Christian Living · Culture & Society

Succumbing to the Vivid Personality Syndrome

According to Lisa de Moraes, writing for DEADLINE, on the evening of February 9, 2015, Bill O’Reilly speculated on the Jimmy Kimmel show that Brian Williams succumbed to the Vivid Personality Syndrome, while building his brand as the face of NBC News. If you are not familiar with the term Vivid Personality Syndrome, you may recognize the concept by the old fashion term for it—lying.

It is ironic that Mr. O’Reilly berates the president night after night on the O’Reilly Factor for failing to call Islamic Terrorism for what it is, and then uses psychological babble to describe the behavior of Brian Williams in order to defend his behavior. One of my personal mantras is that, “No One Has Ever Accused Christians of Being Consistent.” I need to broaden that to say, “No One Has Ever Accused Political Pundits of Being Consistent.”

Mr. O’Reilly is appalled that so many individuals want to destroy Brian Williams and remove him from being the anchor of NBC news. Responding to the firestorm of criticism, and hoping it will subside quickly, Mr. Williams has removed himself temporally from anchoring the evening news. However, at this point, he plans to return. Many people are wondering if he can, or should return, to anchor a major broadcasting news agency given the nature of his transgression.

In order to mitigate the lies Brian Williams has told, some defenders are quick to point out that all reporters do what he has done. In fact, it might be argued, most people have embellished some narrative in their life to make the incident more interesting and themselves more heroic.

That may be true, but it does not diminish the fact that the public has a right to honest reporting. When a reporter lies about a story, time after time, with new details being added, when a reporter lies, not just about one story, but multiple stories, then credibility is gone. The market place bears witness to the fact that people do not want to listen to someone they believe is lying to them. On a personal level, individuals do not respect, or want to be around a known liar, especially when the lies are harmful.

Turning to the Bible, we find lying to be a problem from the beginning of human history. The first lie was introduced into the human race by a spiritual creature named Lucifer, a fallen angel who became that Old Serpent, the Devil. Appearing to Eve in the Garden of Eden, Satan told Eve that what God had told her was not true. The liar called God a liar, and by so doing deceived Eve. Deception became an expression of a lie.

Later, when the Lord God confronted Eve and her husband Adam, who also engaged in the act of disobedience as they had eaten the forbidden fruit, they both dissimilated and tried to shift the blame from themselves to another. Dissimilation became another form of lying.

Since the days of Adam and Eve, humanity has become very adept at deceit, dissimilation, and outright lying. It is a polished art form for advertisers, used car salesmen, and politicians, to use a broad brush rather freely. These areas of society provide amble fodder for comedians and novelists. To these groups can be added news commentators, if Al Sharpton, Dan Rather, and Brian Williams represent the growing trend.

The sad story of the exposure of the lies of Brian Williams does provide society some sobering truths.

Lying is harmful. Society may try to excuse it, or even explain it away, but society cannot deny the reality of the harm that lying causes.

Lying causes pain. The families of the Americans killed in Benghazi live in emotional pain with the feigned outrage of a former Secretary of State screaming out, “What difference does it make?” regarding the lies surrounding that episode.

Lying causes shame. When Abraham was caught lying to Abimelech, his life brought shame to himself, and almost caused the death of Abimelech (Gen. 20:1-3).

Lying causes distain. “A righteous man hateth lying: but a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame” (Prov. 13:5).

The Biblical virtue of telling the truth is a foundational principle for a stable society. To tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is a virtue that must not be glossed over by succumbing to the Vivid Personality Syndrome.

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