Enemies of Honesty: Spin
Spin is the final, and maybe the most subtle, enemy of honesty. When truth is slyly employed for dishonesty, how do we recognize and avoid such a sneaky approach?
The word spin originated from the old idiom “to spin a yarn,” which means to tell a tall tale or exaggerated story. In the 1980s, it was infused with a more political meaning, involving people who did this kind of “storytelling” about their employers. It was telling information from a certain perspective, rather than objectively.
Therefore, the Merriam-Webster dictionary now has this definition for “spin doctor”—“a person ([such] as a political aide) responsible for ensuring that others interpret an event from a particular point of view.” So spin is telling the truth—from a certain point of view.
Unfortunately, that certain point of view is in fact an enemy of honesty. There’s nothing wrong with staying positive and looking on the bright side, but not at the expense of reality. Honesty is objective and balanced, while spin is more about deceptively making something look more favorable or less favorable than it actually is. Of course, the first “spin doctor” was Satan.
The first spin doctor starts it all
The first words out of Satan’s mouth to Eve were: “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). Technically, this was the truth, but it was asked in a way that made it seem like it was unfair or that Eve was missing out on something.
Satan wanted it to seem like all the trees she could eat from didn’t matter, including the tree of life. He brought attention to the one tree they couldn’t eat—and spun God into seeming like a restrictive God holding them back from happiness. This, of course, was a lie.
Spin throughout history
Spin has become the norm of the world, as opposed to objective truth from God’s perspective. Historical examples themselves are suspect, due to the spin of historians. Nations and historians often write history with a certain bias. Spin has oozed into every fiber of the human psyche and behavior:
- News organizations pick and choose news stories, and how they present the truth, in order to favor one political ideology over another.
- Employers and companies manipulate statistics and chart sizes to make it seem like everything is going just fine, or to justify when things are not going fine—spinning the “truth.”
- Defendants hire expensive lawyers to tell their truth in such a way that they seem to be the victims instead of the guilty.
- People tell stories about themselves in such a way as to avoid the negative and only highlight the positive.
Truth isn’t really truth when spin is involved, so we must avoid such little fictions as embellishing, exaggerating, omitting important information or pretending ignorance.Recognizing spin
Spin is so subtle because it dances with our own preconceptions and biases; therefore, it is difficult to identify when we are being sold a bill of goods. Here are two ways to recognize spin:
1. Evaluate different sources of information. Getting all our information or news from one source is dangerous. Spin makes what we hear seem objective and balanced, until we hear a completely opposite perspective from somewhere else. “Preaching to the choir” is spin’s specialty, so be sure that you have access to different points of view, a “multitude of counselors” (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; 24:6).
2. Identify conflicts of interest. Liberal sources usually have a vested interest in spinning stories left. Conservative sources usually have a vested interest in spinning stories right. Employers usually have some vested interest in making their company look good. People who gossip usually have a vested interest in making someone look bad.
How to avoid spin
1. Remember to be honest with the truth. It might seem like a paradox, but it is possible to use the truth to deceive. We must strive to make sure our expressions of truth have no ulterior motives or hidden agendas. Remember that the truth should be the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Truth isn’t really truth when spin is involved, so we must avoid such little fictions as embellishing, exaggerating, omitting important information or pretending ignorance.
2. Understand the impact of spin and why God hates it. Spin takes the beauty of truth and perverts it into an enemy of honesty. God is defined by truth (Deuteronomy 32:4), so naturally He disapproves when it is artfully manipulated into deception. Satan is the father of lies; God is the Father of truth. You can recognize the confusion and manipulation perpetuated by spin by watching the same news story on several different networks or by watching a celebrity caught in a scandal “confessing” in a way that makes him or her seem like a saint. We can’t let spin become “normal” or “acceptable” in our lives.
3. Examine when we spin and how God disagrees with our reasoning. What comes out of our mouths should be absent spin: an actual “no spin zone.” We can ask ourselves questions such as: “Did I just tell the whole story or just the parts that made me look good? Did I just use the truth in a deceitful way, or did I make sure that my words had no hidden agenda or ulterior motive?” We need to honestly examine the whys and hows of what we say.
Satan, the enemy of God and mankind, originated the three enemies of honesty. He masterfully uses blatant lies, half-truths and spin to deceive human beings. And, sadly, we continue to use all three today.
But the fight is only over when we stop trying. We can overcome these enemies of honesty in ourselves and avoid being duped and influenced by them. Let’s live by the motto: “I will try every day to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
If we ask the God of truth to help us put this into practice, He will.
For more insight into the enemies of honesty, read “Ninth Commandment: You Shall Not Bear False Witness” and “Lying vs. Telling the Truth.”