Dishonesty is an undisputed relationship bomb that can quickly blow up trust. In marriage, you simply cannot function in a healthy manner without trust. While we can all agree that lying is bad, especially in marriage, this sort of thing happens every day. So, why do we lie?
Ultimately, lying is image control. Lying is a very selfish and reckless way to look less guilty, wrong or foolish or to look more impressive, smart or right. In the end, these attempts to control our image result in destroying the very relationships you consider important. Obviously, honesty is the best policy. However, when things go wrong, it is human nature to cover up and spin the facts to keep the problem from causing more problems.
I remember feeling this temptation early in our marriage. I would be meeting Amanda for dinner somewhere and told her I would be there at a specific time. Of course, I would get caught up in something at work and forget or I would be overly optimistic about how long it would take to drive to the restaurant. Inevitably, I’d be late. And inevitably, she would be upset. Why would she be upset? Because I made a commitment and did not follow through. She had every right to be upset. So, when she called or texted me with, “Where are you?” I would fabricate a story that was half-true. I would blame traffic or say, “I lost track of time.” The reality is I was not responsible to follow through. My fear was, if I were truly honest, she would only get more angry and it would ruin our evening. The reality is, I was not honoring her with honesty and I was not accepting full responsibility for my actions. I was dodging accountability and trying to protect my image.
Lying, even half-truths, are damaging to your marriage. The problem with image control is lying never holds up. It’s a house of cards that will collapse with time. The problem is, getting away with a lie in the short run will come to light in the long run. The truth always comes to light. The lie will be exposed and what you covered up will be clearly seen or the character flaw that contributed to the problem will be exposed. Either way, the lie will never serve you well.
Just in case some of you are wondering what really constitutes a lie, here’s a little checklist for you:
- White lies - seemingly insignificant variations from the truth - every lie, big or small causes us to depend on lies more and more.
- Broken promises - betraying your word
- Fabrications - making up details or events that don’t exist or never happened
- Bold-faced lies - claiming something that is obviously untrue
- Exaggerations - embellishing the truth
- Deception - intentionally misleading someone by what you say or fail to say
The big question is, “What do you do about dishonesty?" Here are the two situations you WILL find yourself in related to dishonesty and how you handle it.
1. I was dishonest. What should I do?
James 5:16 "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
Confess your sin. I know your mind is telling you it’s easier to keep it hidden. Trust me and the 32 million users exposed in the Ashley Madison website breach earlier this year; your sins will find you out. Once the truth comes out, and it will, the damage to trust will be multiplied by the time you delayed. Do not believe the old adage, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.” Unexposed dishonesty is currently affecting your marriage negatively. Since dishonesty cannot be undone, your most redemptive option is to confess it, repent of it and pray and ask for mercy. Accept the fact that you have caused a breach of trust and accept those consequences. The best way forward is through it.
2. I discovered dishonesty. What should I do?
Matthew 18:15 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over."
If you discover dishonesty in your spouse, go to them. Acknowledge it and seek to make peace in the situation as far as it depends on you. You will likely be emotional, hurt and angry. It is ok to be angry and hurt when dishonesty is discovered. It is vital that you recognize your spouse is human and will fail. Therefore, you seek reconciliation whenever possible. Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Remember that there is a difference in forgiveness and trust. Forgiveness says, “I will not carry this offense any further.” Trust says, "We can move forward in relationship." which is NOT always possible or recommended. Some breaches of trust cause so much damage, the most redemptive step is to create safe distance. If your marriage has suffered a catastrophic blow of dishonesty, please see a counselor or trusted pastor before making any major decisions like separation or divorce.
May we all take honesty seriously and commit to honesty in our marriages, even when it’s hard. Honesty from this day forward is always the best decision. To watch the Bombs Away sermon series that inspired this post, please click here