You have eaten the fruit of lies (…) –Hosea 10:13 (NLT)
From grandma’s advice to the “Four Food Groups” posters in the school cafeteria we remember from our youth, we all know we should eat a lot of fruit in our diet. (Whether we actually do or not is a different story, but we are intellectually aware that we should.) According to the seldom-studied book of the Bible called Hosea, however, we see one kind of fruit we should not eat: the fruit of lies. The whole verse reads: “But you have cultivated wickedness and harvested a thriving crop of sins. You have eaten the fruit of lies— trusting in your military might, believing that great armies could make your nation safe.”
In this passage “fruit” is a metaphor, but the idea is, if we cultivate wickedness and harvest sins, then we will “eat the fruit of lies.” To put it another way, “bad roots = bad fruits.” The Bible indicates God must take the issue of lying seriously. In the Old Testament, the 9th of the 10 Commandments reads “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exodus 20:16 KJV). In the New Testament we learn “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:25 NIV).
Today, 2,000-3,000 years after the Bible was written, it seems modern science is catching up with what the scriptures have been saying all along. An article from Psychology Today entitled “The Truth About Lying and What is Does to the Body” claims: “Knowing that dishonesty risks irrevocable damage to one’s reputation, lying is an inherently stressful activity. When we engage in deceit, our respiratory and heart rates increase, we start to sweat, our mouth goes dry, and our voice can shake.” The author explains that dishonesty triggers anxiety “because lying activates the limbic system in the brain, the same area that initiates the ‘fight or flight’ response that is triggered during other stresses. When people are being honest, this area of the brain shows minimal activity. But when telling a lie, it lights up like a fireworks display. An honest brain is relaxed, while a dishonest brain is frantic.”
In addition to the tragedy that lies can mislead others, it seems deceit has another main victim: the liar him- or herself. An article on futurity.org called “It Doesn’t Take Long to Believe Your Own Lies” claims EEG brain scans show how lying changes one’s mind and thinking. According to researcher Laura Paige, an associate professor of psychology at Brandeis University, people can begin to mistakenly believe the lies we tell are the truth…in as little as 45 minutes. Paige explains: “Once they’ve committed to a lie, it’s going to alter whether they remember doing something.”
In addition, the EEG data revealed that lying engaged the brain processes responsible for working memory. According to Paige, this finding suggests a lie can embed itself in memory and come to feel as real as the truth. “Lying alters memory,” she says. “It creates a new memory for something that didn’t happen.”
This may be the greatest tragedy of all. The liar ends up so self-deceived, he or she can no longer distinguish fact from fiction.
To avoid the anxiety and the grief of deceiving others and ourselves, how much wiser we would be to follow the advice of both grandma and the Bible: “Honesty is the best policy.”
S.G.D / S.D.G.