I’ve mentioned before what a liar I used to be. You may or may not be interested in knowing that I haven’t really changed.
As a kid, some of the phrases I used the most included:
I didn’t do it.
She [insert sibling’s name] did it.
He [insert another sibling’s name] made me do it.
I don’t know what happened.
Most of them were a panicked response to the trouble I’d found myself in. Motivated by the desire to avoid detection of whatever-it-happened-to-be-that-I’d-done-wrong, and resulting punishment. I tend to think I’ve grown past these kinds of lies (aka Garden of Eden Lies), moving on to less harmful ones, such as:
No, it’s fine.
I don’t care one way or the other.
I’m sure whatever you decide will be fine.
Feel free to correct my mistakes.
That [insert anything here] was very interesting!
I wasn’t thinking of anything in particular.
Yes, I’m sure.
My middle name is Frances.
I have a twin sister.
I really don’t have an opinion either way.
I’m completely content with what’s been decided.
I completely understand.
I classify most of these as the Polite Lies, the ones that almost no one calls me out on. Social niceties, I guess, dictate that, if someone wants to withhold her opinion, she’s allowed to lie and say she had no opinion to begin with. It’s okay to say something you don’t mean, sometimes. When the situation calls for it. And they aren’t always lies, just sometimes.
There’re other categories of lies, I think–Pointless Lies is one, of which “My middle name is Frances,” would be an example. I tell these mostly out of curiosity, just to see if people will believe me. If I think about it too hard, it sounds kind of sinister–almost as if I’m trading on a reputation as a generally honest person.
I suppose I could classify any sort of fiction or stories I write as lies–seeing as they don’t match up with reality, strictly speaking. But that’s not really what I’m getting at. The strangest thing for me is this idea that we say things we don’t mean. That I say things I absolutely do not mean.
Sometimes, I think, my motivation is pure–that I really am trying to be “completely content with whatever’s been decided.” So, rather than keep saying what I really think, I give that opinion up. So then I guess I really don’t have an opinion. But I did have an opinion at one point.
I don’t know. This is a ramble and I have no answers to the questions I haven’t even asked yet. What got me thinking about it in the first place was a quotation I read by A.W. Tozer, in which he claimed that the Christian is prone to lying whenever he sings certain hymns. Hymns such as “I Surrender All,” I mean, where it’s easy to just start singing the chorus over and over without getting into your heart and mind what the words mean.
I know what he meant, I think. Growing up, my church would sing this one song in particular that bothered me to sing. It’s called “Are Ye Able, Said the Master,” and I think you can find the text here:
If you’re reading this, and it happens to be your favorite hymn, please comment and share with me why it’s so good. I’d genuinely like to know.
Anyway, I understand it’s important to be conscious of what we sing in worship to God. Sometimes I can’t sing hymns, because I’m all too conscious of something in my life I haven’t surrendered to Him yet. Generally when that happens I read the words, still, and pray that I would be able to sing them earnestly.
That only brings me to the other category of Lies, which is Lies I Tell to God. Which is ridiculous that that’s even a category, because the God I believe in is omniscient and already knows the truth about whatever-it-is-I’m-attempting-to-disguise. Ridiculous.
These lies include but are by no means limited to:
I want you to humble me, God.
I desire Your will to be done above all else, even if it’s uncomfortable for me. Even if it’s not what I wanted or had planned.
Guide me even when I can’t see the end clearly.
Teach me patience.
I am content with where You have me, in the situation in which You’ve placed me, and with the gifts You’ve given me, and I need nothing else except you.
Okay, okay, now. Are they always lies? No. Sometimes, I mean it when I pray for patience and humility. Then I remember that He answers those prayers and, I further remember, the process by which He teaches those particular lessons is not exactly my favorite. Being taught patience requires practicing patience. Ditto for humility.
So sometimes I think it’s possible to pray nice, lovely things and not mean a word of it. Because I’ve done it myself. And what I’m wondering is this: isn’t it a sin to lie to God? So I would think someone like Tozer would advise not praying if I’m not gonna mean it.
Okay. But what if it’s more that I don’t mean it, but I want very much to mean what I say. When I say, “I am content with what You’ve given me,” maybe what I really mean to say is, “I want to be content with what You’ve given me.” I just don’t see how I can mean any of the things I pray if God doesn’t help me to mean them.
If He does not answer that very first prayer–“Change my heart, God”– before we’ve prayed it, I don’t understand how on earth our hearts are ever changed.
Thanks for reading. Comment if you’d like!