It is intriguing to watch a child discover the power of a lie, as the realisation dawns that it is possible to escape the consequences of one’s actions by avoiding the truth. It is an enticing beginning to a journey for which the price to be paid will be revealed for many years to come.
As children we learn that lies can liberate: helping us to avoid responsibility for actions – in reality to avoid direct chastisement or discipline. If not found out, we are led to believe that each lie carries a benefit, and the cost is only associated with detection. As we grow, we learn to live with lies at various levels, regarding some as beneficial, even compassionate. But each lie has its own sinister return, and I suspect we spend much of our lives learning the cost, if not at least suffering the cost.
It is the imprisoning power of lies which are their greatest cost: we become trapped because we are unable to see the truth, and therefore deal with the realities which hold us back. The lies we believe about ourselves, about others, about God, and about the world in which we live have a formative influence on the ways in which we act to serve. The prime source of our disillusionment and despair is found in these lies, strangely enough often called truisms.
I believe that hard work is its own reward, and am constantly frustrated because I fail to make apparent progress. I believe that truth always wins out, and watch those whose commitment to the truth is transparently minimal prosper. I believe people can be trusted and am frequently let down, or I believe that people are all out to get you, and find myself incredibly isolated and lonely. Lies – half-truths and outright deceptions – mount an increasing cost.
But the worst lies are the ones we believe about ourselves – the image of self that we carry and act upon – at times idealised, for many overly critical, and for others mounted on blissful ignorance. Do I really know how honest and truthful I am? Can I really trust myself always? Are my actions always undertaken with the best of intent? How well do I understand my own responses and what is behind them? All these truths are masked, and their cost to our humanity is significant.
When Jesus said that the truth shall set you free, he didn’t indicate that it would come without pain or cost. For Jesus, its cost was expressed in the cost. Lies need to die in order for truth to prevail.
It all began with that wonderful discovery as a child. Who has the courage to undo it all?
November 7, 2004