All of us have told a lie at sometime in our lives. Many people lie daily, some to the point that they don’t even realize their fibbing. To make matters more complicated we often can’t even agree on what a lie is. If a child asks you if the picture he drew is pretty, and it isn’t, what do you say then? What about when Aunt Hilda asks you what you think of her new hairdo? The Bible tells us to speak the truth in love, but doing so is a learned skill. You can tell Aunt Hilda, “That purple hair sticking straight out makes you look like a scary Martian. Or you can speak the truth in love by saying, “Well, I must say I have never seen another hairdo quite like it. It is really unique. How did you get the idea to fix it that way? ” Both are truthful, but the latter is also respectful. People who routinely tell false tales think others do not realize they are lying. The reality, however, is that others usually do know the person is lying; they simply choose not to call him on it. The saddest fact about lying is that it often hurts other people—in particular the person telling the untruths.
Ask most people if their lies have ever come back to haunt them and you’ll get a “yes” every time. So knowing the harm we can wreak on ourselves why do we still do it? Consider the following reasons that people often lie. People Lie to Impress Lying to impress others might seem harmless. We have worked with some patients who would never steal or try to hurt someone, but would lie by saying what they think you want to hear. This type of person is so afraid of rejection that lying has become a way of life. In the end, however, this action hurts the person who is lying and the people being lied to.
Often when we try to impress someone, we just end up looking silly. Once people realize we aren’t truthful, everything else we say becomes suspect. The desire to impress others can tempt you to make false statements by bragging and exaggerating. But few people care to hang around someone who’s bent on impressing others. The person who does this is caught up in herself, and no one wants to hang out with someone who talks about herself all the time. A narcissist is extreme example of this behavior. Narcissists love attention, but they are blind to their own narcissism.
They believe they are more spiritual and better looking than they really are. Sometimes they sit in the front row at church and raise their hands at every song, supposedly to bring honor to God, but really (at least unconsciously) to show everyone how super spiritual they are. And at prayer meetings, the narcissist nearly always prays the longest prayers and in the most dramatic fashion. Narcissists like to “name drop,” acting as if they know important people better than they really do. We can usually diagnose a narcissist at the first appointment when they call us “Paul” or “Todd,” rather than Dr. Meier or Dr.
Clements. These kinds of people always want special favors and expect to be seen without an appointment or get a prescription for a family member who is not one of our patients. When we deny one of their requests, they become hurt and angry. When dealing with a narcissist, we’ve found that we need to be polite, but we also need to maintain a professional, rather than personal, relationship with these people. We see a lot of narcissistic characters on TV sitcoms, but in reality narcissism is no laughing matter. Even though the person may mean no harm at all, the attitude is prideful and it deceives and hurts others.
People Lie by Gossiping Gossip ruins intimate relationships, and we believe it wrecks more marriages and friendships than any other factor. Often, gossip is not completely true—which means it is a lie—and those who spread it are liars. However, when confronted, gossipers nearly always shirk responsibility, claiming they were only repeating what someone else was already saying. Even if the gossip turns out to be completely true (which it rarely is), it damages other people and tarnishes reputations. Most Christians will agree that gossiping and white lies are sins, but somehow they have been classified as a “minor” sin.
In reality, there is no such thing as a minor sin in God’s eyes. The Bible gives us warning after warning to avoid gossiping. The wisdom book of Proverbs mentions it four times: • “It’s stupid to say bad things about your neighbors. If you are sensible, you will keep quiet. A gossip tells everything, but a true friend will keep a secret” (Proverbs 11:12-13 CEV). •“Gossip is no good! It causes hard feelings and comes between friends” (Proverbs16:28 CEV). • “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly” (Proverbs 18:8 NKJV).
The “belly” is symbolic here for the center of emotions. It is used much like we use the word “heart” today. • “Where there is no fuel a fire goes out; where there is no gossip arguments come to an end” (Proverbs 26:20 CEV). Holy gossip is as great a sin as regular gossip. Holy gossip is asking your Sunday school class to pray for Bob and Katie because they’re having marriage problems due to Bob’s excessive drunkenness. Unless you were asked by the couple to reveal their problem to the Sunday school class, you’ve just tried to glorify gossip by disguising it as a prayer request.
A word to the wise—some people will repeat whatever you tell them. Often these people are kind, generous, and active in the church. They may ask about your personal life pretending to be concerned for your well-being, and then they’ll usually deny the fact that they’ve repeated your story to someone else. Don’t waste your time trying to change them. Learn discernment instead. You can still be a friend, but don’t discuss anything with them that you wouldn’t want discussed word for word with others. You can identify these people because they are usually telling you personal information about other people.
Remember, if they tell you other peoples’ business, they’re probably also telling other people your business. Be careful about what you allow them to tell you. When they begin to share someone’s personal matters, just say, “I don’t feel comfortable talking about Emily when she’s not here. ” Yes, gossip is interesting, it gives people something to talk about besides the weather, and it can seem harmless, but it also ruins friendships, splits churches, and stirs up strife. When people spend all of their time talking about the problems of someone else, there is little time left to carry out God’s work.
People Lie to Get Their Own Way This third type of liar is the worst. These people lie not to impress or gossip, but to get their way, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process. These are people who would steal from you if they knew they wouldn’t get caught. One summer I (Dr. Clements) worked as a lifeguard for a country club. As the crowds waned near the end of the summer, the pool manager decided he needed to let one lifeguard go. I later discovered one of the other lifeguards told him several parents had complained that I spent most of my time talking rather than watching the pool. This was totally false.
Thankfully, the boss didn’t take his word, but instead watched us from inside the country club with binoculars. When he realized the lifeguard accusing me was actually the one who visited with the girls, the boss fired the guy who bad-mouthed me. This situation worked out, but many times it doesn’t, and the liar prevails. The Bible strongly warns against this type of liar: • “Truth will last forever; lies are soon found out” (Proverbs 12:19 CEV). • “The LORD hates every liar, but he is the friend of all who can be trusted. Be sensible and don’t tell everything you know—only fools spread foolishness everywhere (Proverbs 12:22-23 CEV). “Telling lies about friends is like attacking them with clubs swords and arrows” (Proverbs 25:18 CEV). The Bottom Line Our society often downplays the act of lying. Some cultures even embrace it. But the person who routinely lies will find heartache. Every one of us is prone to lie. Sometimes we do it so regularly that we don’t even realize what we are doing. Lying creates harmful tensions because the liar has a difficult time remembering whom you told what to. Life is much easier and your self-worth so much better when you become a person of honesty and integrity.