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Four kinds of liars

One of my best friends in life is Kevin McCarthy, a pastor and counselor in Michigan.  He and I were dialoguing about “why people lie.”  He brought up Dr. Willard Harley as a good resource.  Harley has identified four kinds of liars within the particular context of marriage but the…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

One of my best friends in life is Kevin McCarthy, a pastor and counselor in Michigan.  He and I were dialoguing about “why people lie.”  He brought up Dr. Willard Harley as a good resource.  Harley has identified four kinds of liars within the particular context of marriage but these categories apply for each of us:

1. Protective liars. Who do so to avoid hurting others (we’ve all seen it hiding a cancer diagnosis from someone so as not to traumatize them, etc…

2. Look Good liars.  We all know these, like Napoleon Dynamite who tells his schoolmates he’s spent the summer hunting wolverines in Alaska. It’s the motto: “The older I get, the better I was.”

3. Avoid Conflict liars.  Every married guy can resonate with this category: “Sure honey, I’ll be home in a half-an-hour…”

4. Pathological liars.  Like M. Scott Peck writes about in his great book The People of the Lie.

Pinocchio Parenting by Chuck Borsellino is a great expose’ on the subtle lies we tell our kids; culturally acceptable lies such as:

  • You can be anything you want to be
  • Looks don’t matter-it’s what’s on the inside that counts
  • It’s the thought that counts
  • It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose it’s how you play the game
  • God helps those who help themselves
  • It’s not what you know, it’s who you know that counts.
  • It doesn’t matter what you do in life, as long as you’re happy
  • All good things come in small packages
  • The best things in life are free
  • Of course there’s a Santa Claus

…and a host of others.

God’s advice to us is to “speak the truth in love.” Easier said than done.

Two helpful articles here and here.

Comments (19)

  • I confess! I lied to my kids about Santa Clause! and it was such a convincing lie my eldest son nearly had a fight with his best friend over it when he was 11!(His friend tried to tell him that it was his parents) When I sat him down to tell him the truth he just looked at me, thought for a few minutes and then said “what about the tooth fairy?!”

    Oh what a tangle webb we weave! (sorry Lord)

  • I think you can take this stuff a bit far. This is one of those instances where I cannot agree with you.
    I DO believe in integrity and the importance of telling the truth.
    HOWEVER….when you start saying that we should not pretend there is a Santa Claus, or throw around a saying that may or may not have merit, and call it SINFUL. To label it a LIE?
    I believe this crosses the line.
    Just my opinion.

  • As parents we have enough to worry about w/o adding intentional lies abut Santa or the tooth fairy or the boogy man.

    I have told my kids since they were born that santa wasn’t live and real. We celebrate Jesus being born, not some guy who wants to give us stuff.

    My mom had a friend, who, when told her kid that santa wasn’t real, the kid immediately said, “then Jesus is all made up too huh?” OOPS!!!

    My biggest beef is w/ the lie that “you can do anything if you dream big enough and work hard enough.”

    NO WAY JOSE!!! If that had been the case I would have been a 5′ 11″ pro basketball player. I worked my tail off and spent hours every day practicing only to barely make it at the NAIA level in college.

    Our kids get lied to every time they turn on the TV or radio, or watch a movie or read the paper. For pete’s sake can’t we at least try to make home a place safe for the truth?


  • Wes I wish I did what you did and Kari you are speaking from your own perspective, not from God’s, His standard is much higher and believe me it is a lie to say Santa is real.God is truth and no decepeption is in Him if we choose to follow Him then “making falsehood” a part of our lives is doing what Satan wants….we rubb out the line and re-draw it to suit us and todays society. Gods standards can never be changed and it is dangerous to think you can do that.

  • Amen Sue!

    Proverbs 6:16-19
    16 There are six things the LORD hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:

    17 haughty eyes,
    a lying tongue,
    hands that shed innocent blood,

    18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
    feet that are quick to rush into evil,

    19 a false witness who pours out lies
    and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

    If anyone noticed, LYING is in that twice…

  • Hi Seth,

    Thanks for this! I can definitely attest to the fact that speaking the truth in love, while difficult, is very necessary and can prevent a lot of hurt and pain later on. I have recently come out of a situation where I wish with all my heart that the people around me would have said something earlier, would have spoken the truth lovingly into my life even though they knew it would hurt me. Instead, everything grew to a point where it finally exploded, and instead of just wounding me the shrapnel radiated deep into the lives of several people very close to me. It didn’t help to have my friends telling me after I nearly self-destructed: “You know, I thought I should have said something at the very beginning. didn’t think it was a good idea.” “Well, WHY DIDN’T YOU???!!!!” was what I wanted to scream at them, but then again, they wouldn’t have had to be in that position if I was watching my life as carefully as I should have been.

    Thankfully God is a God of healing and restoration, and He has brought so many good things and so much growth out of all this. The wounds are slow to heal, but they are healing, and God is doing so much there!

