None of us like being told lies. We are all told lies. We all find it difficult to know when we are being lied to.Parents wrestle with this all the time, as do employers (and employees), teachers (and pupils), pastors (and people), etc. In Church discipline cases, we are often asked to judge if one of two parties is lying. We pray for discernment; we pray for God to share His infallible view of the situation; we pray for the Holy Spirit of Truth. And still we just don’t know for sure. Bill Rosenthal, writing for businesses, suggests some training in identifying behavioral signals when evaluating a potential liar. Here’s a summary:
- Does the person seem uncomfortable about what she is saying? The visible anxiety may be caused by guilt or fear of getting caught, which leads liars to hurry to end the discussion and even look relieved when it’s over.
- Their feet might be pointing in the direction of their getaway — perhaps a doorway, or a hallway.
- They may also “freeze” the top half of the body, because of the tension they feel, or even put a barrier — such as a briefcase or purse — between themselves and you.
- Liars also tend to avoid eye contact.
- Practiced liars sometimes become good at maintaining eye contact, but often their anxiety emerges in the form of leg movement.
- Be wary also of people who make excessive eye contact — they might be trying to prove that they’re telling the truth.
- Another visible sign of a liar’s discomfort is the fake smile. The best way to tell if a smile is fake is to look for a lack of movement of the muscles surrounding the outer corners of the eye (the “crows’ feet”).
- Someone who withholds information or keeps the conversation vague when you ask for specifics might be lying, particularly if that person finds it hard to remember something that should easily be remembered.
- When you ask her a question, the liar may answer with much more detail than is needed….Adding lots of detail is a common trick of con artists, for example
- If the speaker is committing to something, does the promise sound extravagant?
- A person who is under pressure (behind on a project, needing to earn a performance reward, struggling to meet quarterly expectations) is more apt to stretch the truth than someone who is not.
- A person who has power over others often feels more comfortable lying,
- Other frequent liars include extroverted people and those who excel at “reading” others.
- In general, people feel more comfortable telling lies when they perceive their audience to be deceptive themselves.
- As they gain success in evading and manipulating the truth, liars find it increasingly easy to lie.
Although I’m rather hesitant about relying on these behavioral studies, I must admit that as I look back on people who have lied to me and to the church, an incredible number of these signals were present.Maybe I would also add:
- Using and abusing procedure to obstruct valid questioning
- Magnifying small flaws in the way accusations were brought
- Diverting attention by accusing others
- Calling in past favors and emphasizing the over-riding virtue of loyalty
- Threatening to take down others with them
- Love of John 8:7
- Highlighting catastrophic consequences
- Cultivation of self-pity to build sympathy
- Flattery of sympathizers
Maybe you can add your own.May the Christ who is Truth, and the Spirit of Truth keep us in the Truth and keep us speaking the Truth. And let’s also pray that He would give us truth in the inward parts (Ps. 51:6). Then we won’t have to worry about our behavioral signals.