This resource is taken from the “False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Pornography to Adultery” seminar (RSVP are at the end of this post).
Lust and lying go together, almost as if they are two sides of the same coin. Both involve living in a fantasy world (artificial reality) or our own making; created to suit our own self-interest and tailored to our specific desires. If lust is ever to be broken, then the inevitable companion sin of lying must also be admitted and overcome.
“I was beginning to realize that my problems were not just sexual but revolved around a lifestyle of lying and deceit. Up until this time, had I been asked if I was a liar, I would have been offended and would have answered with an emphatic ‘No!’ Sadly, I would have believed I was telling the truth (p. 29).” Earl & Sandy Wilson, et al in Restoring the Fallen
Read Numbers 32:23, Proverbs 15:3, Job 34:21, Luke 8:17, and Hebrews 4:13. Chances are you have already experienced the truth of these verses. We lie because we believe we can contain and control the truth within the stories we tell and the information we do or don’t give. We believe we are larger than the truth rather than believing that truth in the reality in which we live and we can no more control it than we can the wind. As you read this section on lying, remind yourself regularly that honesty is not optional, only the timing and willfulness of honesty can be chosen. Truth will be known. The only question is whether your character will grow as you disclose it or whether you will live in fear and darkness until light invades your life against your will and to your shame. Pause and pray again for the courage to be honest, because truth-speaking and sexual purity are also two sides of the same coin.
Types of Lies
We begin the process of deceit by so limiting our definition of lying that none of our deceptive behavior is “technically a lie.” As long as there was some element of truth in what we said and the answer contained some relevance to the question asked, then we try to convince our conscience it can “plead the fifth” and we portray those who are dissatisfied our evasive or incomplete responses as being “unreasonable.” That way of thinking will leave you forever trapped in your sin and loneliness.
What is truth-telling? Honesty is living without secrets. Honesty is taking the risk of being known rather than the risk of getting away with it. Honesty is being able to look into the eyes of someone who loves you and being able to say, “You know me.” Honesty is being one person all the time with all people. Honesty is the freedom that freedom we are trying to find in our sin.
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Mark Twain as quoted by Lou Priolo in Deception
We are going to define twelve different types of lying (modified and expanded from Lou Priolo’s booklet Deception: Letting Go of Lying; bold text only). As you read through the list, reflect instead of debating technicalities. For the time being refuse to give yourself the benefit of the doubt. If it’s questionable, it’s deceitful. Begin now loving God and loving others more than you love yourself through self-protection.
“Often the one who has fallen is a powerful person who is able to intimidate those around him or her and convincingly present a distorted view of reality, seeking to impose it on others (p. 36)… Secret-keeping allows the person to perpetuate sinful patterns. It also facilitates the sinner’s denial about the full extent of the sin and its impact (p. 75).” Earl & Sandy Wilson, et al in Restoring the Fallen
If as you read through the list you begin to feel “I can’t say anything without it being considered a lie,” then allow that thought to sober you and prepare you for the next step – Acknowledge the Breadth and Impact of My Sin (chapter two).
1. Changing Facts: This is the heading under which all “active lying” falls. Here the story is true, but key pieces of the story are changed. Example – Saying you were working on the taxes when you were looking at pornography or saying you were talking to your boss on the phone when you were talking to your adultery partner. The fact that your lies are within a true story and hard to verify gives the false impression that you will be able to control the lying process.
2. Omitting Facts: This is the heading under which all “passive lying” falls. Here the story is true, but there are “dark spots” in the story. Example – Telling what you did all day except for the 45 minutes you met up with your adultery partner, or telling about the work you accomplished on the computer except for the time looking at pornography. Often people who “omit facts” get defensive when they are called liars. But omission of known, important facts is lying.
3. False “Facts”: This is a step beyond changing facts. It involves making up an entire scenario and is a step away from a double life (lying type #5). Example – While explaining why you were not home when expected, you make up a traffic accident that delayed you by an hour. In order to explain the virus or pop ups on the computer, you make up a story about letting your co-worker borrow your laptop. Lying of this type is hard to pull off and requires the more elaborate efforts below in order to support these false “facts.”
4. False Emotion: Now you have to play the part. If your lies are true, then they would require certain emotions. If you are going to remain “free,” then you must become an actor (the role itself implies lying when the “audience” does not know its watching a “show”). Tim Chester and Steve Gallagher give common examples of what this type of lying looks like.
