To Tell the Truth

Do you or someone you know have a problem with telling lies? Are the lies to avoid consequences? (Blaming others, lack of personal responsibility for behavior) To make oneself look better than she is? (self-centered, even narcissistic) To put others down? (insecure, bullying) To get one’s way or control situation? (manipulative, controlling) To avoid responding to a request for help? (self-centered and self-absorbed) To buy time? (procrastinator) To protect others? (‘savior” complex, co-dependent) Other reasons? No reason is a good reason for lying. I don’t think it’s necessary to lie even in cases to avoid telling people that something they’re asking about is none of their business. One can say, “That is not something I care to share.” or “Why would you ask that?” With children one can say, “Sometimes adults want to keep things private. When adults choose not to answer a question because it is private, it is okay.” Or a child can be distracted away from the situation.

One thing I have learned and am required to address regularly with women in recovery is finding that they have a very “loose” definition of “lie”. Lying by omission appears to never be considered a lie to them. Being presumptuous in willfully undertaking a behavior that may not explicitly be a violation of the letter of a rule, but certainly is a violation of the spirit of the rule, or which they have not been specifically and explicitly and personally told they couldn’t do, is never a lie. In other words, they will test the limits of every rule’s application. Pleading ignorant with “I didn’t know,” is always an easy default response to attempt to avoid consequences in such cases. Lying or silence to protect someone else’s rules violations is never a lie. “You cover my back, I’ll cover yours” is a badge of honor and requirement for friendship, even if means lying for you, and you are required to do the same for me. If another person has received permission for something in particular, by default it is immediately alright for them, too, and “You SAID WE could” is the response. It makes it difficult when women are at very different points in their recovery and working on very different therapeutic goals to begin allowing something with one and not have it become chaos because everyone else wants to claim the privilege, too, even though it is not yet something for which they are ready. All of these behaviors are indicative of a willingness to manipulate the truth to get what one desires and avoid consequences in the process. The belief that it is preferable to ask forgiveness in any situation, in the event that you are unfortunate enough to get caught, instead of permission is pervasive. Or, simply deny, deny, deny even in the face of multiple witnesses and clear evidence, if not caught red-handed by the authority figure. Personal accountability and holding one another accountable for truth and honest conduct is very difficult. Such behavior often started in childhood and becomes such a ingrained pattern, it is nearly impossible to break until they truly and sincerely come under the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. This, in my opinion, is one of the hallmark characteristics of real transformation and assurance that one is actually saved.

John 3:21

“But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and medical contributor to Fox News, writes, “We live in an age of unprecedented challenges to the truth. Reality is under siege. All of us can point to examples: Politicians who manipulate the truth or withhold it; social networks that facilitate portraying ourselves as happier and more successful than we are; an epidemic of heroin use that prevents millions of young Americans from facing the problems they must overcome to be successful.

Does it matter? Why, after all, is the truth said to be sacred? Why can’t we indulge the parts of ourselves and our culture that suggest we can slip the bindings of reality and use our imaginations to pretend we have more friends than we do, or that we aren’t facing mortal enemies abroad, or that our leaders need not be authentic, so long as they are entertaining, or that our companies need not prove their value, assuming they can assert it, convincingly?

The answer is this: Human beings suffer in exact proportion to the extent that they depart from the truth. This is a structural beam of the individual and collective human mind and soul, perhaps literally encoded in our DNA, and it defines our place in the universe. Human beings need the truth as much as we need food. Jesus and Gandhi both proved it by fasting, when necessary, until certain truths became known to them and others. And, for the sake of this argument, it matters not at all to me whether you believe that this elemental need is woven into us by God or by science. It just is.

How do I know? I have sat with thousands of men and women who find themselves in profound psychological pain, in large part because they have attempted to avoid facts about their lives – whether having been imperfectly loved as children, having been deeply traumatized by loss or having been made to doubt their true talents and possibilities. I have unearthed with them the buried stories of where they veered away from the core facts of their existence – especially the painful and anxiety-provoking ones. And I have seen how retracing their steps, facing these facts and accepting them have alleviated their pain and made them more powerful.

The toll of avoiding the truth is always the same: a falling down or a falling apart. Every debt to the truth must be paid, with interest. Every debt.

This is the case for not paying attention to a mole on your skin that has darkened ominously, then continues its malignant transformation, uses the bloodstream to spread itself and attacks vital organs.

It is the case for not paying attention to lower quality goods or ideas being produced or embraced by one’s company, which then sparks falling revenues, which then minimize the potential of the venture or lead to bankruptcy.

It is the case for honoring celebrities of low character who then corrupt the characters of our young people, who emulate them.

It is the case for ignoring mortal enemies of the nation who may seem weak or far away today, but who are gathering strength enough to become a cancer here, in a way that could end freedom.

The truth will not be denied. The truth always wins. To the extent that we align ourselves with it, we thrive. To the extent that we deny it, we suffer.

For human beings, created, as I see it, in the image of God, it has always been that way and it will always be that way. And this is why great leaders cannot also be liars, and why great initiatives cannot also be half-measures, and why a cure for all that afflicts us is already inside us.”

Obviously, this is an issue about which I am becoming more and more determined. The FIRST rule in recovery is that one has to embrace honesty – with God, with herself, and with others. I am going to introduce this in a very lengthy and explicit way in the interview with candidates going forward. No point even starting the process if we don’t have this understanding in place.

On July 25, 2015 during the morning news on Fox News Channel there was a story about a father who had exercised public “shaming” of his daughter who had habitually stolen from and lied to her parents and others. The teen was forced to wear a sign in a public area. Her father videoed it and posted it on Facebook. The discussion on television was about whether this was appropriate. What is the impact on the one who is shamed? Is it abuse or is it an acceptable “natural consequences” of bad behavior?

I have observed that in dealing with people with a pattern of lying, there are certain things recur. Getting caught and “called out” in community can lead to repentance and learning, especially if one is concerned about how she is perceived in relationship to God and to others in the community. It actually has had a positive impact in the group with which I have worked. If one is not committed to the relationships in the community, is willing to abandon the community or be forced out, then such consequences may well be the motivation to do so. It can also be used to instruct the shamed person on how to grow from such humiliation and consequences of bad behavior, accepting personal responsibility for the consequences of her actions and learning why it is important to change. However, one should have the opportunity to be restored to community, chastened, but embraced in love if she is repentant.

When we feel shame in our spirit because of our sin, it should lead us to godly sorrow, repentance, confession, and restoration to God and others. That is the convicting presence of the Holy Spirit within us. When we feel shame as humiliation that wants to hide the sin, run away, cover up, lie or blame others we are not acting out of the influence of the Holy Spirit, but out of the influence of the Prince of Darkness, the Accuser of Humanity, the Father of Lies. So when you feel shame, is it restorative or toxic?

2 Corinthians 7:10-12 NASB “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. 12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God.”