“Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.” Proverbs 4:24
I worked for a carpenter one summer between college semesters. Being the inexperienced apprentice, occasionally I would cut a board too short. Seeing that I had wasted a good board, my frustrated boss would reply: “Get the wood stretcher!”
His point? Wood doesn’t stretch.
Neither does the truth. Once stretched, it is no longer the truth. It is “crooked, devious talk.”
But let’s face it. Stretching the truth now and then can be a handy option, especially if we are in trouble or trying to gain some advantage. But if you think that twisting or slightly adjusting the truth isn’t damaging, think again. When Satan spoke to Eve in Genesis 3:1-24, he exaggerated God’s command—“Don’t eat of this one tree”—asking her if God had really said, “You shall not eat from every tree.” Due to his clever mismanagement of true truth, Eve no longer felt that God was generous and good but rather stingy and restrictive. This distortion of the truth planted seeds of doubt and distrust in Eve’s mind that blossomed into disastrous disobedience—a disobedience that has significantly damaged each of us as well.
Every day there are plenty of opportunities to fall to the temptation of mismanaging the truth for our own advantage. Sins of the tongue like flattery, boasting, gossip, and slander are all easily committed when we lose a high regard for the truth.
But under the surface, distorting the truth is a sign of some serious internal problems. Anger is a fertile spawning ground for exaggerating someone’s faults in order to wound them when they have hurt or crossed us.
If your life is committed to “me first” and to making sure you are on top of the pile, your twisted truth words will quickly betray your addiction to yourself.
Pride will lead you to embellish the truth to help you feel better about yourself or to make you look better than others. Seductive thoughts will lead you to flattery and alluring twists of the truth. A greedy heart will hide the true faults of a product and embellish its virtues just to make a sale.
But beware, stretching the truth for your personal advantage ultimately backfires. It’s our character that suffers as landmark virtues like trust and credibility, two building blocks of successful relationships, get slain on the battlefield of our self-serving twisting of the truth. Turning anger to patience and forgiveness; turning self-serving instincts to loving others; turning pride to true humility and greed to generosity will enable you to have the courage to experience the joy of telling it like it really is—which, believe it or not, will ultimately produce better outcomes than stressing yourself out by always twisting and turning the truth to your own gain. As the poet Sir Walter Scott said, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”
- In what kind of situations do you tend to distort the truth? Choose the most prevalent one and make a plan to tell the truth regardless.
- Think through the kinds of internal problems that tempt you to stretch and twist the truth. What steps could you take to transition your sinful attitude to a truth-telling attitude?
- Make a plan now to take at least one opportunity to tell the truth clearly as a blessing to someone else before this day is done!