Scripture: 2 Chronicles 25:2; Psalm 51:17; Jeremiah 29:13; John 7:16, 17; 14:6; 17:3; Hebrews 5:14.
It’s an old saying that power corrupts. And now there’s a new study aiming to prove it.1 A Columbia Business School study titled, “People with Power are Better Liars” discovered that there might be a lot of truth behind the cliché.
“People in power are able to lie better,” says Dana Carney, a management professor at the business school and one of the co-authors of the study. “It just doesn’t hurt them as much to do it.” She says that the average liar experiences negative emotions, psychological stress and fear of getting caught in a lie. As a result, liars will often send out obvious signals that they’re lying, such as fidgeting in their chair or changing the tempo of their speech. They know they’re lying and feel guilty, and can’t control their emotions surrounding the lie.
But according to the study, the impact of lying is very different for those in a power position. “Power, it seems, enhances the same emotional, cognitive and psychological systems that lie-telling depletes. People with power enjoy positive emotions, increases in cognitive functions, and psychological resilience such as lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Thus, holding power over other might make it easier for people to tell lies.”
For their study, Carney and other researchers told study volunteers whether they were either leaders or subordinates. While the leaders were given a large office, the subordinates had a small space with no windows. All involved were asked to find $100 that was hidden nearby. A computer instructed half of the volunteers to steal the money. The other half were instructed to put the money back. The experimenter was not allowed to know which participants were assigned to steal and which were not.
All participants had to convince the experimenter that they did not take the money. If they could convince the experimenter—regardless of whether they were lying—they could keep the $100. When the participants were interviewed and asked, “Did you steal the $100?” and “Why should I believe you?” half lied and half told the truth. “Low-power individuals showed the expected emotional, cognitive, physiological, and behavioral signs of deceptions; in contrast, powerful people demonstrated no evidence of lying across emotion, cognitions, physiology, or behavior,” the study states. “In other words, power acted as a buffer allowing the powerful to lie significantly more easily…and more effectively. Only low-power individuals felt badly after lying.”
This week’s lesson makes us greatly appreciate that Jesus--the most powerful being in the universe—speaks only truth. The Bible says that He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” When we study His commands and counsel in the Bible, we don’t need to have doubts or worries. As John 16:13 assures us, the Holy Spirit will lead us: “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” So not only does Jesus provide the truth about Himself in His word, the Bible, He goes a step father and sends the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what we need to know and understand.
Our part of seeking truth is found in this week’s memory text in Jeremiah 29:13, “And you will seek me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” What does this mean? It means that we can’t “kind of” search for Jesus and His truths. We can’t search only when we feel we have the time to, or when it’s convenient. But we must search through study and prayer with ALL our hearts. Complete commitment. Total submission. Nothing between ourselves and our Savior. It’s then that the truth will set us free.