The Truth About the Adversary’s Lies

pinocchio toy
Image via Pixabay/jackmac34

In Disney’s 1940 film Pinocchio, a wooden marionette is magically brought to life—we all know the story—but in case you don’t, here’s a snippet:

Pinocchio is promised by the Blue Fairy that transforms him, that if he proves himself “brave, truthful, and unselfish” that he can become a real boy. He is given a conscience, Jiminy Cricket, to be his “counselor in moments of temptation” and as a “guide along the straight and narrow path.”

The next day, on his way to school, Pinocchio is tricked into joining Stromboli’s puppet show by a sneaky wolf, Honest John, who promises the puppet fame and success. Stromboli makes Pinocchio the star of his show, but that night when Pinocchio tries to go home to his father, Gepetto, Stromboli locks him in a cage.

Jiminy and Pinocchio fret about what to do when the Blue Fairy appears and asks them why Pinocchio didn’t go to school. Instead of telling the truth, Pinocchio lies and tells her that he was kidnapped. With each lie he tells, his nose grows longer. The Blue Fairy tells him that he should tell the truth because “a lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as plain as the nose on your face.”

Lying is complex

Author and fraud examiner, Pamela Meyer says that “our brains adapt to lying.” Once we tell a lie, either to ourselves or to others, our brain registers the need to continue to lie to cover up the initial lie.

She says that “lying is complex. It’s woven into the fabric of our daily and our business lives. We’re deeply ambivalent about the truth. We parse it out on an as-needed basis, sometimes for very good reasons, other times just because we don’t understand the gaps in our lives.”

Meyers says that “…on a given day, studies show that you may be lied to anywhere from 10 to 200 times.”

She notes that as a people, “we’re against lying, but we’re covertly for it in ways that our society has sanctioned for centuries and centuries and centuries. It’s as old as breathing. It’s part of our culture, it’s part of our history.”

Think of politics and marketing. Lies seem unavoidable if you live in today’s world.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claim to “believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous and in doing good to all men”

So how can we be better at living up to this standard?

Lying is a cooperative act

Meyer claims that “a lie has no power whatsoever by its mere utterance. Its power emerges when someone else agrees to believe the lie.”

This is key: we must recognize our own participation in the deception that goes on in our daily interactions.

She says, “I know it might sound like tough love, but look, if at some point you got lied to, it’s because you agreed to get lied to.”

Meyers goes on to say that “lying is an attempt to bridge [the] gap, to connect our wishes and our fantasies about who we wish we were, how we wish we could be, with what we’re really like. And boy are we willing to fill in those gaps in our lives with lies.”

Related: How to Teach Children Truth from Error

Pinocchio, Puppet, Conte, Italy
Image via Pixabay/jackmac34

Become a lie spotter

Along with recognizing that lying is a cooperative act, we must become better at noticing when we are lying or being lied to.
Meyers says of liars that they “are known to freeze their upper body, shift their blink rate, point their feet toward an exit.” Liars use “formal language, distancing language, and qualifying language.”
Truthtellers, on the other hand, are “cooperative, enthusiastic, willing to brainstorm, name suspects, and are infuriated if they sense they are wrongly accused.”
Meyers qualifies these facts by saying that “these behaviors are just behaviors. They’re not proof of deception. They’re red flags. We’re human beings. We make deceptive flailing gestures all over the place all day long. They don’t mean anything in and of themselves. But when you see clusters of them, that’s your signal.”


“Deceive me not”

One of the most cunning liars is the Adversary. He tells us we are not good enough, smart enough, or successful enough. He tells us that a little lie won’t hurt, that we cannot repent, or that we are unworthy of God’s love.

In his most recent conference talk, Elder Stevenson says talks about the ways in which we are deceived by the adversary. He says that many people today “are either unable to see things as they truly are or are unsatisfied with truth. Moreover, there are forces at play today designed to deliberately lead us away from absolute truth. These deceptions and lies go far beyond innocent mistaken identity and often have dire, not minor, consequences.”

The adversary’s lies are harmful and detrimental to our eternal progress.

Focus on eternal truth

Although Jiminy Cricket is given to Pinocchio as his “conscious,” and promises to be his “still small voice,” Jiminy Cricket often isn’t there for Pinocchio in times when he needs him most. Baptized Latter-day Saints are given the gift of the Holy Ghost, who, if we are worthy, will never leave us.

Likewise, when the Blue Fairy saves Pinocchio from Stromboli’s cage, she warns him by saying, “this is the last time I can help you.” Unlike the Blue Fairy, our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ are always there to help us when we fall for the Adversary’s lies.

The eternal truth is this: we are going to make mistakes, but that is why Heavenly Father sent his Son. We should strive every day to remember the truths that the gospel teaches, and to recognize the lies the adversary tells us for what they are: lies.

Watch Pamela Meyer’s Ted Talk “How to spot a liar”:

Jane studied English at Brigham Young University-Idaho. She served her mission in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. She enjoys listening to the Beach Boys with her husband and their Great Dane, Cooper. She is learning to fly fish and has just started making her own pickles.