    Why do we stay silent when we see someone engaging in a pattern of behavior that will lead them to self-destruction? Instead of speaking the truth in love and doing the difficult thing and risking that they will be mad at us (but possibly turning them away from that path and saving them so much pain), we protect the feelings of that person by not saying anything, and allow them to deeply wound their hearts in the process. Granted, like Kari said, there is a line there that can be crossed, a line where we risk becoming judgmental and are always looking at the speck in someone else’s eye and ignoring our own. Pursue the truth in prayer, and speak the truth in love!


  • Kari, I think you have misunderstood me. MY opinion is that I dont see (or should I say didnt see) anything wrong with telling children about Santa (a nice anagram of Satan!) or even the tooth fairy thats why I brought them up believing in these magical people. It was only when God convicted me of this did I see it differently. Unfortunatly MY opinion didnt match up to GODS opinion so I had to correct it like so many other things in my life I have had to correct.

    The fall of man was a very long fall from the truth, it is difficult at times to realise just how far we have fallen.But yes, you are right , you have absolutly every right to your own opinion.

  • Kari, I’m with you! Nothing wrong with the fun of tradition at all. We have always told our son that Jesus is Father Christmas’ boss! He works for Him! He only ever asks for one gift from him every year and when he opens it, he always says “thank You Jesus” completely spontaneously and I have a feeling Jesus delights in that!

    I’m all for truth and integrity, absolutely. But some of these books can make you so introspective, and so nit-picky, that they take all the joy out of life. I’m all for putting the “in all its abundance” back into “life.” If Jesus hadn’t been fun to be with, the local tarts and dropouts would never have invited Him to their parties! Speaking the truth in love doesn’t have to lose you the smile on your face.

  • Thanks Carol. That’s what I meant.
    Christians so easily fall into legalism, and I am one who tries to not make blanket statements about gray area things.
    I guard against them.
    Carol, I love your way of thinking!

  • The sad part of that is that when we don’t emphasize that Christmas is about Jesus and NOT Santa, kids get really disappointed when they find out that Santa isn’t real. In saying that, it really does make it harder for kids to believe in a Jesus they can’t see either! Now, if you are on fire and are training your kids diligently in the word of God (like the Bible says, which is NOT legalism) then you won’t have any problems with that. However, I also feel that one would not openly tell their child about a ficticious man that does not really exist. Why even do that?

    Nothing frustrates me more than to hear a mom or dad say “Santa gave you that” or “if you don’t behave, Santa won’t bring you anything for Christmas”

    All good gifts come from above, not from Santa!

  • Nothing frustrates me more than to hear a mom or dad say “Santa gave you that” or “if you don’t behave, Santa won’t bring you anything for Christmas”

    And nothing frustrated me more than when others put on their holy than thou hats and look down at how others do things.

  • Kari, There is no such thing as a “holy than thou” attitude. God is Holy and calls His people to be Holy. Either your passionate about Holiness, and doing everything you can to make sure nothin of sin is your life or your not.It is very dangerous to look down on others who wish no sin to be in them.Those who are passionate about the very nature of God. To stand in His presence, the Holy all consuming fire, every bit of sin will burn. I for one am doing everything I can to rid that from my life by seeking Gods light and jugement on my life. Because of that I will not compromise on sin and I will not try and right off the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

    Satan is very good at drawing the line a bit closer to himself then rubs it out and draws another line. If God says it is wrong to live in falsehood then I cant compromise on what He says.

    I think the key point in what you said Kari is that a “holy than thou” attitude frustrates you. Is there anyway you could share with me what triggers it and why? I am really interested in your views on this. I know it might seem trivial but I feel it is really important.Has it come from people around you for eg, or is it something you have always had?

    Many blessings to you

  • The difficulty Sue is that, while you are obviously genuine and whole hearted about your faith, sometimes the written word can make you sound a wee big arrogant – which I am sure is not your intention. With respect, to say that your opinion disagreed with God’s can come across as sounding as if you have little grace in your heart for people to whom God has not spoken on a particular issue, or to whom He has spoken something different.

    He’s a perfect Dad- He knows every kid needs different things to make them flourish and sometimes He will pinpoint an issue as wrong for one person but not for another. There are many things that are not wrong per se, but wrong for an individual. ie it isn’t wrong for me to drink alcohol but it is wrong for my friend who has been an alchoholic. It isn’t wrong for one person to feel God has called them to pacifism while another is called by the same God to the army.

    I don’t believe Kari is criticizing your obvious heart for God or desire for holiness. It is just that, albeit likely to be unintentional on your part, the words you wrote came over as if you thought you were superior and had all the right answers and the rest of us just needed to catch up.

    Knowing you the little I do, I am certain you are as aware of the rest of us that we are all on a learning curve and you wouldn’t consider yourself perfect! It’s one of the problems of the written word as opposed to face to face conversations, where body language, eyes and tone of voice communicate the greater part of the heart and intention behind the words. Easy to be misinterpreted or to say something entirely other than we think we are when it’s only written down.

