Our culture is built around lying. We are told products clean when they don’t. Our cars will get amazing millage but when we read the small print there are so may conditions attached to their calculations for that millage it is impossible to obtain. The phone rings and we are told we just won a free trip to some exotic location, but of course that’s not true. Spouses lie to each other, children to their parents, parents to their children and everyone to the boss.
People in politics have taken the art form to amazing heights, spinning and creating alternative explanations for the plain truth that we are all faced with. I could go on and on and it wouldn’t change our culture because we have been taught, ever so subtly, that to get ahead you have to stretch the truth a bit. I heard a lady on the radio the other day telling people that since everyone doctors their resume it is now considered important to do if you want to compete.
Lying may seem like the answer to a problem but in reality it only brings on bigger problems down the line. In fact, people who study lying (yes, there are such people), believe that telling a lie progresses through seven steps and each one is the necessary result of the previous step. I was recently listening to Charles Price teaching on the book of Ephesians and he mentioned the seven steps so I thought I’d pass them on for your consideration.
First step is telling the lie. It might be a simple white lie like; “no I can’t go out with you for dinner this evening because my aunt is coming over to visit.” You sigh a sigh of relief when your friend accepts your made up excuse and you go about your daily routine not thinking about it again until a few days later your friend asks, “how was that visit with your aunt?”
You are now about to enter the second level of lying, and that is protecting the lie. So, after a moment’s hesitation you say, “oh, it was fine. She’s in good health and we just talked about family and things like that. Nothing important. We just had a nice evening and it was good to catch up.” You may not realize it but you have just made up an entire conversation and visit that you didn’t have in order to cover your first simple lie.
The danger point in lying comes somewhere between the knowledge that you got away with lying this time and the concept that since you accomplished your aim of fooling your friend about your aunt, then maybe you can get away with lying about other things to other people.
Step three is the reality that lying becomes a habit. A person begins to lie about different things that they don’t want to be involved in or do. It becomes easy to brush off your friends with a lie when you don’t want to do things with them. It seems easier than trying to explain why you don’t want to go the movies or meet Jim for coffee. The habit carries over to excuses for being late to work, or not taking out the garbage. When watching something inappropriate on the Internet or on television it just seems to make sense to lie about why you are watching what you are watching rather than face the reality of what you were doing.
When step four becomes part of our lives we have entered a dark world because by then we have begun to believe our own lies. We deceive ourselves along with everyone else. We can be caught red-handed lying and yet we will deny it passionately.
Step five is the natural result of believing in our own lies. We begin to rationalize the lie and then justify it. We tell ourselves that the only reason we lied about not wanting to go out for dinner with our friend is because we know she loves Italian food and we don’t and we didn’t want to disappoint her by not wanting to go for Italian. Or we tell ourselves that the car we just scratched up with our grocery cart shouldn’t have been parked so close. And if they are going to park like that then they deserve everything they get. A student who cheats on his test rationalizes that everyone else is doing it and if he doesn’t cheat he’ll get the poorest grade in the class and that’s not fair so he has to cheat. The man carrying on an affair with the neighbour reminds himself that he wouldn’t be doing this if his wife kept herself better and acted sexier.
Level six is when everything about your life becomes a lie. You have become so use to lying that it is easier to lie about everything than tell the truth. I have met people like this who, even when there is nothing to gain by telling you the truth, will still lie to you because it is who they have become. Everything that comes out of the mouth of these people is riddled with falsehoods. If you ask them how’s the car working, they will tell you a long elaborate story about the car and where they have been in it, and what it accomplished, and on and on when you know the car hasn’t been out of their driveway all week.
The final stage of lying is that it has become such a powerful part of the life that it becomes a duty to lie. Some people feel it is their duty to protect a family secret, while others feel they are protecting their families from hurt by living a lie. Regardless, when lying becomes the necessity of keeping your life together, there is a serious problem.
Psalm 145:18 reads, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” And of course there are those amazing words of Jesus recorded in John 8:32, “and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” This text isn’t talking about lying but it is saying that we are to put our faith and trust in Jesus who is the truth and that faith will set us free.
Lying takes us further into the pit of deceit and fear, and while it might be painful to own up to our mistakes and habits right now, in the long run, it is what is needed to revitalize our life. To walk closer to God is to move further away from lying about whom we are and what we have done. When we own up to our sins and failures we are able to get a handle on who we are intended to be and, when that happens, we grow as spiritual people.
I love these passages in Ephesians, “Rather speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and up builds itself in love.” Ephesians 4:15,16 We are not working properly if we are living a lie. If on the other hand, we would live properly and grow spiritually and see ourselves built up in love, then we would speak truth in love.