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The Imagination Between The Lies

Mrs. Henry was in the kitchen humming a song and kneading a lump of dough when she heard her children arguing. She wiped her floury hands on her apron and went to the edge of the room to spy on her children before scolding them.

Both of her sons faced each other, their fists clenched and ready to fight.

Jimmy's face flushed red with indignation as he yelled at his brother. "Mother said it's evil to lie!"

Billy, the elder of the two whispered, "Sh. Mother doesn't have to know."

Jimmy shook his head. "But God will know."

Mrs. Henry's heart swelled with pride. Both of her boys were good boys, but Jimmy was already showing a sign of loving God that touched her just where it felt wonderful. Billy, on the other hand . . . he was a difficult child.

The mother sighed making her presence known.

Both boys jumped, Billy so much that he wasn't even close to his younger brother anymore.

"What are you trying to make Jimmy do now?" Mrs. Henry asked.

Billy didn't answer, so Jimmy did. "He wants me to lie and not say anything about him cheating on his test. But I saw him asking Molly for help and she did all of his math problems."

"Billy," Mrs. Henry said not hiding her disappointment. "Is this true?"

Billy said, "No, Mother."

"Billy," Mrs. Henry's voice tightened. "What have we said about lying?"

"But Mother," Billy argued. "You lied to Mrs. Grant the other day when you told her you couldn't make it to her party because Papa wanted you to do something that day. Later I heard you say that you don't like Mrs. Grant and would use anything as an excuse to not be around her."

Mrs. Henry stammered for a moment. She touched her hot cheeks patting them with flour. But then she said, "That was only a white lie, Billy."

"A white lie?" Billy asked.

"Yes!" Mrs. Henry said, smiling to forget her shame. "It wasn't an evil lie, but a harmless one." And so Mrs. Henry proceeded to explain the differences between the two sorts of lies to her sons.

But little Jimmy couldn't understand how a fib could sometimes be a fib and other times not be one?

Which is worse, a black lie or a white lie? And is the imagination not just another sort of white lie?

Most would agree that a black lie is the greater of two evils, and the white lie so small that it hardly counts as evil. It might be evil, but it's so small and harmless . . .

Black lies are like vacuums that suck away all the light from one's life, leaving nothing but gaping emptiness. Such lies usually catch up to the offender quickly, sometimes before the lie has had a chance to complete its course.

From all appearances, a white lie is not near as harmful. Just a little snowflake that will melt as soon as it lands, and then never be remembered . . . or is that so?

What happens when snowflakes began to collect?

One snowflake onto another, piling and drifting into massive heaps of snow. Those snowflakes are what create avalanches. And once an avalanche has started there's no way to stop it.

A black lie is easy to spot and feel.

A white lie will consume one unawares.

I believe that there's no difference between the two sorts of lies, except that one is easier to hide for a time. But neither please God. I do believe there is a rare time for lies, and that such rare times, it's wrong to not lie; but these sort of lies are not designed to bring deceit but to protect life.

But what is the difference between a lie and an imagination?

All writers of fiction, who love theology, must eventually face this question at some point in their life.

"God says not to lie, so how can I tell a story that is not real?"

I think the first thing to do is define the difference between a lie and our imagination, and what each purpose to do.

A lie is designed to hide the truth. The imagination seeks to understand truth better, if in a creative way.

The imagination asks, "What if?" and finds a solution. The lie fears what if? and makes up a solution to hide from its consequences.

Lies fear and destroy. Imaginations curiously create.

But an imagination can be a corrupted lie. And such imaginations that create fiction do not write to show the truth but to glorify darkness. Such imaginations do not truly want to know what if but desire to make their own path separate from God's. Such imaginations are only curious about the dark things of Satan, not of the Father's creation.

For this reason, I think it's very important we keep our imaginations pure before God and submit our stories to Him. Because our stories should never add to the lies of the Devil, but bring light to God's ways.

For this reason, I believe we writers must be cautious.

We were given a gift of words. May we use our words to spread truth where lies have been pressed deeply. May we use our words to warm souls, not burn them. May we write to shine light upon every heart darkened by the lies of the world.

What are your thoughts about telling a white lie? And how do you disentangle fiction from a lie?


  1. Very interesting discussion, Keturah!

    White lies are definitely wrong, no two ways about it. I don't think there's a problem, say, with lying to protect someone from Nazis, but that's different. :)

    I've never had an issue with whether fiction is a lie or not. Like you said, a lie by its very definition is something meant to deceive. There's a BIG difference between telling a lie and telling a story. After all, Jesus himself told parables. :)

    I love everything you say at the end of this about writers needing to be careful. It's SO true--we have a responsibility to portray truth, and need God's help with that.

