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Women World Leaders' Podcast

Feb 26, 2024

Honesty is a character quality we look for in others, but do we actually scrutinize ourselves for honesty in the same way?  How honest are we with ourselves, when it comes to being honest? Join Julie Harwick as she dives into this subject.


Welcome to Women World Leaders podcast. I’m your host, Julie Harwick. Thank you for joining me today as we celebrate God’s grace in our lives, in this ministry and around the world.

A mom questions her 3-year-old who’s mouth is ringed with blue dye.  “You’re telling me you didn’t have any candy today?”  “I haven’t,” he answers sweetly shaking his head.  “You can have one more time to tell me the truth,” she warns. “Really, I haven’t,” he responds as if he can’t imagine why she would ask such a thing. “Then what is all over your face," she asks. With a growing realization he says, as he attempts to look truly puzzled, “Oh, blue?”…”Well…. I forgot that I ate that.” 

It’s hard not to chuckle at this type of lying because it’s just further evidence that 3-year-olds are not as smart as they think they are. And they’re still in the process of learning that telling lies is not the way to get out of a sticky situation. But 3-year-olds grow up and unfortunately, lying often continues to be a part of their lives.  We were all 3 once and our parents probably took lying very seriously and tried to teach us that it was wrong, but that doesn’t mean we never do it.

While we might not be guilty of telling such a blatant lie as the 3-year-old, we may very well be guilty of misrepresenting, misleading, saying what someone wants to hear whether we actually believe it or not or exaggerating. If you’re not guilty of any of those yourself, you probably know someone who is.  It’s not “technically” a lie, but it’s likely to cause the hearer to arrive at a slightly different conclusion than what is the actual truth.  And generally, the motive for doing it is to manipulate a desired outcome.

Sometimes, what is not said falls into this category. Many years ago, I had a co-worker who seemed to believe that she was in competition with me and needed to make our employer question my value. She was definitely within earshot when a supervisor asked me to leave the office to get some paperwork he needed. Later, when the owner asked her where I was, she answered, “She didn’t tell me where she was going.” That was a true statement. I hadn’t specifically told her where I was going, but there was no question that she knew.  The way she answered made him believe that I had left without letting anyone know and that she didn’t know where I went. The information she gave him accomplished her intent of making me look irresponsible because he had a wrong impression of the situation.

Have you ever confronted an older child about some item around the house being broken and gotten a vague response like, ”I haven’t used it”?  In the back of your mind you’re wondering if they’re saying under their breath, “today.” The response might be technically true, but they certainly have more information that is relevant to the question, but it’s not in their best interest to share that. As kids get older, they get a little craftier at getting out of things they don’t want to do without actually telling a lie.  “I would do my chores now, but I have a test to study for.” They may very well have a test to study for, but they have no intention of spending all their remaining waking hours studying for it.  I once knew a boy who didn’t like to take a shower.  He would turn on the shower, retrieve a book he had stashed in the bathroom cabinet and read for 15 minutes.  Then he’d wet the washcloth and wipe it across the top of his head so his hair was wet and use it to dampen a towel. If he was specifically questioned about taking a shower, he would say that he had, because days earlier, he actually had.  There are all kinds of get-arounds that can enable us to have our own way without drawing attention to what we’re carefully hiding.

Unfortunately, our problems with absolute honesty don’t go away as we age. We just get better at hiding it from others…and even ourselves. Sometimes carelessness is involved but it doesn’t really excuse our behavior.  How often have you ended a conversation with someone who’s just shared a burden or concern with you and you threw out an, “I’ll be praying for you.” But do you really mean that, or will you get distracted by a  million other concerns and never once remember to pray as you said you would?  We say it with good intentions – praying for someone is good, but if there’s no follow through, why say it at all?  Do we say it because it’s uncomfortable not to, because it just seems like the right thing to say?  Maybe we should take more care to never promise to pray for someone unless we are certain that we actually will. Saying things out of habit or just because we don’t know what else to say can lead to dishonesty too.  Have you ever greeted the pastor on a Sunday morning after church with an “I really enjoyed your message,” when in fact, you can’t even recall what it was about?  If you actually did enjoy or appreciate it, by all means, be sure to say so, but giving compliments by rote is meaningless and doesn’t create the desired outcome.  This is a particular pet peeve of mine. I’ve known someone in leadership at church who is always brimming with superlatives, “That was the best worship ever! That was the best Christmas Eve production ever! You did such a great job with”…you get the picture. I know his intention is to be encouraging, but the lack of authenticity is actually demotivating to me. I can’t really take any praise from him as legitimate because he tosses it around so casually.

