Church-Community Connection: True lies create false lives

As we enter 2023, let’s look at what made the news in 2022. Perhaps the most memorable news people heard about was “fake news.” To understand fake news, let’s explore the concept of white lies.

“Little white lies. We all tell them. We do it to be kind: ‘I love this gift!’ We do it to protect ourselves: ‘I’m leaving in five minutes.’ We do it because it’s an uncomplicated way out of something awkward: ‘I didn’t see your text.’ White lies are the kinder, gentler fibs about less important things.” (Author unknown.) Dictionary.com defines the white lie as a harmless or trivial lie, especially one told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.

DIRECTV surveyed 2,000 United States adults to find out what white lies they told the most and to whom. The survey yielded some fascinating results if the respondents were telling the truth.

Here’s a list of the top 10 most frequently told white lies and the percentage of people who have used them. 1. “I’m fine.” (92%) 2. “I love this present!” (80%) 3. “Sorry, I’m sick.” (78%) 4. “I didn’t see your text.” (72%) 5. “Let’s keep in touch!” (70%) 6. “This meal you made is delicious.” (70%) 7. “Leaving in five minutes.” (69%) 8. “On my way.” (66%) 9. “I’ll be ready in 15 minutes.” (65%) 10. “No, you don’t need to lose weight.” (63%)

Speaking of white lies, the biggest lie I tell myself is, “I don’t need to write that down. I’ll remember it.”

Here’s a list of the top groups of people to whom we use white lies: 1. Co-workers. (26.99%) 2. Family. (23.95%) 3. Friends. (22.06%) 4. Significant other. (10.78%) 5. Parents. (8.71%) 6. Other. (7.51%)

So, white lies are justified by people to not hurt others. I guess I get it. However, could there be a danger in developing a habit of telling white lies? I think so. First, little white lies are often a way of avoiding responsibility. The “I didn’t see your text” is more of a shame-based response of the sender than not hurting someone’s feelings. Wouldn’t telling yourself and them the truth be more authentic and constructive?

Secondly, habitually telling white lies often transforms into more significant, intentional and often destructive lies. It’s not about protecting the recipient. It’s about justifying the sender’s words or actions no matter the cost to themselves or others. The result is exaggeration, spin, fibs, half-truths, partial truths, manipulation and fake news. Fake news comes from fake views. It’s “true lies.” So here’s a lesson we can glean from Adam and Eve about lying. Lies have to be covered up, but the truth can run around naked.

The Bible has much to say about this. The Apostle Paul outlines the seven progressive downward steps leading to cultural disintegration in Romans, Chapter One. Then he reveals how it happens. The influencers of culture exchange truth for lies by suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. Paul means that people who influence others through “fake news” started by telling people white lies. Then, they progress from white lies to intentional lies and partial truths because of their social, political or personal biases. That’s called “spin.”

Might I say the world is spinning out of control because of spin? And remember, the first casualty in a military or cultural war is the truth. George McDonald says, “When a person argues for victory and not for truth, they are sure of just one ally, the devil.” So I suggest being careful about who you listen to and who you hang out with.

Spin is more intellectually deceptive than white lies. Wikipedia’s definition of spin in public relations and politics is a form of propaganda achieved through providing a biased interpretation of an event or campaigning to persuade public opinion in favor or against some organization or public figure.

What’s the problem here? How can receivers of the spin gang make an informed decision based on facts? For example, let’s say your foot is standing in a fire. Then the nerves (your internal informer) in your foot mislead you by reporting you are not standing in a fire. So your foot becomes a victim of fake news.

How can you make an informed decision that has future consequences, whether kindly intentioned or intentionally misled? Nerves are created to report the news, not spin the news. When someone tells you a white lie, you are uninformed. When someone lies or spins the truth, you are misinformed. The worst thing about being deceived is you are deceived.

As we step into 2018, let’s be aware, alert and intelligent. Invest in investigating the news. Don’t let your easily manipulated feelings rule you. Let truth lead you. There’s a difference between credibility and plausibility. Credibility means something is true. Plausibility seems true, and for the moment, it seems like it’s working.

Hint: Just because it seems true doesn’t mean it is true. Truth is always strong, no matter how weak it seems, and falsehood is weak, no matter how strong it looks.

Here’s a resolution for 2023. Realize real lies downgrades both the sender and the receiver. If we stop telling white lies habitually, we will probably stop telling real lies. The only thing that can set us free to make informed decisions is the truth. Living by lies and lying to make a living has a limited shelf life. That’s called truth or consequences.

As the title of this article says, true lies create false lives. Do we get any better in 2023, or is this it? I think we will get better.

Ed Delph is a noted author of 10 books, as well as a pastor, teacher, former business owner and speaker. He has traveled extensively, having been to more than 100 countries. He is president of NationStrategy, a nonprofit organization involved in uplifting and transforming communities worldwide. For more information, see nationstrategy.com. He may be contacted at nationstrategy@cs.com.