Pants on Fire

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You've heard the saying: "Liar, liar, pants on fire!" So…how honest are you?

If a friend asked your opinion on her new haircut, his sports performance, her outfit, his new girlfriend…would you tell the truth—or a little white lie to avoid a potentially uncomfortable situation?

"Expert" opinion

If you chose the white lie, you're not alone. In her article "The Truth About Lying," author Julie Mehta writes that social experts are apparently in agreement that little white lies are "acceptable and even necessary for people to keep up good relationships" (Current Health 1, March 2008, pp. 12-15). Child psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Berger of Indianapolis, Indiana, considers the little white lie "more humane" than the utter truth (ibid.).

Though Ms. Mehta gives good advice on why lying in general should be avoided, her opinion on little white lies raises an eyebrow: "Life experience and talking to friends and family will help you figure out when telling a ‘little white lie' is OK" (ibid.).

Significant stats

Yet parents and experts alike were shocked when the Josephson Institute revealed its 2008 Report Card on "The Ethics of American Youth." In a random sampling of 30,000 high school students across the United States, 42 percent confessed to lying on occasion to save money and 83 percent admitted to lying to a parent about "something significant."

Why are these statistics so surprising? After all, the supposed authorities on teen behavior are telling teens that in some situations lying is acceptable. And teens as well as adults are still trying to figure that out.

In need of clarity

Why so much confusion on this topic? Experts are confused. Parents are confused. Celebrities are confused. Professional football players are confused. Corporate leaders are confused. And, clearly, our politicians are also confused.

Pack of lies

And so people lie.

They lie: to avoid conflict, to justify an action, to avoid hurting feelings, to make themselves feel better or make someone else feel worse, to avoid punishment, because it's easier, because they can, because they think it's funny. The list goes on and on.

Lying might save your friends' feelings in the short term, but what about in the long term after they discover that you've been dishonest with them? Is that worth the pain and the breach of trust in the relationship?

The root of the matter

What does God say about lying? We've consulted every other "expert" out there on human relations, but shouldn't we consider God's Word first and foremost? He does know what makes life work, after all.

God lists seven things that He hates. As one translation renders it—He finds these things "detestable" (Proverbs 6:16-19 Proverbs 6:16-19 [16] These six things does the LORD hate: yes, seven are an abomination to him: [17] A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, [18] An heart that devises wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, [19] A false witness that speaks lies, and he that sows discord among brothers.
American King James Version×
, New International Version with emphasis added). They are:

  • Haughty eyes.
  • A lying tongue.
  • Hands that shed innocent blood.
  • A heart that devises wicked schemes.
  • Feet that are quick to rush into evil.
  • A false witness who pours out lies.
  • A man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

Note that lying is listed twice.

I don't know about you, but when God says He hates something, I pay attention. And when He repeats Himself, I pay even more attention.

Notice that God doesn't say that He hates lying…unless it might hurt someone's feelings to tell the truth or for whatever reason "experts" say is okay! In fact, there simply is no biblical justification for little white lies.

To learn more about how to be lovingly truthful with your friends, read "Friends Don't Let Friends…"

The solution is to practice pure, sincere and honest speech. You'll reap the rewards, gain the trust—and that's no lie. VT

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