“The secret that you hide from your wife will create a barrier in your relationship. You may criticize her in order to feel better about your own shortcomings. You will distance yourself from her to avoid any chance of exposure… In some cases you may even pick a fight or find fault with your wife, to justify your porn use (p.24).” Tim Chester in Closing the Window
“The man who is being controlled by sin will often be overly sensitive to criticism, blowing every imagined slight out of proportion (p. 26).” Steve Gallagher in At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry
5. False “Story”: False facts produce false emotions. Together they require a false story. Your lies are starting to create their own world in which they could be true. You are forced to try to live between these two worlds; reality won’t bend and your lies can’t break without you being found out. You and those that know you (those that are left anyway) are forced to live stretched between these two worlds. Example – What you say about the nature of your job, daily routine, spending habits, and computer activity begin to be more and more fiction.
6. Minimizing: Maybe you are “smart enough” not to take the false route. Everyone can see how that would inevitably blow up in your face. The “better” route is to not change the facts but the significance of those facts. Example – You talk about “just porn” or being “just friends.” Or, you talk about your sexual sin in coded language such as a “slip” or having a “bad day.”
Minimizing is one of the more popular methods of lying (to others and to yourself) about sexual sin. The following list of minimizing statements are modified and adapted from the works Joshua Harris in Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is), Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker in Everyman’s Battle, Steve Gallagher in At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry, and Earl & Sandy Wilson, et al in Restoring the Fallen. Mark the ones that you are prone to use to minimize or justify your sexual sin.
- Lust is no big deal (Job 31:11-12)
- A little sinful fantasizing won’t hurt (Rom 8:6, 13:14; Gal 6:7-8)
- Taking radical action against sin isn’t necessary (Matt 5:29-30; 2 Tim 2:22)
- God won’t mind a little compromise (Col 3:5-6; Eph 5:3)
- It’s my body and I can do what I want with it (1 Cor 6:18-20)
- I can’t control my sex drive (I Thes 4:3-6)
- Looking at a few pornographic pictures won’t affect me (Prov 6:25-27; Psalm 101:3)
- I won’t experience any consequences for indulging in my lust (Rom 14:12; Heb 12:6; James 1:15)
- People get away with adultery (Prov 5:3-11)
- God is keeping something good from me (Psalm 84:10-12)
- The pleasure lust promises is better and more real that God’s pleasure (Psalm 16:11)
- Fulfilling my lust will satisfy me (Lam 3:24-26; Prov 19:23)
- Too much purity will keep me from seeing and enjoying beauty (Matt 5:8; Psalm 11:7; Isa 33:17)
- If anyone finds out you’ll be a laughingstock.
- Lust is impossible to conquer.
- You’re being to legalistic.
- I’m walking with God. I just have this one little problem.
- I’m going through a difficult period in my life right now. I’ll come out of it.
- God understands that I am a man and that I have natural passions.
- I deserve to have some fun.
- I’m tired of dealing with all this pain.
- I just want to get on with my life.
- I’m not in love anymore so why honor the marriage?
7. Blame-Shifting: Maybe you accept the facts and admit how serious the problem is, but you lie by shifting the responsibility. It’s true and it’s bad, but it’s not my fault. Appendix A is an assessment developed by Nancy Leigh DeMoss which helps you see the difference between brokenness over sin and emotion of prideful people caught in their sin.
“The truth is, before a person can ever hope to overcome habitual sin, he must first be willing to take responsibility for his own actions (p. 102).” Steve Gallagher in At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry
There are several strategies for lying by blame-shifting that are common. Mark the ones that you are prone to use in order to explain your sexual sin in a way that makes you less responsible.
- My gender / anatomy / needs – This is the common pop-psychology blame-shifting method that is even endorsed by many popular Christian authors. Example – That’s just how men / women are. I had to find a release. I had to fill my “love tank” somewhere.
“Sex addicts typically justify their actions and believe their needs must be met (p. 26).” Harry Schaumburg in False Intimacy
- My spouse – This is often paired with the “needs” blame-shifting method above. The summary of this method is: If my spouse treated me the way I wanted to be treated, then I would not sin. The responsibility for honoring God is shifted from self to spouse.
