September 19, 2004
By Jim Hammond
The 9th Commandment; Thou shalt not bear false witness.
Put succinctly, You shall not LIE! (the word of God!)
The verb “To lie”. The dictionary’s 2nd definition of the word “lie”; from the Old English word “LYGE”, is “A false statement purposefully put forward as the truth: A falsehood”.
“YOU’RE A LIAR!!!” What a horrible thing to have to say. Even worse, to have to hear. We all profess that a liar is despicable. However; all signs point to it becoming pretty darn acceptable. We are lied to, and in turn, lie, on a regular basis.
What happened to honor? What happened to George Washington; “I cannot tell a lie”. What happened to Abraham Lincoln, ole’ “Honest Abe”. We now expect to be lied to – by our families, our friends, and our co-workers. By businesses, advertisers, the media, and the government. By doctors, lawyers, butchers, bakers, and indian chiefs. And POLITICIANS! Oh Lord.
You can tell the politician is lying ’cause his lips are moving. It is a national shame that we have to make important decisions based upon who we think lies the least. If we even care. We expect all this! We are at peace with it. And we’re all in it, ain’t nobody clean. Well, maybe Mother Theresa was.
“Who broke that lamp?” “Not me!”
“Where have you been?” “The library.”
“I did not have sex with that woman!”
How can we as moral people embrace falsehood? Oh, let me count the ways: Innuendo, white lies, half truths, lies of omission, distortions of fact, and outright lies. We’re very good at it. Why do we have such a problem with the truth? From the scripture readings, as Christians, we are expected to believe that truth comes from God. Jesus called Himself “the Truth”. We should also then believe that falsehood – lies, stems from evil, the Devil if you must. Jesus called Satan the “Father of Lies”. At one time people strived to be honorable. Really, it’s only been lately that this atmosphere of untruth has prevailed. It must be part of the general breakdown of morality, that parents do not guide their children as once was the prevalent way.
We learn to lie at an early age. I believe it’s one of the earliest forms of deductive reasoning. When at fault and truth = punishment, then lie. To avoid the spanking we will lie through our teeth. Even when we are caught in the lie and we experience an even worse punishment, every child knows it’s better to never admit fault. If this behavior isn’t modified, we end up with a person to whom lying is as natural as breathing. Although it seems to be human nature to lie, we should at least feel guilty about it when we do. You know, if we were all Pinnochios with our built in lie detectors, the point would be moot. But God has given us free will instead. It is left up to our conscience to make the choice, and in respect to lying we have for the most part turned our conscience off.
We feel OK about lying if it doesn’t hurt anyone. Is this possible? Sometimes this is called “yarning”. Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone were noted and respected for being able to tell a great yarn. I like the one Davy Crockett told about being able to “grin” a raccoon out of a tree. Now days we call it “Bulls…poopie”. My Dad, whom I believe was a very honorable person, very much enjoyed good BS. When he was in POW camp during the War, he won a prize in a contest by telling the best Bul…Yarn. To paraphrase, he trained his hunting dog to chase game into and through a culvert and whereby he would shoot said game coming out the other side. Harmless, harmless fun. Respected even. It’s untrue, but is this lying?
Is it OK then to tell people that you were a great football quarterback in college? Say if, in reality, the closest you got to the ball was West Side, Section WA, Seat 34. What if people really respected you more? What if the girls came flocking? What if you got a great job out of it? What if they wanted you to run for mayor? Who have you hurt with your lie?
Propaganda. The art of twisting facts to produce an impression favorable to your agenda (distortion of truth), and by using fully the “lie of omission”. Today we only call it propaganda, if it is being promoted by the enemy. Among ourselves we call it “spin”. It has become a real art form. The media has become very adept at it, very sly. They make Josef Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, look like a piker. Some filmmakers have become experts too. Adolf Hitler said, “If you tell the great lie often enough, it becomes the truth”. Adolf Hitler was a liar! A lie, is a lie, is a lie, is a lie.
White lies. Little white lies! We were brought up taught that these were “pretty much OK”. When overweight Aunt Grace comes over to show off her new outfit. It’s a bright orange, stretch polyester pantsuit. “Don’t you just LOVE it?” she asks. Are we conditioned to tell her, “Grace, you look like a water retentant PUMPKIN”? Nooooo, no way! Not to poor ol’ Aunt Grace! “Oh, Grace! It’s YOU!”, we tell her. A beaming Aunt Grace sets off for the Mall, completely unprepared for the heartless stranger who busts a gut at the spectacle. But, hey, it wasn’t us that hurt her feelings. It’s all good. Wouldn’t it actually have been kinder to say, “Grace honey. It’s not very flattering. Let’s go take it back and find something else.”