It Was Only a Small Fib
by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
I have concluded that much of the work of psychologists, psychoanalysts, and even philosophers is to help mankind remove the guilt and shame from their actions. People don't want to hear that their actions are wrong; their conscience is bothering them enough, thank you very much! They want to be absolved; they want to be justified; they want to be told that the matter isn't as bad as they thought. If this is what you are looking for, you have come to the wrong place. "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (II Timothy 4:1-5)
We have reached a point in our society where people cannot stand the truth. For example, President Clinton and his wife, Hilary, have been caught numerous times telling blatant lies. Yet, people are upset when people refer the Clintons as liars. "You can't call the leader of this great nation liars!" we are told. What should they be called? Inhibited truth seekers? Actually, these protestors want nothing to be said at all. They would rather not think about the implications of having a leader who is not trustworthy.
An article appeared in my local paper, the Omaha World Herald, on August 4, 1996 that attempted to justify this action that we call lying. I would like to take the time to contrast the points in this article with the clear teachings of the Bible, which lumps all liars with sins such as murder and adultery (Revelation 21:6-8). According to God, lying is going to send a lot of people to Hell.
According to the article, "New psychological studies suggest that everyone lies at least once a day and usually more than once." Notice the use of 'studies' to make this statement sound like the truth. Later in the article, we learn that the data for the study was drawn from a sample of 77 college students and 70 members of the local community in Texas and Virginia. Each participant kept a diary for one week and the data was drawn from the diary entries. I have trouble extrapolating from a sample of 147 people that all 5 billion people in the world lie on a daily basis -- especially when half the sample is college students.
It doesn't matter if everyone lies or not. Truth (with a capital T) does not change. God does not change (Hebrews 2:10-12) and He is our source of Truth. God is not changing His Word (Galatians 1:6-10). Notice especially verse 10. Who are we trying to please God or man? Even more important, who are trying to persuade to accept our actions, God or man? Too many justify themselves by saying, "I'm sure God won't mind." Such a statement is trying to convince ourselves and God that our actions are righteous, even when we know they are not acceptable.
Even if everyone did lie, this still would not make lying acceptable. The majority of this world's population is going to Hell (Matthew 7:13-16). It seems to me that following after the majority is a dangerous way to go. Therefore, be careful of what you accept as the truth and be careful to whom you listen to for advice. Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), is good at putting his lies in pleasing packages. Contrast Satan to God, who cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). If we find that we are doing what the majority of the world is doing, it is cause to pause and reconsider our action. Following the majority is not a justification, but it is instead a warning and possible condemnation.
"Every effective president has lied with abandon, sometimes with the full permission and knowledge of the American people," said Leonard Saxe, an adjunct professor of social welfare at Brandeis University. Essentially, the argument is that lying is expected by the public. However, God teaches us that He expects us not to lie. Lying is not a part of being a Christian (Colossians 3:9). Paul tells us to put away lying and speak the truth to everyone (Ephesians 4:15). Truth is a part of our armor to protect us against Satan's attacks (Ephesians 6:14). If we discard the truth, we leave ourselves vulnerable to Satan's darts.
The article further justified lying by saying, "If we didn't [lie], we'd get into big trouble." In other words, it is supposedly kinder to a person to tell them a lie they want to hear than to tell them the truth. Leonard Saxe stated, "Lying is a social skill -- we do it to coat social interactions and maintain good relations with others." Bella DePaulo, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, says, "If people told you exactly what they thought all the time, that would be very hard for anyone to deal with." Unfortunately, these two scholars chose to ignore the difference between truthfulness and tactfulness. Yet, Mr. Saxe goes on to say, "It is quite appropriate to tell your friend that you love the expensive new painting she bought, when in fact you hate it."
Solomon told us that a righteous man hates lying (Proverbs 13:5). You cannot mix truth and lies. If it is a lie, then it is not of the truth and is not righteous (I John 2:21). In other words, there is no such thing as a little white lie. God makes the issue black and white. A statement is either a lie or it is the truth. A lie is never an acceptable substitute for the truth.
Many people use lies where tact is called for. Paul tells us to season our speech with salt (Colossians 4:6). He is referring to the use of tact. I know a lot of people who use the excuse of being honest to say hurtful, spiteful things to each other. Peter tells us to be courteous, refraining from evil, and seeking for peace (I Peter 3:8-12). We should not be like the rich and uncaring who speak roughly with everyone (Proverbs 18:23). As an example, there is a big difference between "You're going to Hell if you keep lying" and "You need to follow God's teaching and speak the truth." Both statements are true, but only one is apt to be accepted by the listener.
Another excuse for lying in the article is, "Most of the lies [in the study] were self-serving -- to enhance the liar's status or protect him from embarrassment, disapproval, or conflict. But nearly one-fourth of the lies were to benefit other people -- to spare their feelings, for example." To put it in blunt terms, most people lie to save their own skins. I truly believe that kindness has nothing to do with lying. People tell other people lies because they don't want to deal with their reactions to the truth. A good example of this was presented in this article. "It is cruel to tell someone they have metatastic carcinoma that is eating away at your spine and it's going to cause you excruciating pain and kill you in three months. There are times when physicians shouldn't be truthful, and I think most people are grateful when you assist in their self-deception." I think the true reason is that most physicians are in a hurry to see the next patient. If they tell the person the truth, then they will have to spend hours with a weeping, sobbing person helping them deal with the truth. Few people are willing to invest that much time in another person. Even fewer want their day ruined by spending it with a depressed person. Instead, they tell a small lie.
Similarly, people don't want to deal with someone being mad at them, so they avoid the issue by telling a lie. Others fear rejection, so they tell a person what they want to hear. Lying is a self-serving means of keeping ourselves comfortable. Have you noticed that the quality missing in a liar is humility? Paul tells us to consider everyone else as more important than yourself (Philippians 2:3-4). He also warns us not to think too highly of yourself (Romans 12:3). In Micah 6:8, God requires us to walk humbly with him, not proudly against him. Lying to advance yourself, to save yourself, or to keep yourself from being bothered, is placing yourself before your fellow man. It is also putting your own interests before the righteousness of God.
Leonard Saxe had the audacity to say, "If we punish children too harshly for lying, we may make it more likely that they will lie in the future to escape further punishment." This is pure garbage! Does punishing a child for stealing make him grow into a thief? Does punishing a child for rebelling make him grow into an anarchist? Solomon told us to train up an child in the direction he should go (Proverbs 22:6). If we a train a child that lying is acceptable is some case, then the child will become a liar. If we teach a child that lying is always unacceptable, then they will learn to tell the truth.
My friends, the way we should go is clear. Let us put behind us all the petty excuses and stand firm in the truth.