“The offending spouse sometimes blames the mate or a deteriorating marriage for the affair. Poor companionship and a lack of lovemaking make a couple more vulnerable, but there is still a choice. If you leave the keys in your car and someone steals it, it is still the thief’s fault. The adulterer chose to have the affair (p. 348).” Doug Rosenau in A Celebration of Sex
“If God is not enough for you, then you are creating hopes for a spouse that no one could possibly ever deliver (p. 136)… But a life without porn is not the true alternative to a life with porn. We should instead be weighing a life with porn against a life lived for God’s glory (p. 137).” Tim Chester in Closing the Window
- My history / personality – Sexual sin may be influenced by a history sexual abuse, early sexualization, or personality factors such as compulsivity (such factors will be discussed in chapter three). But to blame these factors for one’s sexual sin is a deceptive form of blame-shifting.
- Manipulation, Guilt, and Criticizing Others – Blame-shifting is a form of manipulation. Few people want to admit this, but until you do attempts to reconcile your marriage (if married) will be severely hampered. Blame-shifting is the attempt to transfer guilt from self to another person. Within a marriage this is almost always done by criticism, condemnation, or implying your spouse thinks they are better than you.
- “It Just Happened” – No it didn’t. Sin requires a sinner, just as fishing requires a fisherman. For many this is an appealing form of blame-shifting because it allows everyone to be innocent (no manipulation, guilt, or criticizing). This form of blame-shifting will eliminate any possibility of overcoming your sexual in.
- “I Was Seduced” – We are seduced because we want to be seduced. People fall for “get rich quick” schemes because they want to be rich. The salesman may be good, but people buy the product because they want the end result more than they believe the principles of God’s Word for how to attain it. In a marriage this blame-shifting tactic can be appealing because it allows you and your spouse to be “on the same team” against the other person. The adultery partner was equally to blame, but if healthy restoration is to occur they cannot be exclusively blamed.
“There are always many turning points before the point of no return (p. 89)!” Tim Chester in Closing the Window
8. “I Don’t Know”: It is legal to “plead the fifth” in a court room, but it is deceitful to do so in life. Laziness in response is not an exception clause for omitting important information. “I don’t know” if often used as a way to buy time while preparing to do a “better” job at one of the other forms of lying. “I don’t know” is also used to force the questioner to nag or badger so their action can become the focal point of the conversation.
9. Hidden Agenda: This is deception by set up. Example — You do something nice for your spouse so that you feel less guilty (without having to repent or change) and (intentionally or not) your spouse feels guilty for addressing the sin in your life. Self-pity is another common form of deception by hidden agenda. The essence of self-pity is beating yourself up over your sin in place of repentance and change. The effect is that your sorrow becomes a guilt-shield (for you and them) against the hard work of change being engaged or words of timely truth being spoken.
10. Verbalizing Suspicion: This is the mild form of deception by counter attack. When you confront me in my sin, I attack you for your sins (real or fabricated). If I can’t prove my case, then I will try to change who is on trial. Example – Asking questions like, “Can you tell me you’ve never been attracted to somebody else?” or “I don’t ask you about your credit card, why are you asking me about mine? Can I have the password to your e-mail accounts too?”
11. Slandering: This is the bold form deception by counter attack. With slandering, the counter attacks are known to be untrue and are said not just to change the subject but to emotionally injure the person who raised the question. The goal is to intimidate the questioner out of asking any more questions and to solidify the role of the slanderer as the only one who “really knows” the truth about things – strengthening all other lies told.
12. Exaggeration: This is deception by magnification. Unlike other forms of lying which seek to shrink or hide the truth, exaggeration makes truth larger than it really is. Truth moves from being an enemy to being a weapon; when it should always be a friend (even when it hurts; Prov 27:6). Example – use of words like: always, never, only, just one time, a million times, etc…
Read Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. The book of Ecclesiastes might be called “The Big Book of Step One.” In this book Solomon admits that he tried everything under the sun to find satisfaction and that it was all ultimately unfulfilling. One of the biggest hindrances to admitting our sin is that we believe we are going to “miss out” on the good life if we do, or that our sin has made the good life unattainable so sin is the best option we have left. These too are lies. But not lies you tell anyone else. Lies you tell yourself. And lies you must put away if you are ever going to put away your sin. God has promised that He came to give us a full life (John 10:10) and that nothing we have done can separate us from that good life because of what Christ did on our behalf (Rom 8:34-39). Doubting one or both of these truths is the ultimate reason people remain in their sin.