There’s been a lot of talk this week about Brian Williams and his habitual embellishment of events. He was called out on a lie about being shot down in Iraq which led to being called out on more “misremembering” of events he was involved in. This led to public outcry, then to public mockery, and ultimately to Mr. Williams’ suspension from NBC Nightly News.
It is not too much for us to expect “just the facts” from a newsman. That, after all, is what we should expect. Those who report the news are charged with giving us the facts without commentary, opinion or embellishment. They are to report the game accurately from the sideline. Mr. Williams seems to have a tendency to want to not only report the game. He wants to be in the game.
This is what I don’t get: As a man who is widely respected and has reached the pinnacle of his profession, what does he have to gain by adding to the story? What does he have to gain by lying?
Sympathy? Respect? Personal fulfillment? A larger-than-life persona?
Another, bigger question is why we are so quick to send Brian Williams away in disgrace while eagerly accepting much bigger lies on almost a daily basis from politicians, celebrities, movies, music, magazines and so on. Is a ‘helicopter lie’ somehow worse than a lie about foreign policy or a lie about what matters most in life?
Ultimately, this little white helicopter lie is inexcusable. Every lie is inexcusable.
Yet no one will argue that we regularly tolerate, accept, and propagate bigger lies than this. Lies that hit a lot closer to home with generation-spanning consequences. Lies are ingrained in the culture. We regularly accept, and tell, lies.
Lies that tell us our self-worth is based on our appearance or economic status.
Lies that tell us fame and fortune bring success and joy.
Lies that tell us that if our kids aren’t the strongest, smartest, best and busiest, we are horrible parents.
Lies that tell us that tolerance requires acquiescence.
Lies that tell us attraction and intimacy are based on degradation and objectification.
Lies that tell us we will find happiness if only _____________ happens.
It seems that we are told, and we are willing to believe, an awful lot of lies. And we tell a lot of lies. They may be “little ones”. They may be just exaggerations. Embellishments. But they are lies nonetheless.
Jesus tells us that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The thief spoken of here is Satan, who is also referred to as the father of lies (John 8:44). Lies are what he does best.
In contrast, Jesus refers to Himself repeatedly as ‘The Truth’.
It is in our nature to believe and tell lies, even with Truth sitting squarely right in front of us. We do it regularly. And the best way to keep ourselves from falling for lies, and from becoming little white liars ourselves, is to surround and fill ourselves with Truth.
So why did Brian Williams lie to us?
I can’t answer that question; only Brian Williams can. But I do know this -it is certainly not the first time we have been lied to on TV.
And it won’t be the last.
It is up to us to recognize lies for what they are. Truth itself is and always has been sufficient.