Three guys are in an elevator and one of them farts. There are two truths about this situation. One is that someone literally passed gas and knows it, the other is the communally agreed truth, which is that the guilty party will be the first off the elevator. Even if the first guy off the elevator didn’t do it, once he has left the elevator the other two will at least in their mind if not in oral agreement decide that the rest of the journey will be easier on them if they just agree that the guilty party has departed. This is an extremely trivial example of a common place mislead truth or lie that in all honesty probably doesn’t hurt anyone. We, as a society, tell little white lies to avoid uncomfortable situations. The problem is, that even the most harmless of little lies is a gamble in what could lead to a trail of embarrassment and shame.
Although the recent incident involving congressmen Anthony Wiener comes to mind, that really isn’t what started me thinking about this issue. But it does make for a good example of the kind of lie I’m talking about. When we lie to cover up or save ourselves from embarrassment we are really just building up that embarrassment. Just go back to the analogy of the gastronomic anomaly in the elevator. What if, in that awkward moments after the odorous crime was committed, the guilty party just declared the truth. “Sorry, that was me.” Or even, “That was me… Deal with it!”. Who says there was really anything to be sorry for. It’s a natural thing, or at least that could be argued. But if you hide the truth, there is no argument for innocents because the avoidance of the truth is evidence of personal guilt.
However you do it, telling the truth early puts the matter to a close. The more you cover it up, the more it makes you look a fool. That said, even if you could get away with a lie, would you? Would it really matter?
Most people say they wouldn’t. But when faced with a situation, there are many who from an early childhood practice default to lie in the face of unwanted attention or embarrassment. I knew some children growing up that lied with every statement. I often wonder how that worked out for them as they developed into adulthood. As a co-worker or employee, how important is complete honesty. Everyone should be allowed a level of privacy about them selves, their thoughts and feelings. But when does a little lie show you how dependable that person really is. In my job, I work with important servers in ways that it is important that I demonstrate a level of integrity when it comes to “fessing up” to mistakes I make. Because in technology, when someone lies, it really messes up the trouble shooting data we use to find a solution. I’ve been lied to many times by clients who have messed up their own website but don’t want to admit that they were messing with things they shouldn’t have. I also have clients, one today in fact, that simply declare the truth, “I was playing around where I shouldn’t have and I altered this line of code.” Maybe an embarrassing thing to admit at first, but it also means I can find the solution in seconds.
Perhaps there are some jobs where truth is more important then others. Maybe it’s more important that a nurse working in a surgery room tells the truth then a janitor lying about how often the toilets are scrubbed. I bet if you asked a military person, they would say that integrity at any level is crucial to the success of the team. What about in the Church? Is there room for lies that cover our socially awkward moments? I’m honestly not sure. I guess every person needs to seek out their own conviction on the matter of how honest they need to be with the brotherhood of Church family. I do know this. When we tell lies, we only cheat ourselves. Sounds like something I would say to my kids, but it’s true for all of us. When we lie, we take on an unnecessary burden, we miss out on a disarmed moment of bonding with our family, and most of all, we deceive ourselves about our own identities. I have been dishonest. I spent a great deal of my youth worried more about convincing those around me of my high level of integrity then I was actually concerned about my true integrity. Later in life I read a verse that struck me about this.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. -Philippians 2:12-13
Fear and trembling. To me, at that age, my faith was a mostly logical choice. I read, understood and decided to put my faith in Christ. But “fear and trembling”… not so much. It was only after college that I became more committed to a more honest relationship and faith in Christ. I would stop putting on a show and start really living faith. Faith means that I really trust Christ enough to forgive my mistakes. It means I don’t hide from my mistakes, but face them head on and push forward doing good. I struggle, but the difference now is I am proud of my struggle. I would gladly share with any brother in Christ who honestly wants to know. The bible does teach that we shouldn’t just “cast our pearls to swine”, meaning don’t share your heart with those who will mistreat it. But when you are in the safety of the family of God, you should be comfortable with and enjoy the benefits of honesty.