“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”
"Oh! What a tangled web we weave When first we practice to deceive!"
Sir Walter Scott
Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte has recently been in the news far too much for the wrong reasons. A vandalism incident in Rio, which could have been settled on the spot and quickly forgotten, has been blown up more than it is worth. Lochte has since admitted that he “over exaggerated” in his first reporting of the incident, and it appears that all parties involved may have been guilty of some over exaggeration.
Now, over exaggeration is nothing new. From the Proverbs quote above we see that it has long been something that God detests. It is such a part of our fallen human state that we accept and excuse it way too easily. Of course, it is terrible when the other guy over exaggerates; it is only natural when I do it. In fact, “everyone does it” is one reason our society excuses over exaggeration so easily. Shoot, we have two presidential candidates who are both practiced, if not pathological, over exaggerators.
Certainly, on occasion over exaggeration is unforgiveable, especially when one over exaggerates to cover up a particular crime and refuses to back down. That strategy forced Tricky Dicky Nixon to have to resign. It cost many a steroid-using baseball player a sure spot in the Hall of Fame. It has kept gambling Pete Rose out of baseball for decades. It worked for Lance Armstrong . . . for a while.
And that is just the problem. Over exaggeration eventually catches up with you. In fact, in our society the crime itself can often be forgiven, but the cover up cannot. I don’t know what Ryan Lochte’s mother taught him about over exaggerating and covering up, but let me tell you what my Mom taught me about it. A couple of incidents seared into my memory will help to illustrate:
One, when I was about seven years old Mom found out I had been playing with matches, which no seven year old should be. She called me into the house and confronted me about it. “Terry,” she said, “you have been playing with matches.” Hold that thought.
Two, when I was about ten years old Mom found out I had been smoking, which no one of any age should do. She called me downstairs and confronted me about it. “Terry,” she said, “you have been smoking.” Note what she did. There are some good parenting lessons here:
First, she confronted the issue immediately and head on. She didn’t beat around the bush with “what have you been up to?,” or “have you been doing something you are not supposed to?,” or worse, “do you have something to tell me?”
Second, she stated the nature of the offense instead of asking about it. That immediately backed me into the “take responsibility” corner. Also, since it wasn’t a question, she wasn’t setting me up for another opportunity to over exaggerate. Of course, I could have denied it anyway, but there’s something about a head on statement (especially when it is true) that is harder to deny than a question. A question is easy to waffle on, give a nuanced answer to, or even a knee-jerk “no.” Furthermore . . .
Third, based on previous good parenting I already knew that any cover up and any attempt at over exaggeration would cause me greater trouble and even pain than the original deed would have. What did I do in both cases? I immediately caved under the pressure of real guilt, responsibility, and a little fear of what could be coming. By the way, tears didn’t help my case at all.
Isn’t it obvious what my mother taught me about over exaggeration? It’s called lying.
Disclaimer: I have reported the two incidents of my childhood to the best of my recollection. If Mom corrects me on a detail or two, I was not over exaggerating. I simply “misremembered.”