Another technique I’ve noticed and may have used a time or two myself is exaggeration. “I wish I could come to your baby shower, but unfortunately my son has lacrosse that day (nevermind that it will end hours before the shower) and I’m going out of town for a week and have so much to do to get ready for it. The more difficulties or concerns you can pile on the list, the better, or so it seems. The truth is that if you wanted to go, lacrosse and the trip wouldn’t stop you.  But since you don’t want to go, making them seem like a much bigger obstacle than they actually are is a convenient workaround. While it would be unkind to simply respond with an, “I don’t want to because baby showers are boring.” I  could be more honest, but not unkind, by saying, “I won’t be there, but I hope you have a really wonderful time!” Most people will accept that without requiring details, if you are pressed for a reason, you might say, “I have some other things that require my attention.”

I understand that we’re getting into some difficult territory here and I certainly have been guilty of exaggerating some facts to provide a way of escape from something I don’t want to do.  So how do we walk the line between brutal, hurtful truths and respectful and kind honesty? Probably the first question we should ask ourselves is “what would Jesus do?”

One of the first things that comes to mind when I think of Jesus and the truth is that He is truth.  “I am the way, the truth and the life,” He says in John 14:6. Earlier in John 8:32 He also emphasized the fact that He is truth when He said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Jesus and truth are inseparable, so if we want to know and serve Him, truth needs to be high on our list of priorities. Jesus made it pretty clear that He had real problems with deception.  We see it particularly in the way He viewed the Pharisees.  He referred to them as whitewashed sepulchers full of dead men’s bones, or in other words, they looked great on the outside, but their insides were detestable. He made a point of saying that we should be what we present to those around us with no attempt to deceive.  He called out those same Pharisees for taking oaths and swearing by heaven or their own heads to convince others of their sincerity, when it was, in fact, lacking.  In Matthew 5:37 He said, “Let your “no” be no and your “yes,” be yes. Anything beyond this is evil.” A modern paraphrase might be, “say what you mean and mean what you say.”

 That’s a tall order in our culture.  We have become masters at “spinning” situations to appear as something other than what they are. A common text abbreviation is TBH – to be honest. I see it on social media all the time.  When I see it, it makes me question, ”does this mean that rather than your usual lies, you’ve opted to tell me the truth this time?”

As humans, we have a long history of lying…to God, ourselves and each other.  It started with Satan, lying to Eve about God holding out on her.  When Satan asked Eve,  “did God really say not to eat from this tree?” she embellished the command and added her own, saying, “we can’t even touch it!”  When God confronted Adam about eating from the tree, he tried to make it sound like Eve just gave it to him without telling him where she got it.

That’s probably why the bible has so much to say about honesty – because humans have a real problem with it. In Proverbs 6 God lists 7 things that are detestable to Him and 3 of the 7 are related to honesty. He hates a lying tongue, a heart that devises wicked schemes and a false witness who pours out lies.  In 2 Corinthians 4 the Apostle Paul says, “We do not use deception, nor do we distort the Word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” The Apostle Peter echoes the sentiment in 1 Peter 3:10 saying, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.”

Truthfulness in God’s sight is a high bar and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always measure up. He knew we would struggle with this and addressed it in Ephesians 4.  He describes how He equips His people for service, so that the Body of Christ can be built up. He points out that it’s all a part of growing into maturity and that as we do mature, we won’t be controlled by false teaching and the craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming, but instead, we will speak the truth in love as we become the mature Body of Christ. Speaking the truth in love is an important caveat when we’re talking about honesty. Truth and love also need to go hand in hand. We won’t hide the truth from those we truly love, but we also won’t wield it as a sword with no thought of the damage it can do. When a child presents you with a flower he’s picked for you from a nearby weed, you could say, “that’s just a weed.” That is the truth, but it wouldn’t show much love. Instead, you could say, “that’s beautiful, thank you.” It may only be a weed, but if you look at it through his eyes, it is beautiful.

Speak the truth in love.  It sounds so simple, but we know it’s not. James said in chapter 3 of his letter that anyone who was never at fault in what they said, was perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. While we know we’ll never be perfect this side of heaven, with some extra attention on truthfulness and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can become more like Jesus in everything we say.

Thanks for listening to Women World Leaders podcast!  Join us each week as we explore together God’s extravagant love and your courageous purpose.  Visit our website at to submit a prayer request, register for an upcoming event, and support the ministry.  From His heart to yours, we are Women World Leaders .  All content is copyrighted by Women World Leaders and cannot be used without written consent.