Why are some people so eager to call others’ inaccurate statements “lies”?
Since we’re about a week from a major election, the word “lie” is, as usual, getting an intense work out. But this phenomenon isn’t unique to election year politics. Over and over, and in a variety of settings, I’ve observed this: people encounter what they see as falsehood and immediately leap to the judgment that someone is lying—and say so.
I’ve always found this behavior puzzling, and sometimes head-against-wall maddening. Are these accusers unable to see that everyone (including themselves) is sincerely wrong about one thing or another nearly all the time? Have they managed to miss the memo that to err is human?
Maybe it’s a failure to adjust for bias. Could they really believe that if they dislike someone, or strongly disapprove of his ideas or actions, they are entitled to judge his character by a completely different standard than they use against themselves? Could they really not realize that if they want others to judge their character generously, they should judge the character of others generously?
Or do they just not know what a lie really is?
Sadly, opportunities to talk to people in the act of leaping to the “liar!” judgment haven’t shed much light on how they arrived at that conclusion. To them, it was just obvious.
Mysteries aside, it’s clear that Christians ought to be soberly and humbly cautious about characterizing others as “lying” or “liars.” Here’s why.