On the Nature of Deception

It’s easy, sometimes, to spot a liar. You learn to see the “tells”: the shifty eyes, the change in tone, the complete incredibility of the thing being said. Of course, some people are really great liars (oxymoron), and they can pull off a lie with the straightest, most trustworthy face imaginable. You’d never know they were telling or even living a falsehood; you just accept what they say because you trust them and they said it so it must be true. They’re not the worst kind, though – the most dangerous kind of liar – because there will always be those people who are not just telling the lie or living the lie, they believe the lie. They’ve told themselves the lie so many times that they believe it; regardless of whether or not you believe them, you can’t talk them out of it because it is truth to them. The lie has become truth, at least in their minds.

Scary, if you think about it.

So now I have a confession to make. It may come as a shock, so brace yourself…

I am a liar.

Whoa.

I know what you’re thinking: Um, Em, we know you lie. You’ve claimed to be the maker of every dessert at every social function since the history of dessert at social functions.

And it’s true; I do do that. Some of my friends (and often people I barely know or don’t know at all) are so sweetly modest about their culinary accomplishments that they need someone else to take the credit so that they can avoid the spotlight.

It’s a public service, really.

That’s not what I’m talking about here, though. No, today I’m talking about being the most dangerous kind of liar: the one who believes the lie is truth. And who am I lying to? (Because “To whom am I lying?” sounds ridiculously pretentious).

Me. Just me. I make the best audience, after all. I will believe anything I tell me as long as I repeat it often enough. I’m a sucker like that.

Here’s the thing about deception, though: it’s deceptive. It moves in all stealth-like before you ever question its validity and the next thing you know, you believe something about yourself that is just wrong. A common example would be, “I could never [insert goal here] because I’m not [insert adjective here] enough.”

How many books have we read that address this topic? How many speakers have we heard share their overcoming-wrong-thinking story?

There are some things you know are wrong without ever really knowing it.

Nevertheless, my deceptions, my lies-that-become-truth-in-my-head, are all variations of that theme. I may not say them out loud, I may go months or years without ever even recognizing them, but I think as if they’re true. I feel as if they’re true.

I live as if they’re true.

Just a few days ago I was discussing with a friend the changes that were taking place in her heart as she confronted one lie after another. She said, “It’s like I’m changing into a different person. Everything that would have described me two years ago is different now.” When she said that, I thought of the pillars we build our lives around. These pillars hold nothing up, as pillars are supposed to do. They serve no purpose whatsoever, but still we prop our lives against them. Everything we think is truth about ourselves, everything we believe, leaned up against a useless, towering pillar of lies.

When truth comes and destroys the pillar, it can make a life feel like it’s falling apart. Not outwardly, of course. Day to day life doesn’t look any different. It’s the internal, the heart life, that changes, feels like it’s falling apart. What feels like falling isn’t falling at all, however. It’s just a settling, settling into a firm foundation. It makes you feel different. It makes you be different, more like you – more like the you you really are rather than the you the lies told you to be.  It’s a different you, but it’s the real you, all the same.

Truth has the power to do that.

Today I’m thankful for truth. I’m thankful for seasons of growth and settling.

Mostly, though, I’m thankful for a Father who is not content to sit idly by while His daughter lies to herself.

He’s a good dad like that.

old things

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