The Father of Lies

Lying is saying something with the intent of creating a false belief or impression. It’s an attempt to get someone to believe something that is not true. We deceive other people because we think it serves our purposes in some way.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the phrase, “The Father of Lies?” Satan, of course. Lucifer. The devil. He is described, more than anything else, as a liar. He has no power to defeat God, but he is skilled at lying, and convincing people to listen to his lies. John 8:44 says, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Anyone who lies is modeling their behavior after the devil.

There are seven things the Lord hates: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who sows discord among brothers. (See Proverbs 6:16-19) The word “hates” in this instance means to consider personally offensive and to regard with enmity. In other words, those who do any of these seven hateful things are acting as enemies of God. It is interesting to note that two of these seven hateful things refer to dishonesty. A lying tongue and a false witness who pours out lies. God says of the liar, “I will not allow deceivers to serve me, and liars will not be allowed to enter my presence.” (Psalm 101:7)

Why does God condemn lying in such strong terms? He hates lying because He is the source of all truth. In fact, Jesus used that very word to describe His character when He said, “I am the Way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) We read in Hebrews 6:18 that it is impossible for God to lie. He is the standard of all that is real in the universe.

Oh, the tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. Like that line? I made it up myself. Just now. Honest! It turns out that where lying is concerned, the cards are stacked against us, both by behavioral conditioning and cognitive evolutionary biology. Lying can bail us out of awkward situations. It can spare the feelings of others; preserve or strengthen alliances; enhance social standing. Lying can keep us out of trouble. Even save our lives. But I’m talking about lying in order to hide your feelings, hide your behavior, or hide your thoughts. People lie when they are afraid of what would happen if they told the truth. Many times they have done something wrong and are afraid of the consequences of their actions, so they lie to cover up what they did. As is often said about political scandals, it’s not the crime that gets you in trouble nearly as much as the cover-up.

So how many lies do you think you told in the last week? Who did you tell the lies to? Why did you tell the lies? How do you feel now about the lies you told?

The big problem with lying is that it becomes an addiction. When you get away with a lie it often drives you to continue your deceptions. Also, liars often find themselves constantly trying to remember their lies, and then creating more lies to cover their previous lies. Truth becomes a feared enemy of the liar. It’s a sick and tragic cycle that doesn’t ever have a happy ending.  I know this because I have struggled for most of my life with telling the truth. I have actually been described as a “pathological liar.” As you may know from previous posts or my About page, I am an alcoholic and addict in recovery.

Alcoholics and addicts tell lies more often than they tell the truth. “I’m not hurting anyone.” “I can stop any time.” Deception becomes so second nature, alcoholics and addicts will lie even when it’s just as easy to tell the truth. Many don’t even realize they’re fibbing or that other people see through their façade. Living a double life is exhausting, so why lie?

That’s simple. An alcoholic or addict will do whatever is necessary to maintain their addiction. If they acknowledge the seriousness of the problem, or the harm they’re causing themselves and others, they will be hard-pressed to continue this way of life. Their logic, whether conscious or unconscious, is, “I need to get drunk or high, and I need lies to keep people off my back so I can continue using.” Thus, lying becomes a matter of self-preservation. Anything, or anyone, that is going to hinder their drug or alcohol habit has no place in the their life.

Addiction reorganizes the alcoholic or addict’s world and consumes their identity so that the person becomes unrecognizable to themselves and others. Since the truth is too painful to face, they construct an alternate reality where drugs and alcohol aren’t a problem, and try to depict that they are doing exactly what other people want and hope for them. They say they’ve been clean for weeks when, in truth, they got high just a few hours ago. They say they landed a great new job when they’re actually dirt poor and homeless.

Even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, denial compels alcoholics or addicts to disavow their problem and ignore the consequences of their behavior. Although denial can serve a valuable protective function, allowing people to process information, and come to terms with it, in addiction denial can become pervasive. For example, alcoholics and addicts may truly believe that their family and friends have become the enemy, or that their addiction is a necessary and acceptable part of their life. The disease of addiction uses denial and other sophisticated defenses, such as rationalization, projection and intellectualization, to ensure its survival.

