Liars, Know-it-all’s….and a little grace in-between

lie to me


by Kenneth Justice


–) “Do these jeans make me look fat?”

–) “Do you think she is pretty?”

Those are the kinds of questions no boyfriend or husband ever wants to be asked…right?

Is it really a lie if you say, “Sweetheart….you look great just like you always do”, when you don’t really mean it?

Is it okay to lie? Is it okay to ‘fudge’ just a little bit on the truth in order to prevent hurting someone’s feelings?

Ethical questions are difficult because there are a lot of grey areas in life. As much as we wish life was black-and-white; the reality is that much of life is grey.

I have a good friend who has more integrity in his little pinky than I have in my entire being…..just like the mythical George Washington, my friend ‘cannot tell a lie’.

But my friend has run into a problem; due to his commitment to always telling the truth and always looking at life in black-and-white glasses…in some ways it has alienated him from our culture.

When you are the type of person who always calls it the way you see it……it can cause you to come off as a little bit less gracious than you intend.

You see, the problem is that we aren’t perfect….the way we see it; is not always the way it really is…..

Growing up in conservative evangelical culture, I was taught to walk around telling everybody they were headed to hell if they didn’t believe the ‘right’ things….if they didn’t ‘believe what we believe’…..I was taught that ‘our view of the bible is the right view’

But that way of thinking left me feeling very empty….and more importantly; it alienated me from other people.

This ‘know-it-all’ mentality doesn’t just apply to religion; it can apply to other concepts as well.

Take for instance the subject of politics, don’t you find it difficult to sit down with someone who believes their political view is ‘perfect’ and anything less than their view is stupid and wrong?

‘Know-it-all’ people are not usually interested in real discussions….they are only interested in trying to convert people to their way of life and to their belief systems.

In the United States we have a LOT of know-it-alls. They make life tough for the rest of us. I am honest enough to admit that I used to be one of those people……I’m also honest enough to admit that when I really think about the way I used to be; I realize that I used to be miserable, I just didn’t know I was miserable.

–) Sometimes the best thing we can do is bite our tongue

–) Sometimes the best thing we can do is to not share our opinion

–) Sometimes the best thing we can do is to listen; even if we don’t agree with the other person

We don’t always have to be right…..right?

Remember when you were a kid….remember how much it annoyed you when the parental figure in your life always acted like they ‘knew everything’ and treated you like….well…..‘Like a kid that didn’t know anything’!

The man who made the greatest impact in my life died in 2012, he was 85 years old when he died and was a retired school social worker. For nearly 20 years he and I met for coffee twice a month on Saturday mornings and had thousands of conversations…….while I remember so much of what he told me over the years…..what I remember the most is what a great listener he was.

He watched me go from being a scrawny little 15 year old kid to a married man with children……and as I think back……I can see so clearly how he skillfully ‘bit his tongue’ and let me figure a lot of things out for myself over the years……

Was he ‘lying’ when he bit his tongue and didn’t tell me exactly what he was thinking? I don’t think so……

I believe he was demonstrating grace towards me. That is an essential element of grace; loving people unconditionally and letting them figure out life for themselves. Not ‘telling them what to do’ but instead, ‘being there for them now matter what’.

The world is filled with a lot of know-it-alls….but we are direly in need of good listeners. We are in need of people who know what grace and love are…..who know when it is a time to speak and a time to listen……

For now, it is time for another cup of coffee,


Categories: relationships

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

25 replies

  1. LOL. Great post I am sure that most men relate to.
    Either way, you’re doomed, pretty much.. lol Us women have so may ways of reading things on any given time – dependent on factors you have absolutely no control over, you really never know what you are going to get!

  2. Do not lie..but remain quiet ..silence is golden..or be tactful ..ask the person the same question..But..don’t lie those you love..I normally have a favorite comment, ” Will not comment ” or ” No comment ” It means the truth is going to hurt you and I do not want to ..and of course it leads to nag nag.. but I enjoy eyes speak and others can smile is silent but says very well.

  3. Yes, yes, yes!! High fives and kudos!! I was just talking about this subject with my mom and dad on tues. My mom is like your friend; always telling the truth, and being alienated from most other people. She was bemoaning how people don’t know how to take her and how people are always a little shocked with her, but more specifically she was wondering how is she going to spend 2 weeks in Florida with my sister and not offend her by revealing my mom hates her hair (my my sis, a married woman of 1, expecting her 2nd, has a blue mohawk). And I was like, “Well mom, you don’t have to tell her you don’t like it” and she looked at me completely amazed, as if she hadn’t even considered that, which led to a whole conversation about why (I think) it’s better to hold your tongue sometimes, and not share your opinions/thoughts on EVERYTHING all the time. Excellent post Kenneth!!

  4. It seems like your friend was also a good teacher – one who let you figure things out for yourself, which would lead to better understanding and retention.

    Thanks again.


  5. Kenneth this is a really good post.

    For me it ties into the sermon series my pastor is doing on what make the followers of Christ peculiar people. And I believe as you do that “grace” is needed when dealing with others. As I see things from my life experiences ‘grace’ is an attribute that make Christian’s peculiar people. I know your post is not about Christianity character traits, but it hits the nail on the head why so many ministries are failing at effectively spreading the “Good News.”

    Your right when you wrote, “Sometimes the best thing we can do is bite our tongue, sometimes the best thing we can do is to not share our opinion” and “Sometimes the best thing we can do is to listen; even if we don’t agree with the other person.” Someone once asked me did I know why God gave people two ears and one mouth. Laughter!

