Monday, January 28, 2013

A Whole Lotta Lyin’ Goin’ On

Is it just my imagination, or does it seem people are lying more these days?

Take last week, for example. Lance Armstrong – after years of adamant denials – finally confessed he used blood doping and other performance-enhancing aids throughout his seven victorious Tour de France competitions. Then we learned Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame linebacker who was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, had been “in love” for years with a fictitious girlfriend that supposedly died last fall. (Hint: You can’t die if you’ve never been born.)

What is it with all this lying?

Lying, distorting, shading or twisting the truth, or as people in government like to call it, passing along “disinformation,” is hardly new. We find the first recorded cases in Genesis, the Bible’s first book. After Adam and Eve defied God and succumbed to Satan’s temptation by eating fruit from the forbidden tree, they initially hid out of shame.

Could it be that Grumpy of the
Seven Dwarfs was that way because
he was often caught lying?
When God asked about their sin, they responded by saying something like, “Huh? You talking to us?” (Who else would He have been talking to then?) Finally they admitted what they had done wrong, but even then shifted blame. Adam essentially blamed God Himself: “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (Genesis 3:12). Then Eve gave her alibi: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 3:13).

Proving the adage that apples don’t fall far from the tree, after their son Cain murdered his brother Abel in a jealous rage, he perpetuated the family’s lying tradition. Confronted by God about what had happened to Abel, Cain’s first response was, “I don’t know…. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9).

Stories about lies and deception carry through the Old and New testaments: Abraham, Sarah, King Saul, Joseph, Joseph, Isaac, Judas, Barnabas and Peter all are members of the biblical liars’ fraternity.

But such behavior is hardly old-fashioned. And it’s pervasive at all levels of society. We’ve heard lies repeatedly from the White House. In recent memory, Richard Nixon’s insistence, “I am not a crook” (of course, he was) and Bill Clinton’s cagey characterization of his illicit relationship with Monica Lewinsky quickly come to mind.

Lying isn’t comfined just to the sports world and politics, of course. We see it almost every day in the business world, in entertainment, and sadly, even in our churches and religious institutions. Does that mean it’s now OK to lie, that we should “tolerate” liars and deceivers?

Certainly not. There are many reasons why truth trumps falsehood, but let me give you three:

1)     The truth is easier. When you stick to the truth, all you have to do is remember and report what’s real. When you lie, you have to constantly remind yourself of the lies you’ve told – because it’s easy to forget stories you made up the last time.
2)     Integrity, once lost, is hard to regain. It takes a lifetime to build a reputation as a person of integrity, but it can be destroyed in one lapse of dishonesty or deception. “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (Proverbs 11:3).
3)     Consequences are unavoidable. When we lie, we might avoid discovery for a time, but eventually untruths will surface. But if you fail to keep your word, then you will have sinned against the Lord, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out (Numbers 32:23).

So instead of going along with the crowd, revering truth and honesty make sense. Sometimes it’s a good thing to not be “in style.” 

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