by Michael J. Klassen
In the movie The Invention Of Lying, Mark Bellison (played by Ricky Gervais) lives in a world where everyone tells the truth. Instead of pasting a smile on their face, everybody says what they mean—and what they’re thinking.
(just a warning: the movie includes vulgar references—including the movie trailer above)
In one scene, Mark enters a restaurant with his date Anna, played by Jennifer Garner. The waiter walks up to the table and says, “I’m very embarrassed I work here.” Then he looks at Anna and confesses, “You’re very pretty…that only makes this worse.”
Even television ads tell the truth. In one scene, Bob, a spokesman for the Coca Cola company, explains to the television audience,
It’s basically just brown sugar water, we haven’t changed the ingredients much lately…we changed the can around a little bit though. See, the colors here are different there, and we added a polar bear so the kids like us.
He concludes by saying, “It’s very famous, everyone knows it. I’m Bob, I work for Coke, and I’m asking you to not stop buying coke. That’s all. It’s a bit sweet. Thank you.”
What Would Your World Look Like If Everyone Told The Truth?
Because everybody only tells the truth, they believe everything they’re told—despite their honesty and frankness.
Interestingly enough, because everyone is honest with each other, people don’t get upset with what they hear. They may be hurt by someone’s words, but they aren’t surprised.
What if everyone in our world was honest with each other? What if we said what we meant?
Initially, we’d probably be hurt, but over time, we’d learn to take people’s opinions in stride. We’d also discover that everyone is messed up, because we wouldn’t conceal our shortcomings and failures.
I’m part of a pretty amazing small group community. We meet twice a month for our formal gatherings, but we get together much more often than that. I like to say that “we live life together.” In fact, many of us are going to see a popular comedian tonight. We enjoy being together.
For the past year, a different person from the group has shared their story at our formal meetings. They pass around photos, tell stories from their past, and confess their shortcomings and failures.
A month ago, it was my turn to tell my story. And to be honest, in the hours leading up to the meeting, I was freaking out. What if I bore everyone? What if I’m a disappointment?
Nevertheless, I chose to jump into the murky waters of vulnerability.
Afterward, the group encouraged me and accepted me…despite knowing a little more about what I’m really like. I felt so overwhelmingly affirmed and loved.
We All Need Truth-Telling Relationships And Communities
We all need friends and communities of friends who really know us and accept us. Who love us despite our shortcomings and failures.
Referring to Christian community, Paul wrote, “Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 NIV, italics added).
After all, relationships are built on honesty and truth-telling. Plastic smiles and always-cheerful dispositions do nothing to deepen a friendship or marriage.
Notice Paul says that by speaking the truth in love (which doesn’t apply only to confrontation), we become like Christ. If you read the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), which focus specifically on Jesus’ life here on earth, we see a full range of emotions in Jesus. He lived an authentic life and spoke honestly to the people around him.
I know, I know, you’re probably telling yourself, If people really knew me, they wouldn’t like me. But if everyone was honest about themselves, we’d all realize that we’re all messed up. We couldn’t look down on someone because they could equally look down on us. Rather than try to fix each other, we’d delve into each others’ hearts to discern why we act the way we do.
Sounds enticing, doesn’t it?
It’s never too late to start. But it begins with you.
Have you ever participated in an authentic community? How did it change you? I’d love for you to share about it with all of us.
Next week we’ll continue our discussion on The Invention Of Lying…
Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. He’s still learning what it means to live authentically.