    1. Thanks, Megan!

      I so agree ... I believe that's one of the times when it's WRONG not to lie ;D

      And yeah, I've never had an issue with fiction vs lie, either. Except I know a lot of people that do, so I've had to come up with a good answer for them, which was a challenge at first, because I didn't really know how to verbalize what I knew to be true and obvious.

  2. Ooo, that’s very true! I echo most of what Megan said: as writers, we need to be very careful with what we write about. Great post!

    1. Thanks, Nicole! Some great things to remember ;D

  3. When writing a story we never say this really happened. So it isn't a lie we are not hiding anything, just making up a story for other to enjoy. :)

    1. I so agree ;D Sadly not everyone sees it that way ;/

  4. Makes me also think about how children are always watching what we do and say, even when we don't really think about it!

  5. This is quite a fascinating discussion - and quite a perfect summary, as well, how you say that a lie fears "what if...?"s and covers them up to hide them, whilst the imagination embraces "what if...?"s and tries to uncover them by elaboration. Quite fascinating.
    By the bye, you offered a while back to beta read The Pain of a Memory, and, while I have other beta readers now, I felt like it would be rather rude to cut you out if you still wanted to read it now that it's ready for reading. If you don't or don't have time - do not feel obliged; I am only asking because I did not want to exclude you or ignore your gracious offer. If you do, then just either give me a place to put it, or an e-mail to send it to. I will continue to post it on my blog as well, if you would prefer to keep reading it that way instead.

    1. Oh, thanks so much! I'm glad you liked the "what if" example.

      I'd love to beta read for you! My email is keturahskorner(at)gmail(dot)com

  6. I so agree that as writers we need to be careful how we use our words! To "warm souls, not burn them," as you said. (I don't know anyone who thinks stories are akin to lies, though, so I've never thought about that part of it! Very interesting. I love the point that imagination is about finding and understand truth, rather than concealing it.)

    I also agree about all lies being wrong. Whatever consequences a lie does or doesn't cause, it violates the truth. And shouldn't that alone give us pause before telling ANY sort of lie?
    That said, I don't know that I think white lies are JUST AS BAD as other lies. If we're going to say that it's right to lie in order to save someone from Nazis, then that's setting up a moral hierarchy: betraying people to the Nazis (a.k.a. being responsible for their death and suffering) is intrinsically worse than lying. And I think lying to someone for purely selfish reasons is also intrinsically worse than, say, lying to someone so as not to hurt their feelings.

    1. I know quite a few people that believe this way, but they are more "eccentric" and non-denominational, so not a part of the normal run of Christianity. I actually thought this belief more common though, until hearing from several people like you.

      I actually believe in a time when lies aren't wrong, but I don't consider those lies as white lies. I've always translated the sixth commanded "don't bear false witness against your neighbor" to mean to not lie to harm another. So when you lie to protect someone (as the midwives in the Bible did) they weren't actually spreading deceit, but protecting life. It's a complicated theology issue, and I wrote about it in more detail in my post "Always Be Honest Even If It Hurts."

      As for lying to someone to not hurt their feelings, I think it depends. I believe a friend has a duty to help another friend grow, and sometimes it's more loving to speak hard truths than to remain silent. But normally, it's not right to offend ... but I don't think we have to lie to not offend, but say something else/ change the topic.

      Thanks for your comment and sharing your thoughts, Sarah!

  7. Hi! I didn't even think of about this. Like how writing fiction could technically be seen as a lie. :O But I totally agree with you and what you said in your post. Especially about keeping your imagination pure. There was one story that I wrote that I honestly have no idea where it came from but it definitely was not pure. It had some pretty dark stuff in it and I ended up praying about it and putting it aside because I felt it was taking me down the wrong path and wasn't glorifying to God. I've had to do a lot of praying and a lot of thinking when it comes to the ideas I choose to pursue and how far I go with certain topics and themes in my books.

    1. Wow, that takes a lot of strength to evaluate what you’re doing and hear God’s voice and walk away ... sometimes we REALLY love our stories, but it’s amazing you love God more. When I first started writing, at first most of my stories were pointless. It took a long time to figure out how to incorporate “truth” to my stories, but once I did I realized I no longer hated sharing my work as much and saw my writing with less shame ... just reminded of that from your own words ;) thanks for sharing!

  8. This is such an interesting, thought-provoking discussion! I've never really faced the problem of fearing that storytelling was like lying, because my immediate thought was always, "Didn't Jesus tell parables?" But I really like where you went with this discussion! It is important to understand the difference between our God-given creativity and straight-up (or even hidden) deception, between untruths that protect life or sustain it and falsehoods that harm, even in small ways.

    So thanks for discussion! It definitely made me think. :)


    1. Thanks, Alexa! So glad you enjoyed it and that it gave you food for thought :D


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