I grew up hearing “the truth will set you free.” It’s a common saying I heard at home and at school, especially when those saying it wanted to prompt others to tell the truth. However, the origination of the saying came from the Bible, in John 8:32 and had nothing to do with being truthful.
My son came home from work the other day and told me his boss had encouraged him to tell a lie to a customer in order to make a sale. My oldest son may struggle with a few things, but telling the truth is not one of them. I was so proud of him when he told me that he stood up to his boss and told him making one sale was not worth telling a lie. In that instance, the truth did set him free from having to lie again and again and again.
And potentially, that’s another meaning behind the expression.
But originally, Christ had just differentiated himself from his listeners in the synagogue. And he then said, “if you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
In the context of the original statement, the truth is knowing and believing in Jesus. And, although many perverted the saying in order to encourage others to tell the truth, just because the reason is great doesn’t make the results admirable.
Growing up, my children had five rules they had to follow. Telling the truth was one of those rules. I learned a long time ago that one lie would birth another lie and yet another, and sooner or later you can’t keep track of every lie you’ve told every person. It may seem easy to let them roll off your tongue but eventually they come back to bite you in the butt.
I think most of the time my children understand the value of telling the truth. However, I do have two who routinely lied about the amount of food (chocolate) they ate during the day as they were growing up. I knew they were lying and they knew I knew they were lying, and yet they continued!
I used to drive a 17 year old Toyota Camry until last week it finally decided enough was enough. After 315,000 miles, the car needed more repairs than I was willing to spend, including new tires, new brakes and a hole in the exhaust system. So I set out to buy myself a new car, or rather a used car that was new to me. Eventually I decided to buy a certified used vehicle so that I could have one year warranty and a few other perks.
The first dealership I went into, the sales person was a friend of my sons and I thought that I might get a fair deal and be treated like a human being. However, it didn’t happen. Turns out the young man is one of the highest grossing salesman in the tri-state area and he treated me like any other mark walking through the front door.
So, three days later I went to another dealership after doing my homework on the used vehicles they had on the lot. I gave my speech to the first sales person who walked up to me, determined that if I was going to be treated like a mark I could go somewhere else.
“I am here to buy a car today. I want a car, but I do not need to buy it from you. I want to be treated like a human being without heavy sales techniques used on me. If you can do that, that’s great and I’ll buy a car. If you can’t do that, I’ll walk out and go to the next dealership.”
There was only one time during our conversation over the next 3 hours that I warned him if he used those techniques on me again I would walk out. I think sometimes people get so used to communicating in a specific way and using specific tactics to get what they want, they forget how they come across. I did buy a car. I didn’t get a great deal, but I paid a fair price.
My ex-father-in-law was like that. He was a top steel salesman in the country for many years while he was working. The problem with being a salesperson is that he was always selling! There were very few times in the years that I knew him where he didn’t have his salesperson persona in full force. Unfortunately, many salesman learned the art of lying, and lying well, and he was no different.
Did the man who sell sold me my car lie to me? I don’t know, but I do know I got a fair deal because I did my homework before I went.
It’s hard to trust people you know have lied in the past because it becomes a habit and lying becomes easy. It’s a difficult lesson my children learned over the years as with one lie they destroyed my trust and it took a bit of time to rebuild it again. But it’s a great lesson to learn at home in the safety of an environment where they’re supported and loved, and not out in the big bad world.
Nobody’s perfect. At some time or another we have all lied. The objective is to remain as truthful as possible in order to reap the rewards that come with knowing you have acted with character and high moral value. You might not get the promotion, you may not get the best deal and you may feel as if lying in a situation puts you further ahead than telling the truth. However, in the long run, people find out that you lie and they learn you are not trustworthy.
I used to believe that I could get away with almost any lie I told. I actually got to be very good at telling a lie and today I can tap into those skills and lie well enough that even my family doesn’t know I’m not telling the truth. This comes in handy when I’m trying to hide a birthday gift or keep a surprise party a secret. But it’s not something I’m proud of and it’s not something I practice today.
I’m grateful lying didn’t get me into trouble over the years and that I discovered the benefits of telling the truth long before I lost a job, a relationship or financial stability. It’s a lesson I tried to instill into my children over the years and it’s one I believe they have learned.
Of course, if they haven’t learned it, then they’re lying well enough to cover it up. But, like all cover-ups, they are eventually found out.