“Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire”

Created by Edwin Pérez Jr.

Since when was it okay for a leader to fabricate alternative facts–making flat out false assertions, but not caring about the integrity of one’s influential position? If integrity is not a virtue one cares for, if the dignity of one’s following is something one does not consider, why would one desire to have influence? Power. This is something that most people can perceive easily if they critically analyze their leaders. If you thought that being a follower meant being left off the hook and simply doing what you are told, you’re wrong. You have a duty to evaluate and hold your leaders accountable to the same standard she/he/they would have you seek.

In The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery, one of the principles worth pursuing is “don’t take anything personally.” I know what you are thinking, being lied to is personal since you are being deprived of the truth; however, please allow me to explain. The book reads that what people say or do to you is not a reflection on you, but a demonstration of who they are. Some action done to you may be intended to be personal, but you have the power to reject its influence over you. So, when lied to and deceived, should one simply ignore it? In such an unfortunate case, you call it out. “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” is what most of us have heard since childhood when we wanted to call out a fibber. This deliberate action and reprimand is the dismantling of the effects it would have on you personally. Not taking it personally when deceived is understanding that you are not unworthy of the truth. Nevertheless, call it out!

It’s childish, I know, but there is much wisdom in our youth and in the clichés we discard as valueless. The idea of “Sankofa” of the Akan people of Ghana teaches to “go back and get,” and today I echo those same words. Go back and look at what the “pants on fire” call-out teaches us and see how it wisely advises. It is necessary to call out lies publicly since lies that come from leaders not only deceive you, but others. While you may feel perfectly content with such abuse, you are made an accomplice of the harmful lies toward others if you say nothing.

When you call out a liar, you are saying that their lies are as destructive as a burning fire. Yet the liar is the one whose pants are metaphorically lit with flames. You see, lies are intended to misinform and deceive another, but ultimately, they simply destroy the credibility of the bearer of “fake news.” Calling out lies is an act of mercy as much as it is a rebuking and signal to others of misinformation. The call out is an explicit call to action on the part of the lier to repent and dunk their behinds in the streams of truth.

Does my advice sound conscionable yet? Perhaps this scripture will support my claim:

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”…”Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!”

Isaiah 5.20, 23 (NRSV) calls out two things, viz., those who distort truth, and those whom are capable of doing something about them and condone/reward such distortion and deception. You can do something about your leader’s lies, you can call it out. If they can’t or won’t hear you, that is not a reflection of your failure, but a sign of your virtue–that you are still willing to say it like it is. Besides, others will hear and see you assume your responsibility, and perhaps you are the new leader God is calling to restore order, dignity, and truth.

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