In sober moments, alcoholics and addicts may feel extreme shame, embarrassment and regret. Unable to work through these emotions, they cope in the only way they know how. By using more drugs or drinking more alcohol. To keep up appearances, they paint a picture of themselves to others that is far more flattering than the reality.

It’s true that alcoholics and addicts lie. And while the lies can’t be ignored, they are actually a distraction from the real problem, which are the underlying issues that contribute to addiction. Lies allow diversion from the solution of finding a path to recovery. Only by breaking through denial and seeing the truth can the alcoholic or addict begin to heal. I have found that the only way I can deal with the problem of lying is to face it head on. My addictions counselor and I have included dishonesty as part of my treatment plan. I have started an honesty journal. Also, I chose someone to be my “accountability partner.” Someone who will call me on my shit. Each night, as I conduct a Step 10 review of my day, I include the question: “Did I lie to anyone today or in any way present myself in a deceitful manner?” I start my morning with, “Lord, I pray that if it is not true, I don’t say it; if it’s not mine, I don’t take it; and if it feels wrong, I don’t do it.”

Recovery from addiction involves far more than sobriety. Recovery includes changing every part of a person’s life. The person who only stops drinking is what is referred to as a “dry drunk,” meaning that they are every bit as unhealthy. They have simply stopped drinking. Only a small percentage of folks manage this long term. In my opinion, real recovery is only made possible by turning your will and your life over to Jesus. Also, the programs of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous can be huge step in the right direction.

There are some who do not believe I can stay clean and sober. That I am unable to stop lying. That I have not reached my “true bottom.” I’ve had my doubts as well in the past. “How It Works” says, “Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest…” So you see, it is imperative that I get a handle on my tendency to be dishonest. Not only with myself (denial), but with others. Thankfully, we are told in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Romans 12:2 says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

As a parting thought, I refer you to Galatians 5:16-17, which says, “This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Galatians 5:25 states, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

May God bless you in your journey toward sobriety and a new life in Christ Jesus.

Jesus Christ is the True Higher Power

I get a daily thought in my email every day regarding Alcoholics Anonymous. I wanted to share today’s with you because I find this thought to be dangerous.

A Beginning
My friend suggested what then seemed to be a novel idea. He said, “Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?” That statement hit me hard. It melted away the icy intellectual mountain in whose shadow I had lived and shivered many years. I stood in the sunlight at last. It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Power greater than myself. Nothing more was required of me to make my beginning.
Alcoholics Anonymous, page 12

I think this thought is dangerous for a couple of reasons. On the one hand, I know that no human power can relieve us of our alcoholism, but on the other hand we’re told that there is one who has all power, that one is GOD, may you find him now. I know in my heart that the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous meant the God of Abraham, the Father of Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Redeemer. I believe it is He who relieves our compulsion and squashes our physical cravings and delivers us from the bondage of addiction and helps us to become neutral when it comes to alcohol. It is He who renews our mind and our spirit, and takes away our character defects if we ask. It is He that heals our drug and alcohol battered body. It is he that forgives our offenses (our sins) and provides the river of living water. It is not a tree, or a door knob, or the AA group, or a dog, or a universal spirit, or the wind, or fire, or mother earth, or Buddha, or Mohammed, or the spirit of Bill W. It is not our own concept of God. There is only one God. He’s contained entirely within the Holy Bible. He is all sovereign and all powerful and all caring and all knowing. He wants us to live life sober and abundantly. For me, being told I can “invent’ my own God does not encourage me or make me feel good in my spirit. I would most likely invent a God that is far less powerful and judging than the God of Abraham. I run the risk of creating in my mind a God who is all loving, and I’ll tend to let out God’s wrath, His hatred of sin, His disdain for false prophets and Pharisees, and self-righteous worshipers.