    Trusting you won’t be offended by what I have written here.

    Kari, am I reading you right?

  • I am not offended at all Carol, I am actualy used to worse being said! In the old testament they use to stone to prophets to death because they had the same attitude towards them. They couldnt cope with what they thought was a “self righteous attitude” and became very offended never understanding that the Lord sends His prophets as watchmen over the people of God.

    There would be no point in being a Seer if you cant “see” things in the spiritual realms.My words are sharp, a double edged sword, and I make no apology for that.When it comes to sin,in christians lives I will always warn of the dangers they are in, I SEE the dangers.A LITTLE yeast works through the whole dogh and I SEE IT in the spiritual realms how Satan keeps moving the goal posts.I understand what you are saying about your example of alcohol, but one thing does not change and that is “do NOT get DRUNK on wine ( or other alcohol)neither does “do not live in falsehood” and do not lie.It is vital to be clear on Gods word.

    I am just doing my job Carol, I deliver what God asks, I give insight to what He shows me.Please take my words before the Lord and test them first and THEN if I am wrong please forgive me. The love of many will grow cold in the lasts days and alot of it is down to the “moved goal posts”. People are living with sin but wording it differently so it will fit into their lives.

    I will not be silent and watch Gods beloved children walk down a path that leads to death……even if they do fall out with me over it. I am not here for the praise of men….or even the insults….I am here to speak Gods word as sharply as He intends it.True love is NOT self seeking and if my words bring some to a closer relationship with God then it is worth any insults or wrong attitudes towards me. I am not here for myself. His word brings life and He wants His people set free.

    As for my heart….God reveals the hearts of men….if you want to know my heart ask God to show you that too.

  • Love your heart Sue! I ditto your words. Thank you for standing up for your beliefs. In fact, thank you to everybody for standing up your beliefs. I stand on the word of God and refuse to let the devil have a foot hold in that…

    Things are a lot different now than when we were kids 30+ years ago. We live in a country where Christians are persecuted for standing strong. The enemy is in full force for the time is near. I would rather live faithfully in thought than whimsical and stand before my God and have to give an answer for carelessness.

  • thank you Jen, I am glad you can see what I am saying.

    I would just like to leave this message.Not only for those who have conributed to this thread but for anyone else who might come along and read it.God sent Prophets for a reason and I hope this will change some opinions.

    There is and has always been a rocky relationship between the Lords prophets and everyone else. Even as we read in revelation we see that the 2 witness that come along are killed and everyone rejoices, the relationship is still very antagonistic towards the prophets.

    Many times over the years when God has given me insight into something I often say “Lord, why cant you just give it to the other person like you give it to me! Why cant you let others see what I see!? I so struggle to find the words to describe what I see in the spiritual. Many times the words just arent enough to bring the depth and I get so frustrated.

    This is what the Lord said to me ” I have my prophets, those who have been singled out before they were even born to be my plumb line. For others to see the example, the brick for others to staighten their lives to.I have trained them in rejection and misunderstanding their whole lives because of the rejection they will recieve.I give them eyes to see in the dark, to see the truth of Gods word. I give them ears to hear me. But I do not make everyone a Prophet because of how much more it pleases my heart when someone, who has not been trained in the ways of the Lord turn and seek me with their whole heart. How much more will it bless me when those who have been given a wonderful blessed life still turn to me and love me more than others the ones that have loved them well. The greatest shall be the least in the kingdom of God and the least shall be the greatest.”

    If you are not a prophet then you can be MORE blessed and MORE special in the eyes of God than ever I could be.Thats why it says that “if you recieve a prophet then you will recieve a prophets reward.

    Do not envy the prophets, neither feel we are arragant. See us for the example God has sent and rise ABOVE us. Your reward will be so much greater than ours ever could be. God turns the whole thing on its head.

    Moses could have walked passed the burning bush if he wanted to, he still had a choice but God was just there. Thats what God does with His prophets. It is hard to ignore Him in a sense when you wake up He is talking to you, all day he is talking to you. When you sleep He gives you dreams and most the day you feel the burning white hot annointing on your head from the Holy Spirit.But it is GOD that is doing it. What He wants MORE is those who He doesnt do it to, to turn and seek Him.You have an oppotunity that I dont have, you are the ones who are blessed, you are the ones He will rejoice over.Its the prophets that envy others.

  • I was told that “God helps those who help themselves.” by my mother when I was a child. I asked her how she knew that it wasn’t just yourself. She just looked at me and said nothing. After I became addicted to alcohol and tried to quit on my own I learned I couldn’t. I went to A.A. and prayed on my knees for God to take the desire to drink alcoholic drinks away. [As I had been told.] It worked immediately.
    God helps those who CAN’T help themselves. 18 great years.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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