The Lie about Lying

Addicts are masters at lying.   They are better at it than people who are not addicts not because non-addicts don’t lie (they do) but because addicts get more opportunities to practice their craft.   And as the old adage goes, practice makes perfect.

 
Why do we lie?   Yesterday I read a post hosted by our friends at Castimonia, a Christian site dedicated to helping men find sexual purity, which sought to answer that question.    It’s written by a PhD, A. Michael Johnson, and he argues that addicts lie because they learned as children, like all of us, that lying protects us.   We crave love and compassion and acceptance and we learn early on that lying can meet these felt-needs.

This signal to lie to protect ourselves becomes automatic over time and is signaled by fear and bolstered by a “fabrication system” which helps us recall lies that worked while also inventing new ones.   The good news, Johnson argues, is that with some “effort and help” we can learn to detect the signal of fear and choose a more healthy alternative as well as overwrite the “fabrication system” with more mature, truthful responses.

He concludes by writing,

Understanding how you came to be a liar is important because it helps to strengthen your compassion for yourself. You did not learn to lie because you were a bad person. You learned to lie because you were a frightened child protecting himself. That understanding is not a justification for continuing to lie. The understanding helps to remove obstacles to living in the truth. And living in the truth is a central thread in the fabric of recovery.

With all due respect to the folks at Castimonia, I believe this article is a beautiful lie.    The only thing I agree with is the last sentence -that living in the truth is central to recovery – but this article obscures the truth and prevents anyone who is truly seeking freedom from finding it.

Back when I was seeking “recovery” as opposed to “freedom” (there is a difference) I longed to find some point in my past which would help explain me to myself and the world.    I wanted so desperately to find some sort of traumatic event, abuse, organic deficiency – anything! – that would explain why I was such a mess.    Surely I can’t be this bad of a person, can I?  Surely there is some reason behind it all, right?

This quest to pacify ourselves  is the project of modern, secular psychology and 12 step programs.   It’s captured beautifully in Johnson’s concluding remarks where he writes, “Understanding how you came to be a liar is important because it helps to strengthen your compassion for yourself.”

This is the beautiful lie:  First, that the goal is to understand ourselves, and second, that the reason we want to better understand ourselves is so we can be more compassionate to ourselves.

The person who follows this logic is no better than a dog chasing his own tail.   The addict is an addict because he is fixated on himself – he is selfish to the core – and deliverance will not come by understanding himself better or being more compassionate to himself.   When I was in the pit of my sexual addiction and doing exactly what I wanted when I wanted I assure you I was being very compassionate to myself!

So why do people lie?   Here is truth:

Your tongue plots destruction, like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.   You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking what is right  (Psalm 52:2-3).

Jesus said that  out of the abundance of what is in the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45) and his brother, James, says the tongue is a “restless evil, full of deadly poison,” and contrary to Johnson’s optimism that a bit of “effort and help” can make a person more truthful, Scripture says no human being can tame the tongue (James 3:8).

The goal of understanding ourselves is to bring us to the end of ourselves.   Victory for me did not come by finding something to blame in my childhood but by recognizing that I was a sinner and that I loved lying more than I loved telling the truth.  I loved my sin and the comforts it afforded me more than I loved God and others.   Rather than being gentler and more compassionate on myself I needed to see my lying for what it really was:  a sin that offended a holy God.   I had to cry with David, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4).

And in that terrifying moment I discovered an amazing truth.  I discovered amazing grace!   I discovered that whatever compassion I was seeking to show myself pales in comparison to the compassion God in Christ showed me on the cross.   The cross both indicted and liberated me, causing me to see the truth about myself and the evil of which I’m capable while simultaneously revealing an indescribable love so infinitely attractive I was willing to surrender everything and live no longer for myself (and my own protection) but for Jesus who became my all in all.

If you find yourself addicted to lying please know you don’t have to dig up the past to better understand why you do what you do.   God has already told you.  And God has already graciously provided a way out.  Freedom will come not when you learn to be more compassionate to yourself but when you learn to die to yourself.

And what God raises to new life in the process is sweeter than any comforts our lies seek to protect.

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23 thoughts on “The Lie about Lying

  1. You make some really good, strong points. I don’t think that what Castimonia wrote was inherently wrong, it just wasn’t simple or direct. It’s like the difference between two counselors: even if they graduated from the same class they will both have different approaches to the same problem.

    What you learned and know by experience is powerful. What Castimonia is speaking about will also help some who are perhaps in the initial stages of discovering their addiction. In times like this (when one approach is heralded as superior to another), I suggest that the Holy Spirit is capable of leading and convicting the wayward in more ways than one. He is the one who convicts people of their sin…not us, after all.

    All I’m saying is that BOTH approaches can be used by the Holy Spirit to convict the sinner. Your wisdom is profound and true. Keep speaking your message. You aren’t responsible to correct them…from my experience, God typically chooses to use the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. So be careful when you think you’re way is the only “right” one.

    I’m not sure if this made sense. I support your view, but wish you hadn’t so quickly written off your brother’s message as not being valid. It could have been written without those references.

    Thanks for being faithful.

    1. hidden,
      thanks for reading and taking time to comment! I agree with you that the Holy Spirit can use numerous means to convict us. And perhaps you are right and this piece could have been written without reference to the article on Castimonia (and just so we are all clear, that wasn’t written by Castimonia, only reblogged by him).