But this God is a jealous God. He does not want us to seek a solution to our difficulties on our own, or to use some written formula or steps or rules of behavior. He doesn’t want us trying to behave ourselves into heaven, or even out of drunkenness. We cannot find our own solution to the sin problem. We have a sin nature. We walk often in the flesh, where we cater to our instincts, our wants, our desires, our cravings. Left to our own devices, we lie, cheat and manipulate. Sometimes we even steal. We justify or rationalize our behaviors. We don’t even consider whether we’re doing something wrong. And if we examine our behaviors outside of the scope of the Law of Moses and the commandment of Jesus to operate from a platform of love, we totally miss the point. We can’t get into heaven by obeying a bunch of rules, and we can’t beat our cravings for alcohol without intervention from the Lord Jesus Christ.

How It Works has it right: No human power can relieve our alcoholism. With this in mind, how can we successfully make “the rooms” of AA our higher power? Yes, there is strength in numbers. Two minds are better than one. 12-Step interventions work. We can talk to a struggling alcoholic and share our experience, strength and hope. Picking up the phone and calling someone on your phone list can help you derail your intention to drink at that particular moment. But people do not possess the power necessary to relieve your alcoholism. If the only way you deal with cravings is to call and talk about them when they occur, then you’re not going to grow strong in your ability to stop experiencing cravings in the first place. If you call on fellow members of AA only, and you don’t get into a relationship with Almighty God, you will always be troubled with cravings. You see, there has to be a change within us. A change that renews our mind and alters the way we think of alcohol, period. This change comes from the Lord Jesus. The Big Book promises us that if we work the Steps, rely on God, and thoroughly follow the treatment plan, it is rare that a person fails in his effort to get and stay sober.

So when I see people going to meetings day after day, airing their dirty laundry, their complaints, their heartaches, and seemingly struggling with a compulsive thought to drink, I think they are missing something. We’re promised we can come to a position of neutrality regarding booze. We will be able to be around it without wanting to drink it. We can go wherever we need to go, with good reason, and feel safe even if alcohol is present. Yes, it is often suggested that we take a sober friend along, and this does help us be accountable for our behavior at the event. But if I am on good spiritual ground when I come across a drinking opportunity, the Big Book tells me I will not pick up a drink. A good part of what helps me resist any temptation is my prayer to God to keep me away from a drink or drug today. To be in touch with God enough that my behavior will be that which God wants. Here’s the thing: the more we walk in the will of God, the easier it gets to do so. It’s like exercising our spiritual “muscles.”

I am not picking on Alcoholics Anonymous. I will say, however, that just going to meetings and reading the Steps as part of opening up the meeting will not give you any power to resist the temptation to drink. Saying the Lord’s Prayer, paying particular attention to the line that “yours is the kingdom and the POWER…” will not automatically infuse you with the power over the drink. How It Works tells us “There is one who has all power, that one is God, may you find him now.” That line hints that we have to seek God. He’s there, and He will reach out to us as we reach out to him. I truly know of no successful breakaway from alcoholism while using a door knob, a tree, a rock, the sun, mother earth, Thor the thunder god, universal consciousness, the rooms of AA, the cosmos, Buddha, Mohammed, or any other source as a higher power. However, I know of numerous alcoholics that have put down the drink one day at a time through seeking God Almighty. Moreover, Jesus Christ died for my sins and iniquities, my bondage, my illnesses. He was tortured, whipped, spat upon, mocked, and murdered for my sake. By His stripes I am healed. I am set free from the bondage of addiction. And that is what makes me able to be free from alcohol one day at a time.

I attend AA meetings. I don’t always share, and I sometimes chair the meeting. When we say the Lord’s Prayer, I substitute “Jesus” for “God.” I often pray silently that God would move among the meeting, tugging at people’s hearts to share what they need in order to get healthy, that newcomers would have a light bulb go on over their head. I pray for the presence of the Holy Spirit. For insight that will edify and benefit others in the meeting. That God would keep the meeting safe and on track. That no one leaves before the miracle happens. I thank God for keeping me sober another twenty-four hours. That he puts the right words in my mouth when I share. The only thing I don’t do is preach about Jesus, and frankly that makes me feel guilty. I know Christ came to set the captives free. So I save that conversation for one-on-one after the meeting or on the phone. May God bless the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.