The Half Truth Trap

I used to play "two truths and a lie" a lot. It was one of the most popular youth group icebreakers when I was a teenager. The goal was to tell the group two truths and one lie, but in such a way others couldn't guess which was the truth and which was the lie. It didn't take long to discover the fastest way to trick others was to slip a hint of truth into the lie (I know, this church youth group game taught me how to deceive people more effectively. Ironic.). Yet I think most of us know this principle about deception from other realms aside from the game: the most believable lies have a thread of truth in them. That's what makes them so believable. We learn this from experience, from weaving lies or from falling prey to them a few too many times. Slide some truth in with deception, and the lie just became much more convincing. And another game of "two truths" is won.

However, there's a much weightier issue with half truths than winning an icebreaker game.

A while back I came up against a mental block I just couldn't seem to get past. Logically, I knew this belief I held about myself was false, but for some reason I couldn't move past it. My heart wouldn't accept truth. In moments of quiet, accusations would start piling up in my head about why I wouldn't ever be able to embrace truth and move past this false belief. And unlike other instances where I could easily shoot down lies with logical facts, I had no defenses against these accusations.

When I was a child, I remember going to Target with my family. My mom would point to the big, red concrete balls outside the store and joke with us, "If you can pick up one of those balls, I'll give you $100!" (Or maybe it was $20, which is basically $100 when you're 9.) My siblings and I would always try, straining with every ounce of our tiny bodies to lift that concrete ball. I never could pick it up, no matter how hard I tried. And boy did I try!

That struggle to pick up a concrete ball is exactly what it felt like when I was trying to let go of my false belief and embrace truth. It felt like I was putting everything I had - all my mental energy and strength and effort - into the task, but it just wouldn't budge. No matter how hard I tried, it didn't lift or move or roll or shift. Not even a millimeter.

To get past this false belief - this felt like an impossible task.

I was worn out. Discouraged and frustrated, I alternated between feverishly scheming some new plan to convince my heart to believe the truth and feeling utterly defeated, sitting down with my back against the concrete ball and hanging my head low.

 Shout out to my sister Christina & her friend Liz for the picture!

Shout out to my sister Christina & her friend Liz for the picture!

Eventually, someone had to help me break the belief down into two parts. Someone had to help me recognize the thread of truth mixed into the false belief I couldn't seem to let go of. The result was resounding freedom.

The little thread of truth - the half truth in a bag of lies - is the big, red concrete ball we cannot move. It's what makes the accusations in our heads impossible to deny. Yet when we dissect our false beliefs and identify the thread of truth in them, we gain freedom. We are able to treat the thread of truth as truth (as the big concrete sphere we can't possibly move) and the rest of the bag of lies as lies (which are much easier to stop believing when we can separate them from the half truths tripping our brains up). 

Half truths come in many forms, such as:

I am not lovable because I am...

  • imperfect
  • not an outgoing person
  • not a quiet person

Or, I am inadequate because I...

  • am not good at public speaking
  • have to ask for help frequently
  • learn/read/talk/etc at a slower pace than the person next to me

Or, my circumstances are difficult because...

  • everyone in my life hates me
  • I have no natural gifts/talents
  • God doesn't love me

The list goes on and on. But when we can separate truth from deception in these false beliefs, the lies lose their persuasive power. The truth may be that we are not outgoing people or are quiet, and it's certainly true we are imperfect. We may not be good at public speaking, and our circumstances may indeed be overwhelming. We cannot change those things, and that's okay. These truths do not mean the rest of the sentence is true; we are not unlovable or inadequate or defined by our circumstances.

When we recognize the slivers of truth as the big, red concrete balls we cannot move, we are free to stop trying to do the impossible and change the facts. We are free to step around the immovable, keeping the truth and letting go of the lies. We are free to move past the concrete balls of truth into the rest of life which, just like a great big retail store, has so many wonderful things to offer us.


Are there mental blocks you've faced that seemed impossible to move past?
How did you end up moving past them?
Are there half truths are you believing? About yourself, your circumstances?

Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear from you in the comments or an email!

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