A Journey into Honesty

The truth sometimes hurts


“D—- it, Pastor Bill,” Tom* said in a fit of anger, adding a few more colorful words before continuing. “You have a way of twisting things so you end up getting your own way.” That sentence was like a fiery dart piercing my proud yet anxious heart.

Not wanting to exacerbate the situation, I wisely refrained from a response. Aw, that’s just Tom, I thought. He’s kind of an oddball anyhow. What does he know? But as the dust settled, I realized that there was another side to him that I really appreciated, a sincerity that was quite compelling.

Then I began to think, Lord, what if he’s right? So I prayed. And in that way by which we know our Lord is speaking to us, I heard Him say, Tom has done you a real favor. You will do well to apologize and keep that word stored in your heart and mind. If, or rather ‘when,’ it surfaces again, you will know to ‘cease and desist.’”

That rather unpleasant episode has sent me on a journey into honesty that has had amazing results. Not a very helpful, but at least comforting, thought was that “. . .all men are liars.” (Psalm 116:11) The psalmist is saying that in our fallen state, we all have a strong tendency to, at best, tilt reality in our favor. At our worst, we develop a lifestyle of “deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13).

Without realizing it, I was fast becoming a chronic liar, and denial would only have delayed or prevented a cure. But why? I came from a family where honesty was lauded. A few reasons have come to my attention. First, lying is the easy way out of otherwise embarrassing situations. It seems to allow us to cover up failures and weaknesses with a few simple words. In short, it is an attempt to change a painful reality into a brighter picture. Secondly, lying allows us to take shortcuts—we don’t have to pay full price in honor, dollars or labor but still seem to get the same results as if we did. Third, lying seems to be a means to gain acceptance and esteem from those who are important to us. The world admires people who are strong, good looking, clever, funny, commanding or wise; if we don’t feel we fit that pattern, we can always bluff it.

Lastly, as we develop relationships with others, we think, If you really knew me, I’m afraid you wouldn’t like me. But like the devil’s and our culture’s lies, the opposite is true. People like us when we are refreshingly honest and have the freedom to laugh at ourselves. My closest confidantes and I have our greatest laughs about the silly things we do and the fronts we put up to hide our weaknesses and failures. That freedom is from God, and a fringe benefit is that such honesty frees others as well. When my hands are tied behind my back, I’m not freeing anyone. But set me free, and I’ll free others. After all, whom the Son shall set free shall be free indeed.

The flip side of trying to manipulate our relationships through lies is that our sins do find us out. If we have lied about our struggles, our credibility with others is terribly damaged, sometimes beyond repair. And even if our sin does not come out, we will always fear being exposed. But beyond that, our spirits are never free as long as we are hiding something. I believe that God has given each of us a beautiful spirit (personality) that is capable of carrying much by way of good news and blessing (as the messenger of the Lord), but sin, like static, keeps us from giving a clear signal.

I can’t tell you how free I feel whenever I am able to answer honestly a question that will reveal a weakness or failure on my part. Of course, I am always tempted to run for cover at such times by quickly finding an acceptable excuse or alibi. But any embarrassment of the moment is easily eclipsed by the joy I feel in being free to answer honestly. For, while admission of our weakness or failure may show us in a bad light temporarily, our honesty shines as the noonday sun.

*(name changed)

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