Would you return a couch with $36,000 in its cushions?

As students head back to school, I’m desperately concerned about the America they are growing up in. I’m concerned about the culture of corruption and lies that surrounds them.

As much as I feel tuned in to where Americans are at, I didn’t realize just how prolific lying has become until I read a poll this past week in the Washington Times.

The Times reported that Americans tell an average of four lies a day, according to a new survey. And those who took part in the poll, conducted by OnePoll, believe that someone lies to them six times a day.

Wow, that seems like a lot to me, but there was more.

Over half of the respondents (53%) said they were good at spotting liars. (Takes one to know one?)

One out of three people said they often told smaller lies of convenience, like if someone asked about how clothing looks on them or how a cooked meal tasted.

A study performed by psychologist Dr. Robert Feldman at the University of Massachusetts found that 60% of people lied at least once during any 10-minute conversation, with an average of two to three lies.

Strangely, or maybe not, the OnePoll study concluded, the majority of people (54%) – who, remember, lie four times a day – also said that honesty is very important to them.

We perceive that some people lie more than others. It reminds me of comedian Fannie Flagg’s question, “Are you a politician or does lying just run in your family?”

The truth is: None of us is immune from lying. Let’s be honest: We all have lied. But that doesn’t mean we can’t fight to do better. Even titanic and towering figures like George Washington lied.

First, if you didn’t know, the truth about Washington’s cherry tree story is that it didn’t happen, at least according to historians at his Mt. Vernon estate. It was his first biographer who created (lied about) the account that a 6-year-old George said to his father after falling his favorite fruit tree, “I cannot tell a lie … I did cut it with my hatchet.”

That lie would prove what Washington actually later said, “Perfection falls not to the lot of humanity.”

In war, Washington was the master of deception. In order to win America’s liberty, he perfected lying and told some really big ones. But on a personal level, Washington was a truth-teller.

On Aug. 10, 1794, Washington wrote to Charles Thruston about factionalism in Kentucky, “Truth will ultimately prevail where pains is taken to bring it to light.”

That’s probably why Benjamin Franklin said, “A lie stands on one leg, truth on two.

That brings me to the price of being a liar. The costs might surprise you, even for the little white ones.

Dr. Bill Sullivan, an award-winning professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine who has published dozens of papers in scientific journals, concluded:

In addition to short-term [increased] stress and discomfort, living a dishonest life would seem to take a toll on health. According to a 2015 review article, constant lying is associated with an array of negative health outcomes including high blood pressure, increased heart rate, vasoconstriction, and elevated stress hormones in the blood.

Other studies suggest that long-term effects could be minimal since it appears that we get more comfortable with lying the more we do it. In other words, we develop an unsettling tolerance to being devious.

Brain imaging experiments conducted by Tali Sharot at University College London show that the brain adapts to dishonest behavior. Participants showed reduced activity in their limbic system as they told more lies, supporting the idea that each lie makes lying easier. In addition, the findings support the adage that small acts of dishonesty can escalate into larger ones.

That’s exactly why Thomas Jefferson wrote to his 15-year-old nephew, Peter Carr, in 1784: “He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions.”

I think for most of us, at least we’d say, we don’t lie. But would we be willing to if the price were right? And if no one knew?

Case in point. Did you hear this summer about the used couch someone received free off Craigslist and then later found $36,000 in its cushions? This is a fascinating story.

A Southern California woman, Vicky Umodu, needed furniture for her new home, so she responded to a Craigslist ad for a matching set of two sofas and a chair, all available for free.

Upon arrival for pick up, Vicki was informed that the owner of the furniture had recently passed, and the family was trying to quickly liquidate everything on the property.

“I just moved in, and I don’t have anything in my house. I was so excited, so we picked it up and brought it in,” Vicki told ABC 7.

Back at home, “While examining her new furniture, Umodu discovered an unknown item inside one of the cushions. At first she thought it was a heating pad, but under closer examination, she learned it was envelopes filled with thousands of dollars,” USA Today reported.

Vicki kept pulling more and more money out of the couch cushions. “I was just telling my son, ‘Come, come, come!’ I was screaming, ‘This is money! I need to call the guy.'” Altogether, there were envelopes with over $36,000 in cash!

The most amazing point is that Vicki promptly called the person from whom she received the furniture and shared with him her discovery. Grateful for her honesty, the family gave Vicki $2,200 as a reward, which she used to purchase a new refrigerator she desperately needed.

Vicki said she did not once consider keeping the money. She shared, “I was not expecting a dime from him.”

As to why she called and reported the discovery to the family who owned it, Vicki explained, “God has been kind to me and my children. They are alive and well, and I have three beautiful grandchildren. What [more] can I ever ask from God?”

Vicky, you truly set the bar and model for all of us. Tell the truth. Do the right thing, regardless of the outcome. It will not only pay off in the end, in many ways, but studies even show you’ll sleep better because of it.

From health advantages to the bolstering of our integrity, our relationships and even our country (as Vicki Umodo’s news story did as it was broadcast across the nation), there’s solid and sufficient reasons why our good God included among His Top Ten rules for life (Commandments) in the Bible, “Do not bear false witness.”

Moreover, the book of Proverbs says, “Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are His delight.”

Let’s continue to fight to be God’s delight and, in so doing, become others’ delight as well.

(For those with kids or grandkids, I recommend reading the article, “Helping your child understand the difference between lying and ‘just kidding'” at parents-together.org.)

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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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