Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say
November 8, 2015
Back in 1956, a game show debuted in the United States with Bud Collyer as the host. The show was called To Tell the Truth, and along with The Price is Right, it is the only game show to have aired at least one episode in each of the last seven decades.
The show featured three guests and a panel of four celebrities along with the host. The guests all pretended to be the same person who had an unusual hobby or occupation. One of the three guests was the real person while the other two were only imposters. Each game on the show began with the host asking the three guests the same question “contestant, what is your name?”
After all three gave the same name, that question from the host was followed by questions from the celebrity panel in an attempt to figure out which of the three guests was the real person and which two were only imposters. As the questions were asked, the real people had to always tell the truth about themselves whatever the question happened to be. While at the same time, the two imposters were free to lie in their attempt to convince the celebrity panel that they were the real person rather than one of the two people only pretending. In the end, the celebrity panel cast their votes for which of the three guests that they felt was telling the truth.
To Tell the Truth insinuated that in life it pays to be less than truthful. If you are good a making up a creative story, if you have the ability to play on people gullibility, then you can go far. Besides, what does it hurt to tell a little white lie to the various people in our lives when in the end no one really gets hurt.
The ninth commandment, the command to be truthful in our relationships with others, which is to say in our relationships with our neighbors, suggests that is never pays to stray from the truth.
Like that other eight commandments that we have looked at so far, there are a hundred different directions that we could go as we focus on truth telling today. This morning, I want to focus merely on two. What dos it mean to tell our neighbor the truth about their lives? And, at the same time, what does it mean to tell our neighbor the truth about our own lives?
In 2015, these basic forms of deception happen so often and so quickly that we don’t think very much about them. And yet, almost all of us struggle with these two ways of being truthful to some degree or another.
On the one hand, what does it mean to tell neighbors the truth about their own lives? Here I am not thinking about our struggle to tell someone that we like that shirt they are wearing when we don’t or that they look great when we know that they really need to drop about twenty pounds.
Instead, I am thinking about the deeper more profound moments when we are less than honest with a friend, family member or even fellow church member as we choose to keep the peace rather than tell the truth. This happens when it comes to a decision that our friend has made that we don’t like but remaining silent about. This happens when our spouse has developed a habit that we are concerned about but choose to ignore. And, this also happens when our sibling asks for advice and we waver in our response while knowing that what we want and feel led to say is what they don’t want to hear.
In such moments, we are far more prone to evade the truth than tell the truth. More times than not, we simply choose to bite our tongue or go along with things as they are. After all, most all of us, myself included, don’t want to rock the boat, get involved in someone else’s business or be seen as a goody two shoes.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that every situation needs to be addressed as if we are the cavalry riding in to rectify every wrong or to set people straight while crushing feelings, harming relationships and acting like we have life all figured out.
But, I am calling us to take great pause as it relates to others and this ninth command. For, I do believe with all of my being, that sometimes we avoid the truth at all costs simply because it just makes us feel uncomfortable. And, most of us would simply rather avoid difficult moments than be honest with someone we love even if we know with all of our heart that our honest word, given in love, is what our friend or family member needs to hear.
At the same time, just as we struggle with telling neighbors the truth about themselves, we struggle to tell others the truth about our lives too.
We call this living a lie – and, many of us are very, very good at it. Living a lie means pretending to be something that we are not. Living a lie takes place when we act like we have it all together even though we don’t. Living a lie happens when we constantly talk about our deep Christian faith but have nothing to back that claim up in terms of a deep spirituality or personal relationship with Jesus. Living a lie happens when we claim to support causes or ideas that in truth we never support with our time, effort or finances. Living a lie happens when we claim to have a great family life but never spend any time with them or don’t know what to say to our child.. And, living a lie happens when we have the right house, the nice car, the good looking, successful kids and the right job and act like life couldn’t be better but go to bed each and every night with only emptiness and a hollow feelings in our souls.
Did you read the story or see the report on the news this past week about a young lady in Australia named Essena O’Neil who is one of the most followed figures in the world on social media? Now, I will be the first to admit that I had never heard of Essena O’Neil. But, according to reports this teenage model had over half a million followers on various Internet sites such as Facebook and Instagram. O’Neil’s epiphany came as she recognized that she had created a fictitious version of herself that girls all over the world understood to be her real self. She admitted that often times the photos of her that were constantly being posted online were only the result of countless takes and retakes. She also admitted that her model calibre figure was derived from doing things to harm her body not as a result of healthy decisions that helped her take care of her body. Even further, she was honest in saying that all of the fame that came her way only made her feel more empty and alone. In her own words, Essena O’Neil admitted that she had created a false version of herself and even though she had been successful at fooling the world, she could not fool herself. She was living and telling a lie (Social Media Is Not Real, Says Teen Instagram Star, by Kerry Chan-Laddaran, CNN, November 4, 2015)
As tragic as it is to lie to others about their lives, I am not so sure that it isn’t far worse to live our days all while lying constantly if not daily to and about ourselves. I ask each and every one of us, what good does it do us to live acting as if we are something that we are not if it never provides for us the peace, joy or hope or maturity that we are all searching for in this life?
There is a story related to the early days of professional football that I really like. It has to do with the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers Vince Lombardi. One day at practice, Lombardi became very angry with one of his players. He was angry because he didn’t believe the player was giving his best. Lombardi in turn called him out on his lack of effort in front of all his teammates. The coach told him to simply leave the practice right then and go get a shower – he didn’t want him on the field any longer.
Later that same day, after everyone else had left, Lombardi found this same player sitting tearful and quietly by his locker. Lombardi went over to him and said “Jerry, I just told the truth. But, I only told the truth about what we all see in your behavior. But, that doesn’t change what may still exist deep inside of you.”
This became a pivotal moment for the player whose name was Jerry Kramer. In that moment, Kramer was faced with the truth of another and the truth about himself. Kramer, to his credit, took it all to heart and he changed. In 1969, when the best 50 players of the first 50 years of professional football was released his name was on the list. (From the sermon, “The Great One Inside You” by Steve Ely)
As the old movie statement goes, “most of us can’t handle the truth” very well. (A reference to Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men)
But, in the end, the truth may just be the very best thing for others and the very best thing for us to hear. Amen.