The command not to lie to one another couldn’t be clearer (Colossians 3:9). And yet, do you ever leave a conversation sensing that what you’ve heard has not been fully true?
We may not be pathological liars, but there are more subtle ways that our speech can be less than true. In this mini-series we’re going to look at exaggeration, flattery and put-downs. Why do these less-than-true habits creep into our speech? And how does the gospel change what we say?
First up, the art of exaggeration. It’s so subtle, because it starts with truth. But it’s the gentle stretching of that truth that turns into a lie. Whether we’re telling a story for laughs, or having an argument with our spouse, it’s easy to spin the truth to serve ourselves and our own purposes.
How do we know if we’re exaggerating? Imagine for a moment that the person you’re talking to asked you ‘Did they really say that? Did they really do that?’ How would you have to, truthfully, reply? Maybe the truth is a little less exciting, a little less scandalous.
Why do we allow exaggeration to flavour our conversations? Here are three possible scenarios.
1. Making myself greater
My role in a scenario gets elevated. Somebody’s wrong behaviour gets overstated. My good deed is inflated. It’s natural to want to be the hero; it’s our default tendency to want the approval of those around us. And its seems so easy to get that approval with the things we say about ourselves.
2. Fighting my corner
In the midst of conflict it’s easy to push things to the extreme. You never…! He always..! It’s a way of trying to take justice into our own hands. When we feel wronged it’s really hard to accept that we may have played a part in the situation in which we find ourselves. We want to blame others and so we over state their wrongdoings.
3. Justifying my actions
Was what I did really that bad? Was it justifiable given the circumstances? When we want to put our actions on the right side of wrong we have two options – downplay our behaviour (is that reverse exaggeration?) or ramp up the circumstances.
The freeing news of the gospel is that a Christian is someone who has already admitted the worst wrongdoing and stands before God justified because of Jesus’ death on the cross. How does that help us bring truth to our speech? I can be more honest about those wrongs; they shouldn’t be a surprise to someone who has declared themselves a sinner. And I can be secure in my relationship with God, without having to justify myself to others. Exaggeration is a subtle art but my speech can ring true because of who I am in Jesus.