Last week numerous states in the Midwest suffered from severe weather. Our little Kansas town was no exception. We had some flash floods, dime-sized hail, a few downed power lines and a tornado touched down about 20 miles from us. And no, I did not take any photos. This photo is courtesy of Microsoft Office Clipart.
After the storm I was preparing to email a contact regarding the weather and I found myself beginning to exaggerate some of the details. I wasn't intentionally try to exaggerate, but I had to stop and calculate how far the nearest tornado was as I was just going to estimate it was 15 miles from us. Now a difference of 5 miles isn't a big deal, is it? It does make it sound as if we were a bit more in the path of harm's way though. I actually discarded my message at that time as I reflected on my tendency to be "sloppy" with the facts.
What is exaggeration? Webster's 1828 dictionary states that it is "to enlarge beyond the truth." The example sentence it gives is: "A friend exaggerates a man's virtues; a enemy exaggerates his vices or faults." So if the truth is not presented in an honest manner is what you say or write essentially a lie? For a half truth is not the truth.
What is the motivation behind exaggerating the truth?
- You are seeking attention or sympathy. (Drawing attention to one's self, wouldn't the root cause be pride?)
- You are trying to improve your own self-image. (Pride would be the root of this behavior)
- Out of fear you exaggerate facts to avoid a confrontation. (It seems pride would be involved here also).
A few verses came to mind:
"Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil." Matt. 5:37
"So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!" James 3:5And a frightening statement about accounting for our words:
"I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak," Matt. 12:36Be honest in all you say. While it's wrong to embellish the truth it's also wrong to cover up the facts. Parents, be mindful to model honesty before your children. Confess your failures when you sin in their presence. Be purposeful in your conversation so you do not skew the facts. Employees, don't exaggerate details about your workday. Pastors, don't exaggerate your accomplishments and numbers. Don't be sloppy with the facts. We will all give an account before God one day.