What’s the truth about lying?

What’s the truth about lying?

From Ben Stiller being grilled in Meet the Parents, to episodes of a CSI or Law and Order spin-off, we’ve all seen lie detectors. While they are not used within the real-life Australian judicial system, we all still know this: Lie detectors are truth machines.

That statement is false, according to a former American detective sergeant who used to administer lie-detector tests.

Click here to read more about Doug Williams who, since the 1980s, has been campaigning against the machines he once operated.

Williams maintains that lie detectors are not handy helpers in the quest for revealing truth. He insists that such machines should never be used because, according to Williams, lie detectors can be “beaten”,

“If anyone could be taught how to produce or prevent a reaction on the polygraph at will, wouldn’t that make the whole idea of a ‘lie detector’ a fraud?” Williams explains. “And wouldn’t polygraph operators have to admit their little machine is actually just a sick joke?”

That’s a fair point. If someone can lie to a machine that promises to reveal the truth, doesn’t that stop it being useful? Many don’t agree with Williams’ accusations, though, and he’s drawn plenty of opposition and rejection around the world.

In the FAQ section of its website, Australian company Advanced Polygraph responds this way to the question of whether someone can beat a lie detector: “No, you cannot. If you know you are being deceptive, the polygraph will detect that deception. Any qualified polygraph examiner will certainly detect deception.”

The truth about lie detectors, then, seems unclear. But debating about the possibility of lying to a lie detector, misses a much bigger issue. The issue of why we would resort to lying, anyway.

Sure, we can all point to situations where not telling the truth seems to be the best option or, even, the right one. But that doesn’t change how lying hardly holds itself up as the foundation for our relationships and interactions.

Think about it from the other side: do you want to be lied to? Again, we can probably think of things we would claim to not want to hear the truth about. Our appearance. Our work. Our ability to be a good friend. Our generosity. Anything about us that we’d rather pretend is better than it actually is.

But lying shouldn’t be seen as an appliance. Something we use or don’t use, depending on the situation. Instead, being not a liar can be who we are. Repeat: we can actually be not a liar, because there’s good news on that front.

Those who follow Jesus Christ, and give their way of life over to him to renovate and shape, can do away with lying.

“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices and put on the new self.” That powerful truth from Colossians 3:9-10 refers to how a Christian is a “new” person, who has had their “old” self cast aside. While it isn’t as easy as that to live the “new” way that Jesus calls us to – and demonstrated himself – Colossians 3:9-10 is one of many passages that indicates why Christians should live that way.

Because that is who Christians are. The old self has been put off. That happened, when you, me and anyone else accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour of their own life. Now, with the new self at work in Christians by the Holy Spirit, lying is one of the many things that we used to do…. but no longer need to.

Instead, rather than argue about whether we could lie to a lie detector, why not concentrate on the truth? After all, honestly, the new way of life with Jesus is a much more reliable and long-lasting way of living with each other. Because as Williams’ campaign points towards, wanting the truth to come out is the surest foundation for trust, integrity and harmony. If we all were on about truth, and didn’t lie to one another, we wouldn’t need lie detectors, anyway.

Ben McEachen


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