Lying In America

             Sen. Hillary Clinton’s recent lies about dodging bullets in Bosnia haven’t much surprised anybody. After all, haven’t both Clintons made quite a reputation as inveterate dissemblers, through all those White Hourse scandals to more recent attempts to “rewrite history?” 

            Then there’s Eliot Spitzer, Sen. Craig, and the now ancient expression, “Bush lied, people died.”  

            No need to go into all that. What I’d like to talk about is how lying is a universal problem in our country. Recent surveys have found that 70% of college students admit they’d lie on a resume to get a job. In a study by Bella DePaulo et al, people admit to telling at least two lies a day every day. Whence this amazing human tendency? 

            Lying has been around since the Garden of Eden, at least if you consult the Bible. There in Genesis 3, Satan lied to Adam and Eve, who in turn lied to God about their involvement with the forbidden fruit. From there, we see lying in almost every story, from Cain lying about killing Abel to Jacob deceiving his brother Esau and numerous others. In modern times, who can forget the lies of the Nazis, the Communists, Nixon, and leaders too numerous to count?

            It’s strange, but I don’t remember anyone teaching me to lie as a child. I did it naturally. When I traded my football change wallet for a keychain license plate in second grade, I immediately told my mother, “I lost it.” Unfortunately, it was soon found in the hands of the kid I had traded with. I recall the searing eyes of my teacher as she seethed, “You lied!”  

            On a trip with some friends to Ft. Lauderdale during Spring Break, we needed a place to stay one night. I mentioned my grandmother who lived nearby, but when I called her to ask if she could put us up, I forgot to ask her for directions. When the guys pressed me about it, I told them, “She doesn’t drive. She told me she doesn’t know the directions.” When we finally arrived, the first thing Grandma said to us was, “I’m surprised you could find me since you didn’t ask for directions.”

            The shame was deep, and I even tried to wriggle out of that one. 

            In the Bible, you can find interesting thoughts about lying, besides the eighth commandment: “You shall not bear false witness.” For instance, there was Psalm 116:11 which said, “All men are liars.” Satan was the “Father of Lies,” according to Jesus in John 8:44.  A person who says he “knows God” and yet “doesn’t keep his commandments” is “a liar,” according to 1 John 2:4. Revelation 21:8 gives the final word on the issue, saying that “all liars” have “their place in the lake of fire.” 

            Regardless of the Bible, he fact is that in many cases the truth will become quite apparent. Lincoln said, “No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.”  

            I have seen people use lying to build themselves up in the eyes of others, to get out of trouble, or to simply bow out of a party they’re not interested in. 

            It works, until they get caught. 

            And then they usually try to lie their way out of what they said or did the first time.

            Admitting we lied in the first place seems to be the most difficult part of the whole process. We use words like, “No, I was misquoted.” Or, “I didn’t meant that at all.”

The Bible probably has something to say about that, too. But who cares? That doesn’t make it any the less wrong, brazen, or just plain stupid. And how stupid can it be to lie about something before large audiences that was caught on videotape before the whole world? Or to believe you’ll never be nailed about it?  And when caught, to lie some more?  

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