Counseling a Liar 2: Desires of the Heart

In part 1 of this series, we examined the metaphoric soil of a person who chooses to lie. Just like a tree needs the right mixture of elements in it’s soil to grow and flourish in, so does the heart. Our heart takes just the right mixture for growing certain attitudes and behaviors. When we evaluate the elements in the soil of a liar’s heart, we see four (4) commonalities:

(1) a heart that values the wrong thing
(2) a lack in conviction from what God’s Word says
(3) a belief that they can get away with lying
(4) a failure to cultivate the right heart attitudes and beliefs

In this second installment of our ‘Counseling a Liar’ series, we take a deeper look into what is happening in the heart of the person who is choosing to lie. Then, in our final post for this series, we will see how to respond to the person who is lying and also how to help the person who wishes to repent of their ways.

Desires of the Heart

Now that we have examined the elements in the soil of a person who goes down the path of lying, let’s consider what it is that the person wants. By our very nature, we all have desires. We simply want things. You can’t go ten minutes consciously without wanting something. We all do this, all of the time. While there could be a myriad of desires that a person who is lying will want, the most common desires are for: protection, exaltation, and ease in a situation.

A Desire for Protection

One of the most common reasons people choose to lie is because they are trying to protect themselves. There are a lot of different veins and paths that this desire can take, but two are the most common:

First, the liar does not want to be seen for who they are. They have a strong desire to do whatever it is that they are setting out to do, but they know that they should not attempt it for one reason or another. Maybe they are not equipped for the thing they are trying to do, or worse, maybe they know it could cause hurt to someone else or to themselves, but they really want it anyway. For example, a husband may tell his wife that he knows how to build a playground set when in reality he doesn’t even know how to power on the saw. The point is, he doesn’t want his wife to know that he isn’t able to do what she is asking (or what he is desiring), and so he chooses to lie to protect his own pride. (and you can get creative with the consequences of a lie like this one, most scenarios end up in the E.R.)

Second, and another more common path of lying for protection, is the response to fear. Usually the fear of man (or woman). An example of this desire for protection might be a husband who lies to his wife because he’s worried that she’ll be angry when she finds out how much he spent on football tickets. He said they would only cost $30 per ticket, but they ended up being $100 per ticket. He chose to lie in order to protect himself because he is fearful of the response that might come his way if he decides to tell the truth.

A Desire for Exaltation

Not all types of lies, however, are motivated by protection. There is another type of common desire, which in many ways is similar to the desire for protection. This desire is to be exalted; to be praised by others. This desire is very similar to the fear of man. For many, they will lie to someone because they want others to think that they are great. Persons who choose to lie for this reason might often embellish a story (the fish really was three feet long), or they might add a few details (or leave out a few details) so that when they tell the story, they seem like a hero. The point is, they are looking for others to view them as amazing, as awesome, as the one to be looked up to. They love the pleasure that comes from the praise of others, and they want more and more of it, even if it means violating God’s word.

A Desire for Ease

Lastly, although we could find more, we see that there is often a desire for ease that comes with a person’s decision to lie. This person may have failed at doing something, or simply does not want to do something, and therefore they are choosing to lie because, in their present situation, it’s easier. We see this plainly in small children who tell us they have cleaned up their room, when in fact they have not. But we also see it in adults when they tell you that they have worked on a project and done all that was required of them, but simply have not. Laziness often walks hand-in-hand with this characteristic. The thing that controls this person, the thing they want more than anything else, is whatever comes naturally to them — whatever is pleasurable (which often times is the thing that is the easiest). Like the other desires, we see this desire bleed over into other areas of life too, and not just in the realm of lying.

Conclusion

There can be many reasons that lead someone to lie. They may want ease, safety, praise, or something else; but the element that ties this all together is desire. There is always a deeper desire behind everything that we do. Good or bad there is an intention, a goal, an end-game to those things that we pursue and do. It is essential to know what the desire in those things is before you can help someone who wants to change. If you don’t get down to the heart of the matter, where the core desire lives, then you will never be able to change or help someone to change.

If you can think of other major desires that control a person’s, heart, post them below in the comments section!

In part 3 of ‘Counseling a Liar’, we will look at how you should respond to lies and the liar. When you believe that someone is struggling with lying, but they have not confessed to being untruthful, then how do you respond? We will look at this as well as gospel-centered solutions for helping the person who wants to change in this area.

Joshua M. GreinerJoshua M. Greiner
Josh has been on staff with Faith since 2010. He graduated from Purdue University with a BA in Political Science and from Faith Bible Seminary with a MDiv (2013), The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a ThM In Biblical Counseling (2017) and is pursuing a PhD in Counseling from SBTS as well. He serves as the Pastor of Faith West Ministries. He is married to his wife Shana and they have four children together.