My family loves April Fools’ Day. It’s a classic day of lighthearted pranks, what with the biscuits that look like chocolate chip cookies and the purple food coloring in the toilet tank. We are tricking the people we love and it’s all in good fun, but on this day, I can’t help stopping to reflect, just a little, about the deeper questions of truth and untruth.
When does a prank become a “little white lie”? When does a little white lie become a deep, dark secret? And what is the harm of a deep, dark secret anyhow?
What’s the harm?
The truth has become a slippery commodity in the 21st Century. There is almost no claim you can’t support with a little creative Google searching. From global warming to GMOs to gun control, whatever side you are on, you can find experts to back you up. The result is that many of us have simply thrown up our hands. “You believe your ‘truth’, I’ll believe my ‘truth’, and they will both be equally ‘true’.”
This works fine for things like, “Is it better to shop at Vons or CostCo?” because really either way will work. It works less well for questions like, “Do cigarettes cause cancer?”, and even less for, “Does the third rail cause death by electrocution?”
Bottom line: some things are true whether we like it or not. There is an inescapable reality to confront: in the natural world, in the choices we make as a society, and— most importantly— in the personal choices we make in the course of our day-to-day lives.
Secrecy is a red flag
Scripture says, “People loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” That is a litmus test. If our “truth” is a harmless one, we can generally tell because we’re happy to talk about it. I have a friend who loves shopping at CostCo and will talk at length all the great deals on 12 pounds of nutmeg.
On the other hand, suppose we find ourselves thinking, “Well, I shouldn’t tell him about that, it’ll only upset him.” In my experience, more often than not, such omissions are motivated more to hide my own shame than out of any genuine concern for others.
I heard a public service announcement once that said, “When you’re lonely or sad, it’s always there for you… If alcohol is working for you, maybe it already owns you.” But it is just as true for every form of addiction, whether shopping or food or gambling or pornography or drugs, or anything else that the Bible warns can hold us captive. What fuels the addiction is the secrecy and shame. It may seem ridiculous, but all of us recovering addicts can relate to the plight of “the tippler” from The Little Prince: “I drink to forget… to forget that I am ashamed… ashamed of drinking.”
And the truth shall set you free
Scripture offers one prescription for those of us in the throes of self-damage or self-destruction: start by getting rid of the lies.
- When he [the devil] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
- But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No” be “No.” Anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
- Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin… Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
As we joyfully trick the people we love this April Fools’ Day, let’s spare a moment for some internal spiritual house cleaning, and see if we can find some ways we are “tricking” them that may be not so joyful.
Other recommended posts:
- Jayson D. Bradley — Coming to Grips with Christian Hypocrisy