One of the hardest things for me to teach my child was that not everyone is as they seem. What people say does not always reflect what they mean or believe. In fact, there are some people who use pretty words to conceal bad intentions, to mislead, or to otherwise deceive.
The Bible teaches us, “Pretty words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a common clay pot.” (Proverbs 26:23)
In fact, the Bible warns us not listen to words alone: “A man with hate in his heart may sound pleasant enough, but don’t believe him; for he is cursing you in his heart. Though he pretends to be so kind, his hatred will finally come to light for all to see.” (Proverbs 26:24-25)
It is a challenge to look beyond words into a person’s heart, and although it is tempting to believe we can detect when someone is lying by observing nonverbal clues, the detection of deception through “non-verbals” is not foolproof. Studies have suggested that people who are confident they can detect when someone is lying by watching their “non-verbals” are only correct about 50% of the time. (Navarro, Joe. Psychology Today, “Detecting Lies vs. Detecting Truth – Serious Implications,” October 31, 2010)
Although not foolproof, there are signs that someone may be lying to you. For example, if a person is vague or doesn’t include facts that can be confirmed, or if a person offers inconsistent or conflicting details, that may be a sign that he or she is lying. Or if a person’s actions are inconsistent with their words, that may also be a sign that he or she is lying. But those actions don’t necessarily equate with deceit. There may be other explanations, such as faulty memory, language differences, or cultural differences in behavior.
In the United States it is a common misconception that liars avoid eye contact (Schafer Ph.D., Jack. “How to Detect A Liar,” Psychology Today, March 11, 2014.) Although people who feel embarrassed, ashamed, or have a lot on their minds generally avoid eye contact, the referenced article references scientific studies proving that “there is no connection between lying and the amount of eye contact and the target of the lie. In fact, research demonstrates that liars maintain more deliberate eye contact than do truthful people.” That is because “People tend to look at people or things that they like and avoid eye contact with people and things they don’t like. Liars must overcome the natural urge to avoid eye contact with their lie target to make themselves believable. Consequently, liars tend to overcompensate by maintaining longer eye contact.”
What should we do when confronted with someone who may not be telling the truth or when feeling something is amiss? Perhaps there are no easy answers. The best advice I have found to date is to “trust your instincts” – especially if you feel you are at risk or in danger. Listen to your “inner voice” and remove yourself from the situation — protecting yourself and others from potential harm. In many cases, people try to “rationalize away” their instinctive warnings, but that may be the worst thing you can do.
Whenever possible, ask God to guide you.
But remember — the Bible teaches us not to unjustly accuse anyone of wrongdoing, even if we suspect him or her of lying because they have previously lied to us before (see, for example, Exodus 20:16). God hates lying in any form, and falsely accusing someone of lying is a sin. So although you should remove yourself from uncomfortable situations when you feel something is amiss, use care when talking about it to anyone so you do not unjustly accuse someone of suspected wrongdoing.
Image Copyright: alphaspirit