Trillia Newbell / 09 FEB 2015 – I don’t think of myself as a liar. I would say that I’m a truth-teller, honest, forthright, and even often blunt. I think I can be honest to a fault, actually. And then I realized I’m not as honest as I think I am. There are ways that I have been tempted to lie and hide, not even realizing that I’m doing it. I began to think about how God views our “little white lies.” But before I get into the solution, I thought I’d highlight areas where I see or have heard lies.
- I’m fine
I lived in Albany, N.Y. for a season. It was a wonderful adventure, mostly because this southern girl finally got to experience a real winter. There was one conversation, however, that I’ll never forget. During an elevator ride, I was waiting to go to the next floor when the doors opened and a lady carrying some paper walked in. I asked the courteous question: “Hi, how are you?” Her response surprised me. She was having an awful day and she told me so. It took me by surprise. I expected the obligatory answer, “I’m fine,” but she was honest. I chalked it up as a difference between southerners and northerners, but it’s never left me. I don’t think we need to go around sharing all our woes but I do think our answers deserve thought. Otherwise, we are lying almost every day.
- How are you?
Now what was most disheartening about my elevator incident wasn’t that I realized how often I say “I’m fine,” but that as she answered I realized I didn’t actually care. Perhaps it was my age. I was young and simply moving from one thing to the next. But really the problem was within my heart. I didn’t truly love her and my question wasn’t sincere. So, perhaps another way we can lie is by asking questions to appear caring or loving and yet not having a heart that follows it. If you’re going to ask the question, desire to know the real answer.
- I’ll pray for you
This is such a common lie. No you won’t … unless you do. Don’t throw around the phrase unless you intend to pray. One way I’ve combated this lie in my own life is by praying immediately. I’ve also had a prayer sheet, but often the best way is to pray for that person as they’ve requested it.
- Hyper (or maybe hyped-up) spirituality
Bottom line – don’t be someone you aren’t and don’t feel pressure to be a super-Christian if you are struggling. This is one dangerous. If we can’t be weak then we’re in trouble. Find a friend or pastor and be honest about your struggles. Here’s some encouragement, we are all weak. There isn’t one of us who can be sustained in our own strength. And if you’ve presented yourself as something you are not, ask God to help you.
A few years ago, I was convicted of publicly joining in on a Facebook post that slammed someone. I realized that my “like” and laughter were slander. It was subtle but it was most definitely slanderous and I was ashamed. Slander is one of those hard things to identify but easy to do. Slander is the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual person. The tricky part of slander is we often think that what we are saying is actually true. What makes slander insidious (besides the lie) is that it is often done while also pretending to care or like someone. This topic really deserves its own post, which I hope to do one day, but here are two ways we can hide slander: (1) by sharing our troubles with a friend or spouse and (2) through prayer requests (yep).
And then there’s social media.
- Fake pictures
Social media makes it easy to present oneself one way and live another. I’m thankful to have real friends who know me and would know if I were faking it. Accountability is a blessing in this social-media world. But I think with all the pictures there’s simply a temptation to lie. If you are always presenting life as sunshine and lilies, there’s probably an instance when you’ve lied. Now, don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying we need to expose our children’s errors online nor do we need to be gloomy constantly, I’m simply challenging us to think about what we are presenting and ask, is this true?
- Everything is awesome
I posted a tweet about a really tough morning and a time when my husband corrected me. Later that month, a new friend and leader thanked me for my transparency because in his view, “leaders don’t often share vulnerability.” I was surprised, to be honest. Could it be possible that people who serve publicly feel a pressure to be perfect? Could it be possible to forget that we are all so very normal? This goes hand-in-hand with the fake pictures and social media. We are in no way obligated to share anything – ever. But if we do share often, perhaps we should ask if we are being honest about our life.
- Everything stinks
I’ve also seen an onslaught of pictures and posts that take it to the opposite extreme. In an attempt to move against the culture of “everything is awesome,” people post about their misery or their dirty kitchen or their crying kids. I get it. But, that’s not always the reality of life either and you, too, could be lying in an attempt to “being real.” If there’s evidence of God’s grace and goodness in your life, you don’t have to pretend that there isn’t and then name it “being authentic.” Be who you are and ask whether it is simply being honest.
This only scratches the surface. There are probably numerous ways we can be tempted. So, I’d like to ask you, where are you tempted to lie? How might you exercise honesty?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Trillia Newbell is the author of United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity (Moody Publishers, March 2014). She is also the Women’s Initiatives consultant for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention; the lead editor of Karis, the women’s channel for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood; and she writes at trillianewbell.com.)