In “The Good and Beautiful Life” by James Bryan Smith, the author not only recalls a time he lied to get out of an embarrassing situation, but he also wants to discover why lying is so common in our lives and what Jesus thinks about it.
“According to a study conducted by Robert Feldman, in a ten-minute conversation, we tell an average of 3.3 lies.” And typically most lies take the form of deception or cheating a social, legal or financial system, which is tough because we value honesty to create trust in our relationships with one another.
The author shares stories of people and their wrong behaviors, more than I want to paraphrase, but he brings us to a central idea for the chapter, “Since Jesus dwells and delights in us, we strive to put an end to deception in our life.” Yes, Christ would be looking to have us build positive relationships with one another and the above-mentioned forces of lying, cheating, and deception; these things which are fueled by our desires will only tear us apart.
“The kingdom is not in trouble. And we who stand in it are never in trouble. Therefore, we can risk telling the truth. We can handle the consequences of the truth. In the kingdom, we strive for more than merely not lying. We want our speech to be acceptable not only to the people we address but also to God. The bar is set high. Our words need to be honest and true, but they flow from the heart, so our heart has to be honest and true. At present, it may not be, but as long as we keep ‘pickling’ in the kingdom of God, it will be increasingly true.”
The soul-training exercise for the chapter talks about silence and going a whole day without talking. It’s a tough idea, but monks have been known to do this in order to gain greater control over their tounges for when they do speak. Find a day when you won’t be so busy and you can manage not talking.
I went through a point in my childhood where I used to lie a lot. I think part of that is I was caught up in my sin and I wanted to seem better than I was, at least until someone found out the truth. People also told me I was too talkative and energetic. Sorry.
And I think before I became a Christian and even in my early days, I did struggle with a lot of things. I made up lies and I hung out with childhood friends who stole things. I would say that if you ever want to stop lying, cheating, deceiving – remember how much it’s going to hurt the other person. If you lie to your spouse, to your parents, to your children, to your friends, to someone on the street, you also have to measure how much the lie is going to hurt them. Use common sense though, as you can also be too truthful and cause the same harm, like calling someone fat. The person knows they have a weight problem.
I will never forget a time in third grade I went to a kids group and we did a partner exercise with a tube of toothpaste. The teacher wanted us to completely empty out the tube of toothpaste. Then, she wanted us to try and get all the toothpaste back into the tube, and anyone who was able to do so got a prize. The problem was it wasn’t easy putting that toothpaste back in the tube and no one was really successful. The overall message is that you can never take back your words once they are spoken, no matter how hard you try. You can only apologize and ask the person to forgive you.
My church pastor mentions he has always had a quick tongue and he stole from people. That was a life he left behind, but to leave that life behind was a process for him. I like to think of building your life on the rock. Once my pastor, and I as well, decided we were going to build our lives on a more solid foundation, the change didn’t happen overnight. It took time and effort to make ourselves more honest and truthful.
– James –