      I have lived in lies far too long to settle for ‘half-truths’ though, and that article, while it may get someone part-way towards something won’t bring them home, in my experience. I think addicts are owed the truth (I’m sure you agree) and as Jesus said, the truth (not half-truths) will set us free. I believe the truth is that we lie because we are born in sin and to say it is because we learned to do it because our care-takers gave us “junk” when we told the truth is just gives the addict another means to shift the blame, even if it’s ever so subtlety.

      To say “I lie because I’m a liar” and cry out to God for a new heart (which we all need) is very different from saying “I lie because I long for compassion and acceptance,” don’t you think?

      But I’ll chew on what you said. It is a helpful and gracious reminder to stay humble!

      1. Yeah, I totally understand where you are coming from, and enjoyed reading your point of view. It makes total sense.

        I didn’t visit Castimonia’s site, so I didn’t realize it was only a re-blog. That definitely seems to open it up a lot more. I apologize for not realizing that in advance.

        You’re right. I agree with what you are saying. My protest wasn’t even about the point…I think I was triggered because of my experience.

        To answer your question: “To say “I lie because I’m a liar” and cry out to God for a new heart (which we all need) is very different from saying “I lie because I long for compassion and acceptance,” don’t you think?”

        I would have to say that I see the point behind both statements. One is more direct and cuts straight to the heart (and thus forgiveness). The other is a more emotional approach to discovery, likely forged by someone who values the artistic side of life. I could be wrong…but I guess that’s why I sat on the fence with this one.

        I find that two people can talk about the same thing (husband & wife for example) but see things from completely different angles. They are both talking about the same thing. If it were my husband, he would be logical. Then if it were me, I would describe the same thing poetically, using sensory and emotions. Sometimes the answer isn’t only in the simple. It is also in the roundabout, long, ridiculous way.

        As a further point to this (I know, I’m rolling my eyes at me too, but the idea came, so I’m going to just go with it)…sometimes my husband sees me take the long way around to get to my destination and he tells me I did it wrong. I frequently try to ease him up by just saying, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat!”

        And that, is my point. Thank you for listening to it and considering it’s validity, even though it took a long time to explain it.

        I often find myself fascinated by the concept that the Sword of the Spirit is double-edged. There are two sides. Both sides cut.

    2. “I often find myself fascinated by the concept that the Sword of the Spirit is double-edged. There are two sides. Both sides cut.”

      I love that! Thank you!

  2. You hit the nail on the head, Chad. In order to avoid submission to the Lord and His Word, and to avoid change and continue in the sin we love, we look for answers to explain our behavior. No better cure than dying to self and all it’s selfish demands, “reckoning ourselves (our sinful nature) dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto Christ.” God Bless you and Amy as you continue to share these powerful truths with us.

  3. I read Castimonia’s post the other day, wanted to reblog it, and failed because I haven’t learned to do so yet! I thought his post offers some understanding why sex addicts lie. I also agree with you that sex addicts lie because they love lying, because they are selfish. Two points of views and in some way, they complement!

    1. I think that’s a good question worth discussing. This particular post was about the reasons I believe Scripture says we lie. The simple answer to your question is the same as posed here but I think your question deserves more than a passing comment. Lord willing, I would like to write something this weekend addressing that. I hope you’ll be involved in the discussion!

      peace,
      Chad

      1. Perhaps I misunderstood your original comments and this post. The way I read it, you stated we don’t need to look at our childhood to figure out why we lie, we just need to accept it as Biblical truth. By that rationale, then we don’t need to look at our childhood to find out why we turned out the way we did. This is a very dangerous path for you to go down. Telling people they should “just accept it” under the guise of Biblical truth is equally dangerous. Just because you may have not experienced the trauma, isolation, abandonment in childhood does not mean the rest of us did not experience it. Ultimately, it is God who says how we heal, not us. My God is bigger than the Bible, to think otherwise places Him in a box.

        Take what you like and leave the rest.

      2. Can you provide some biblical examples of people dissecting their childhood to discover reasons for why they sin?

        Sent from my iPhone

      3. Again, my God is bigger than the Bible. The Holy Spirit speaks to those that study psychology and medicine so that they can provide the correct treatment that allows God to heal the individual. Do you not give medicine to your children when they are sick? Do you simply hold a serpent on a stick in front of them or have them wash in a river?

        It is very dangerous to place God in the “Bible Box” as it minimizes who He is and His great power. The burden of proof is on you, not me, since you are the one that claims only Biblical scripture is correct and is the only answer. Furthermore, you ridicule psychology and 12-step programs and methods (which I believe have been give to us by the Holy Spirit) which help treat addiction. Now, don’t misunderstand, I believe God speaks through the Bible, but for me, he also speaks through methods outside of the Bible. I refuse to place God in the “Bible Box.”

        Again, take what you like and leave the rest.

      4. I want to make sure I’m not misunderstanding you. Are you suggesting that Scripture’s claims about why we lie is not as sufficient as psychology’s claim?

        Sent from my iPhone

      5. No, I am saying that only looking at scripture and ignoring all other sources for answers can be very dangerous! What works for some may not work for others.

        The next thing you might resort to is telling guys “if you only had enough faith, you would be healed of this addiction.”

      1. I think we are always vulnerable to sin, to a lesser and lesser degree though as we walk in the Spirit rather than our flesh. We must walk with the full armor of God protecting us but also be mindful that we are God’s and He doesn’t see us as an addict.

    1. Many marraiges lost due to Castimonias very poor advice. The men that run Castimonia can do no wrong. They hide behind God. So sad , a lot of men believed in the lies of these horribly abusive men.

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