“Its not a lie, if you believe it” – George Costanza.
I know most of you never watched Seinfeld, it went off the air before you were born! If I could recommend one nineties show, it’d be this. George was Jerry’s neurotic friend who made an art out of lying. While we chuckle at his line, when we get serious we know lying is destructive.
“Tell the truth. Or at least don’t lie” – Jordan Peterson
Jordan Peterson is a Canadian psychotherapist who has become famous in the last couple years. I read his book before he was popular, and just read his second one, Twelve Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. This is one of his rules. Its a good rule. Peterson does not claim to be coming up with new ideas, but reminding us of old ones, and this echoes our most ancient wisdom (such as the Ten Commandments).
How often do you lie throughout the day?
Read Psalm 12
1 Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore;
those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.
2 Everyone lies to their neighbor;
they flatter with their lips
but harbor deception in their heart
This may have been written thousands of years ago, but not much has changed. Lies and flattery are everywhere, from our top politicians on down to the people we meet each day. We lie to save face. We flatter to make people like us.
3 May the Lord silence all flattering lips
and every boastful tongue—
4 those who say,
“By our tongues we will prevail;
our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”
When does a person cross the line from being someone who lies to being a liar? I don’t think it makes sense to say that if you do something once, or a few times, that thing defines you. Perhaps when it becomes a habit that defines your character? When you reach George Costanza level of believing your own lies? When you trust your sharp tongue and lying lips to manipulate others and get out of trouble?
I’m not sure when the line is crossed. But I think we all need to be aware of the power of our words. Read James 3:1-13 to see more about the danger of careless words.
5 “Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the Lord.
“I will protect them from those who malign them.”
6 And the words of the Lord are flawless,
like silver purified in a crucible,
like gold refined seven times.
7 You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
and will protect us forever from the wicked,
8 who freely strut about
when what is vile is honored by the human race.
It is kind of amazing, as I reflect on these Psalms each week, how God regularly speaks of defending the poor and needy. Careless words and lying are not just a “spiritual” issue but directly relate to real physical world realities of justice and mercy, hunger and starvation, wealth and poverty. Further, because the words of God are flawless (trustworthy, true) then we know the Lord will keep the needy safe.
I am sure there are a lot of things we could draw from this. For me, I am reminded that we are complete people and everything we do relates to everything else we do. If we use lying and flattery, this is not isolated from how we use our money or time. Carelessness in one are will bleed over into other areas.
A lying tongue and flattering lips will eventually corrupt the entire person.
May we be people then, who weigh our words wisely, who tell the truth with honesty, humility and love.