We live in a culture that likes to lie. We hold back from and even run away from the truth. We’re distrustful of politicians, car salespeople, general contractors, doctors, lawyers, big time sports heroes and the church. Actually, we’re just basically distrustful these days about all kinds of things and people because we’ve been lied to so many times and we know how untrustworthy the culture and even ourselves can be. And yet ‘lying’ is a multi-billion dollar industry. We pay big bucks to people who can put ‘spin’ on something. Tabloids pay outrageous sums for even the hint of truth. We watch ‘gossip’ TV because we love the juicy tidbit. Advertising sells more product when it can get us to believe lies about who we really are.
And lying comes easy. The other day I got a parking ticket during a college visit. I’m ashamed to admit that one of the first thoughts that came to my mind was to ‘fight’ the ticket by twisting the facts a wee bit. Now, I wasn’t going to do a whole lot of twisting. Just enough. After all, twisting the truth isn’t the same as lying is it? The good news is that I’m now $50 poorer but I fought the temptation and exited with my integrity intact.
How many of us try to make ourselves look better by putting a better, but often inaccurate foot forward? Most of us I’m sure.
Mass e-mails often are filled with lies. We believe the hot rumor and the titillating innuendo. When we do a bit of fact checking we find that the rumor isn’t hot and the innuendo is not even remotely truthful.
I believe lies about myself … a lot. Things like:
- You don’t deserve to be in this position.
- You’re not qualified.
- You’re always disappointing people.
- You don’t have the right giftings.
The trouble with lies is that they often carry a measure of truth. The fact of the matter is that there’s a lot I don’t deserve, and I lack certain qualifications, and I do disappoint some people and often times I find my gift mix isn’t the right match for specific situations. But partial truth isn’t the whole truth. Scripture tells us that Satan is the father of lies. I believe it. Hear enough lies about yourself and discouragement sets in and you find yourself in the outhouse of life. Why wouldn’t the enemy of God attack us with lies about who we really are? Why wouldn’t the father of lies delight in discouraging a nation regarding their political leaders? And why wouldn’t half –truth be used to rip a church apart? It’s a tried and true winning formula.
So, are you a liar?
It’s a spiritual condition for sure and not a good one. It splinters groups, damages people, and always builds mistrust. And it has to be dealt with.
How does one deal with lies?
I want to become a better fact checker. If I get an e-mail about the president, my senior pastor, or my favorite sports team I owe to myself to check the facts, making sure they're accurate. And even if the facts are true then I need to resist the temptation to pass on scurrilous information. God wants me to be a peace maker and bridge builder and to use facts to build up and not destroy.
The habit of lying puts us on a perilous spiritual pathway. I always have to be asking myself whether or not I want to become more and more like Christ or do I want to align myself with the father of lies? To say I want Christ and then to align myself by my actions with the evil one just makes me a hypocrite.
I'm learning more and more about forgiveness. Forgiveness is about asking for it and granting it. Lying has to be confessed and when done so with authenticity and real repentance it needs to be forgiven. Whenever I'm less than truthful I have to be willing to deal with it - even if it demands that I 'fess up.
Lying causes damage. Damage needs to be cleaned up. Are we willing to make amends for the damage our lies do to others? Every once in awhile I’ll confront someone who is mass e-mailing lies to hundreds of people. I’ll point them to places where they can see that so called truth of their e-mail has been thoroughly debunked. Not once that I can remember has anyone sent out a follow-up e-mail to those same hundreds of people apologizing for sharing lies and maligning character. I think we’re afraid to make ourselves look bad by admitting the truth about our own behavior. I'm not sure it's good to create a mess and not clean it up after being confronted with the truth. In fact, not cleaning up our messes is an act of cowardice I think.
Sometimes when I'm tempted to lie I'm forced to look more deeply at what that temptation represents. Am I trying to look good in someone's eyes, evade responsibility, or to get even with someone for what they've done to me? Whatever it is that’s what needs to be prayed through and ultimately dealt with because those core issues, left unchecked, will come back to haunt me.
Lying, like any sin, often needs to be dealt with in community. I wonder how many habitual liars are surrounded with people who speak the truth in love to them. Probably not many. Too bad. Good things happen when 'accountablity' is asked for.
Augustine once said, "One never errs more safely than when one errs by too much loving the truth." It's a good word isn't it?