Friday, August 19, 2016

How to spot a liar

"You may think that fidgeting and not making eye contact are telltale signs that someone’s lying to you," writes Jenna Goudreau at motto, from the editors of TIME. "But according to Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, there is no one nonverbal cue that’s a dead giveaway."

Cuddy, a psychologist says, though:
...instead of looking for one big “reveal,” the best way to spot deception is to look for discrepancies across multiple channels of communication, including facial expressions, posture, and speech.

“Lying is hard work,” Cuddy says. “We’re telling one story while suppressing another, and if that’s not complicated enough, most of us are experiencing psychological guilt about doing this, which we’re also trying suppress. We just don’t have the brainpower to manage it all without letting something go — without ‘leaking.'” 
The best way to catch these “leaks” is to look for differences between what people are saying and what they are doing, she says. Conflicting emotions, like a happy tone of voice paired with an agitated facial expression, can be particularly telling.
Another way to spot a liar might be to take a look in the mirror. There are so many different ways we might be lying, most of which we might be apt to excuse as "a little white lie." "Does this dress make me look fat?" is a question dreaded by many husbands. ("Do I look as old as the other men in my class?" is the one dreaded by many wives.)

The Bible warns that no human being is righteous, no one. And lying, the attempt to avoid unpleasant disclosures, has been part of the human profile since Adam and Eve bit into the forbidden fruit and attempted to conceal it from God. In John 8, Jesus says that our fallen race are all children of "the father of lies," Satan. No amount of wriggling, dodging, or "explaining" can change that fact.

Some people are more dishonest than others, of course. Some people are more comfortable with lying. Some, as the old saying puts it, "lie when the truth would suit better." But we all need the help that only God can give to us in the honesty department.

The New Testament says that a reliance on Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit He sends to all believers in Him, can empower us to speak "the truth in love." Doing so is part of growing into maturity as a disciple of Jesus.

Overcoming this sin, as is true of any sin, is a constant battle in this life for those who truly want to follow Christ and live life God's way. It begins (and is continued) with the simple acknowledgment that we're addicted to sin, to self-willed living, including lying. It continues with utter reliance on Christ for the grace of God that brings forgiveness for all sins and peace with God. And it continues on from there in daily seeking God's help to be authentic, loving truth-tellers.

People who lie to us can and do harm us, in many ways. But before we get too self-righteous, we need to look at ourselves. One of my favorite passages in the Old Testament offers a prayer that all of us might adopt as our own:
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
"Show me my wrong, God," the psalm teaches us to pray to God, "and then lead me to life with You that never ends."

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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