    At the time I really was a bit dense and had no clue how to answer the question. Now looking back on the conversation I realize the person (without tack) was trying to tell me to talk less and listen more. It took years for me to grasp the concept but I am finally getting it. I am finally meeting people that enjoy being in my company as I enjoy being in theirs. Finally!

    • As Christians we have such an intense proclivity toward telling other people what we believe about something…..and more often than not we would be better off demonstrating grace, listening, helping, etc…..

      Great thoughts Annette, thanks!

  6. having a filter is important that’s true. i can’t lie to save my life lol, but i always work to tell the truth in a way that takes a person’s feelings into consideration. i have never subscribed to the idea of brutal truth – if you ask me, that’s just an excuse to be mean to someone. i do still agree there is a time and place for certain truths and a time when to hold your tongue. i’ve held my tongue on certain issues for a long time and i feel the time has come to tell the truth – im in a sort of reverse situation right now and to be honest, im not looking forward to it but this is probably the only time to actually be forthright. go figure. anyway – well said kenneth!

  7. Thanks for this post! Haha, it’s a good think that you have been speaking up your mind about know-it-all people. Totally agree with you that they’re the most annoying bunch of people in the world. ;D

  8. I always enjoy your post and in this one I find the contradiction in myself because I am a know it all, or so I’ve been told, but I bite my tongue far more often than I speak. And yet I am open to, or at least accepting of different points of view… I just need a lot of convincing before I change my mind on something I have made up my mind on… in the end we can always agree to disagree… I love bouncing ideas back and forth… as for lying… it is something we all do no matter how black and white pull no punches say it like it is we think we are… lies come in all shapes and sizes and spectrums of colors and shades including black and white… and then there is the lie of omission which we have all been guilty of … I think I will join you for that coffee as I ponder this more…

    • TJ, for us who are readers who or love to study….I think that such a lifestyle lends itself to us having a tendency toward being a know-it-all…but as you say, we have to be “honest and open to accepting different points of view” 🙂

  9. “Remember when you were a kid….remember how much it annoyed you when the parental figure in your life always acted like they ‘knew everything’ and treated you like….well…..‘Like a kid that didn’t know anything’!”

    Ha! Yup! And it still happens to this day. I have marked it as more stubbornness than anything.

    True story:
    When I was first living with my parents 9 years ago, I used to work late so I would come home late and shower and end up going to bed with my hair wet because I was to tired to dry it.

    My mother INSISTED that I would get a cold if I went to bed with wet hair. I said you get colds from a virus. She insisted. I went to my doctor for my regular check up and just asked about this issue. Of course, doctor said you do not catch a cold by going to bed with wet hair.

    I told my mother this and my father piped in saying something along the lines of how dare I ask an actual medical professional about this and not believe my mother…

    It was probably the most ridiculous thing I remember about my parents. Thank God those memories are few, but I laugh about it now.

  10. I love that you suggest that biting one’s tongue and allowing the other person to discover his/her own answers is demonstrating grace, and that engaged listening is a sign of of love and empathy. We don’t always have to be right. We don’t always have to share the beloved opinions that we hold so dear. Sometimes we need to just wholeheartedly listen. Thanks!

  11. I’ve been focusing on something I read recently: “The opposite of what you know is also true.” (Buddhist Boot Camp is where I came across this.) Thinking about that helps me to resist that urge to “convince” someone that my views are somehow more correct or better than their own.

  12. Really like this, Kenny! Very well said and I am SO glad you had that elder friend for you. Sometimes we find absolute gems outside our family, when the family itself doesn’t provide them.

  13. Actually wives and husbands should not ask such questions, especially when you are in a hurry and there is no time to argue, and expect the truth.So dress rehershals should take place a day or two before the event. And of course I would still prefer to tell a lie, to avoid the one or two day nagging. Problems solved nowadays that there isn’t time and money to go anywhere! 😉

  14. If I have to choose between telling an untruth while maintain graciousness or being ungracious while being strictly truthful, I will go with the grace. I think Jesus was the only one ever described as full of grace and truth – both at once. If I was more like Him I could bring it off but I am at the level where choosing to be gracious is struggle enough, and figuring out how to combine it with truth is frequently totally outside of my skill set.
    But one caution. It is a delicate thing. If you are going to choose grace at the cost of bending the exact truth, it has to be invisible to everyone. If people notice what you are doing they may never believe you again.

    • Carroll,

      When we look at the narratives in the gospels, it seems as though more often than not, Jesus doesn’t give straight answers to people. The pharisees come to him with questions and he turns the conversation into something else……because the narratives we have are instances between Jesus (a Rabbi/ teacher) they aren’t a really good reference for us when it comes to the everyday conversations you or I would have in a variety of instances.

      For example; I go to the coffee shop and the employee asks me, “Kenneth, how are you doing”, If I am having a crummy day should I now burden the employee with all of my problems? Obviously I wouldn’t want to do that, especially when throughout my day strangers that pass me by on the street say, “how are you doing” tons of times each days.

      Am I lying if I say, “I’m fine” or if I just say, “I’ve had better days” and leave it at that……

    • Not a lie at all. I do wish that Jesus had given us more examples of small talk, chit chat, etc. so maybe we could see how to be both gracious and truthful simultaneously. Or maybe examples wouldn’t help. I really hate that old fad that was going around for a while WWJD. Who knows what He would do? Totally unpredictable.
      I think we should use the categories helpful/unhelpful when we speak. Words should do good to people, whenever possible, and not harm. That is not the highest standard in the world, perhaps, but it is one I find difficult to meet.
      Ah, well. Coffee. While we are sipping we can think what to say and maybe do better next time.


  1. The Art of lying…….huh??? « The Culture Monk

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