From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 9 – What is ‘the love of the truth’ and why does truth matter so much to God?
For an honest person, one of the most shameful and humiliating things imaginable would be to be caught out in telling a lie. Even the thought of doing that and being found out and exposed makes me squirm. But that is not how habitual liars see it. It would therefore be highly naive of you to imagine that they would feel any shame at being caught lying. They don’t.
All they feel is anger at being thwarted or confronted. They feel no shame at what they have done. That has been my consistent experience with every liar I have ever come across, in any context, whether they were strangers, work colleagues, church members, or even church leaders.
Far from feeling ashamed, a liar feels aggrieved when he is exposed. He acts as if some wrong has been done to him. I was once involved on the sidelines of a dispute between two couples, watching what was happening and hearing what each side said. The first couple, who were Christians, were consistently telling the truth. But the second couple, who were non-Christians, were lying over and over again.
At one point the second couple told a clear lie in a letter they wrote. The first couple pointed out the lie to them and even referred to a specific entry by them on Facebook which proved they were lying. However, the second couple just replied brazenly: “So you’ve been snooping then”. The point was that they:
a) weren’t ashamed, or even embarrassed, at being shown to be lying
b) spoke as if they had done nothing wrong (in lying)
c) made no apology and felt no remorse.
d) even portrayed themselves as having been wronged. They had the nerve to speak as if it was the first couple who were behaving badly, i.e. by checking up on things on Facebook, not they themselves who were acting wrongly by lying.
I can think of another occasion some years ago when I was in a private meeting with the leader of a church that I used to be in. I was the Chairman of the Trustees of that church and was confronting the leader about his improper behaviour, in particular his dishonesty. We were meeting in the presence of two witnesses from the Trustees of the same church, i.e. mature Christians. They had agreed to hear each of us and to try to mediate. The leader lied repeatedly and brazenly throughout the meeting. I was astonished at hearing him lie, right in front of me. He did it with such a calm face, while looking the two witnesses straight in the eyes.
After the meeting was over, the witnesses went home, with no solution having been found. The leader then turned to me and said in a relaxed tone: “Can’t you just let me off the hook?” By that he meant that he wanted me to stop holding him accountable and to stop pointing out where he was lying. I said “Why did you lie to them?” because I was amazed that he had felt able to do it. I was very naive then and had never previously experienced such blatant dishonesty from a church leader. It would not amaze me today. However, there was not even a flicker of shame or remorse on his face. He just replied: “We’ll I’ve got to defend myself”.
He spoke as if he had every right to do whatever was needed to cover his tracks. It was an education for me as to how dishonest people can be, even in churches. Above all, it showed how shameless they can be about it. You have to grasp that last point or you will be misled by people’s expressions, i.e. the fact that their faces show no trace of embarrassment. You must not allow yourself to be thrown off course by that.
So, don’t allow the absence of shame in a person’s face or voice to deceive you into thinking that they must therefore be telling the truth. That doesn’t follow at all. It is actually quite normal for an habitual liar to be unashamed when caught lying. Jeremiah spoke of this phenomenon:
O LORD, do not your eyes look for truth?Jeremiah 5:3 (ESV)
You have struck them down,
but they felt no anguish;
you have consumed them,
but they refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock;
they have refused to repent.
Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?Jeremiah 6:15 (ESV)
No, they were not at all ashamed;
they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,”
says the LORD.
Each of the people that I have referred to above, the non-Christian couple and the church leader, had the same feature. They were all willing to tell whatever lies they needed to tell in order to suit their own purposes and to protect themselves. Their approach was entirely amoral. Right and wrong did not even come into it, and certainly didn’t matter to any of them. That is why they could be so bold and defiant.
The other key feature is that none of them had any sense of impending judgment. That might be understandable in the case of the non-Christian couple. But it was equally the case with the church leader. He had no fear of God whatsoever. The idea of facing God in judgment one day, whether at the Judgment Seat of Christ (for believers) or at the Great White Throne (for unbelievers) did not matter to him at all.
It made me shudder to think of what judgment lay ahead for him. I actually felt the fear of God on his behalf, and still do, whereas he was immune to it. He had lied so often that it had become normal for him. His heart became progressively hardened until he eventually reached the point where he believed that he would get away with everything, insofar as he was thinking about it at all. He was like the people of Zechariah’s day:
11 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. 12 They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the LORD of hosts.Zechariah 7:11-12 (ESV)