Lie to Me
Actually, I’d rather you didn’t.
That just happens to be a good title (as well as a good television show) and it obviously piqued your interest. Lies are tricky things; you know this if you’ve ever told one (or if you’ve ever watched that episode of Larry Boy) Having watched the entire second season of Lie to Me (thank you, Wes) I feel like I’ve learned a lot about lying, and several recent incidents have made the topic one of constant musing over the past few weeks. For example:
Last week, I was bravely working alone in the concession stand at the local movie theater when a young woman and a very young child approached the counter (I learned very early on in this job to never assume the obvious relationship, which is why I didn’t say mother-daughter. Someone would get angry if I was wrong, and then nothing good happens.) Anyway, I do the usual concession routine and our exchange goes something like this:
Me: Hi there ma’am. Can I help you?
Her: Yeah, hang on just a minute.
Small child: *incomprehensible gurgles while pointing at the windows where the boxed candies are displayed*
Me: Take your time. (I had all the time in the world at that point. 2 PM on a Tuesday isn’t exactly peak hours at a small movie theater)
Her: Um…Well, give me a small popcorn.
Her: Umm (the ‘ums’ drug on for literally 25 seconds). Yeah, sure. A little bit.
Small child: *more gurgles and gestures*
Her: Honey, I think they’re out of Skittles
Me: (Thinking her comment was an honest mistake. Maybe she’d seen a movie the night before and we hadn’t had any then. But I had freshly stocked the candy cart that morning, and dag-nabbit we had ourselves some Skittles on that cart.) No, ma’am, we’re not. We’ve got regular and sour. Would you like some?
Her: No. *Shoots me the dirtiest look I’ve ever seen while thinking ‘What a moron. Why couldn’t he have played along with my lie and let me deceive my innocent child (who, as near as I could tell, wasn’t able to understand English) about the fact that I don’t want her to have that much sugar. Grrr.’*
The rest of the transaction was business as usual, so I won’t bore you with the details. But I was struck by that look (and half surprised she didn’t actually strike me). Is it okay to lie to your children? Do certain circumstances exist wherein it becomes okay, but for the most part it’s not? What’s the criteria? Where’s the dividing line? More importantly, is it okay to expect others to be complicit in your lying, even if those others believe in a faith tradition that preaches about honesty and the power of knowing the truth? I was always told “honesty is the best policy.” Should I be punished (via angry glares and made up mind-dialogue) for simply following my upbringing and my moral code? These are just a few of the questions racing through my head this past week.
Speaking of lies, I’m reminded of another story (one that you may have heard, if you’ve known me for any length of time). A country preacher once told me a story about the pastor of a church he attended many years ago. This pastor was a wily old gentleman, as pastors are wont to be, and one day challenged his congregation to try and read Mark 17 for the next week’s sermon. (Pause for effect). Now most of you can see where this is going, but for those of you who haven’t figured it out yet… The congregation arrived next Sunday clutching their Bibles tightly, eager to hear what the preacher had to say about Mark 17. When he took the pulpit that morning, he asked for a show of hands. How many people had read Mark 17 that week? Nearly half of the hands went up. With a twinkle in his eye, the pastor launched right into his actual sermon, opening with the line, “There is no Mark chapter 17. The book ends at 16. Now, if you’ll turn with me to Acts chapter 5, today’s sermon is on the topic of lying.” (Cue gut-busting laughter). The morality of that story is up in the air, I’ll admit, but it was so funny that I couldn’t resist telling it.
Anyway, the older I get, the more I see that there is almost no value in lying. It leads to uncomfortable (if not downright ugly) situations where lies have to be explained, more lies are made up and people get hurt. Especially in a human relationship of any kind (family, friend or special someone) it hurts to imagine that someone close to you doesn’t trust you enough to share the truth with you, no matter how painful it might be. Ephesians 4:25 and Colossians 3:9 both contain warnings from Paul against lying, especially to our brothers and sisters in the church. But all too often we deceive ourselves into thinking the lie is better than the truth, but this is never the case. A truth now is never as painful as the truth told after a lie is uncovered (Remember Buddy the Elf when he met that fake Santa in the mall? “You sit on a throne of LIES!”). Even with a small child, one who can’t properly understand the nature of a lie, I think lying is never okay. It would have been just as easy for the woman from the movie theater to say “I’m sorry dear, but we’ve just had lunch, and I don’t think you need that much sugar.” Maybe the little girl would have thrown a temper tantrum (or, maybe not), but the mother/sister/aunt/babysitter would have had the self-satisfaction of knowing she had told the truth (and not passed the blame onto me).
Here’s my simple conclusion about lying: We should no longer lie, if Christ reigns in us, for we, as Paul has said “have stripped off the old self with its practices.” Lying is evidence that the truth is not to be found within us, that we are still subject to the ways of the flesh despite the new life given us. We lie if the truth does not reign within our hearts, “For it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks,” Luke says. That which is most prominent in your heart is what spills out of your mouth. If hate, hateful words; if lust, bawdy words; if love, words of love and encouragement.
Therefore, it is my challenge to all of us to practice radical honesty (a la Eli Loker, a character from Lie to Me). Radical honesty is not simply spouting out what’s on our mind all the time, but a challenge respond to every situation, every question, with the truth. It doesn’t have to be huge and it should never be mean-spirited, but if you don’t like someone’s haircut, say so. And inform them you respect them and your relationship too much to waste time building it on lies. I’ve been at this for a few days now, and it’s very liberating. It creates a bond of trust between two people and deepens the relationship. More importantly, it draws me closer to the Truth. The more I make Him a part of my life, even in these little things, the more I feel his presence. As I shun darkness and embrace the light, I find that there is more light than ever before, that Christ is more real and more powerful than I ever could have imagined.
So go forth, my friends, and be honest with everyone you meet.