A mask of indifference reminds me not to let such people take up too much space in my mind.”

If the goal is positive, then these “deceptions” are not only acceptable, they are worthy of heavenly applause!