By Esther Vanderwal and Mitzie Beavert
Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.Sir Walter Scott, 1808
I have worked with parents who find their children deceiving them and with their children. Lying, is a developmental milestone for children but it still catches parents off guard. In fact, they begin to question their parenting when their young children lie to them and wonder if they have somehow done something wrong.
The reason for the concerned response from parents is because in our culture, we value the truth so much. We dislike deception and see it as a negative characteristic in others.
In children however, it’s normal and natural and for parents, their job is to teach children that this coping tool, which is what most use it as, is not desirable in others and that others will quickly lose faith in you if you lie. This in turn, will cost you in lost relationships.
This same coping tool, however, is often used by older people as well. I mean, we’ve all told an untruth at some point in our lives whether it be a lie in the name of protecting someone’s feelings, the great “fish story” to be impressive, or the big whopper that usually is a result of shame and deviant behavior. We are all guilty! The Bible reminds us in Romans 3:23, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standards” (NLT). We’ve also all been on the receiving end of a lie whether it is the tiny lie or the painful, gut-wrenching big whopper.
We even see it daily in adults as we watch our political leaders battle to repair errors in judgement. We value truth so much that they know that it could end their political careers if they are found out.
These same lies often lead us into a web of lying. It can begin with a small innocent lie, then quickly turn into something bigger and bigger and before we know it, we are stuck in a web that will begin to disintegrate right before us with only our unprotected selves to have to deal with the consequences.
So, why lie if you know that eventually the truth will come out? Well, most are banking on the hope that the truth will never be uncovered and that they won’t ever have to face the music as they say, or the punishment. It’s a negative coping tool. It’s used for avoidance of punishment or consequences.
We think we do no harm when we tell our BFF that of course those pants don’t make her butt look huge because we don’t want to cause her pain. But lies do bring pain accompanied by mistrust. I can’t think of one single lie that does no harm. The truth to your BFF does not have to be rude when wrapped in kindness and love and you choose your words carefully. I know, sometimes it’s hard to “speak the truth in love,” a command found in Ephesians 4:15.
We should practice reflecting on our reasons for the urge to lie and search our heart. We have a conscience for a reason. If it feels wrong, it probably is wrong. If shame is the motivation for a lie, then perhaps pause and reflect on the behaviors that are likely bringing you more burdens than you realize. Ask yourself, “what good can come of this kind of lie?” None is the answer. When shame is the motivation for lies, it will not only bring deep hurt to the person on the receiving end, but it is equally harmful to the liar. There will be bigger consequences to face when the truth is found out.
It’s not always easy to face shameful behavior but it can also be freeing and cleansing. We must remember as we face the truth that Christ is our redeemer, he loves us so much that he gave his life on a cross for our sins, and he forgives us of our sins. No sin, no shameful act, no deviant behavior is too big for Christ or will cause him to turn us away if we are seeking him. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (ESV).
Often, we feel that we can’t face the consequences of the truth, yet we can. With support and positive coping tools, it is possible to face a shameful act and still move forward.
Those on the receiving end of a lie also have an action step they are responsible for that will allow those who have lied to move forward once the truth is out and that is to
forgive those who have lied to us and wronged us even in the most painful ways. Matthew 6:15 says, “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (ESV).
Forgiveness is not synonymous to restoration or trust, but we are commanded to give it. Forgiveness is not forgetting, overlooking evil, approval, or easy for that matter. It is a process however that can free you of the bitterness that will poison your own heart, releases you from the need for revenge, and it opens the pathway to deepen your relationship with the God.
Lies, such a loaded and dark word, an act to be approached with extreme caution and self-reflection as the results can be devastating to both the recipient as well as the liar. The truth may not necessarily be the easiest in the moment or the path of least resistance, but it’s the best path in the end.