SPIN: Can We Just Admit It?

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Several years ago, I was on a teaching team at a church. We crafted a summer sermon series together entitled, “Heroes & Bums.” The idea was to highlight various Old Testament characters and portray them as either a “hero” or “bum” based on their behavior.

I was pretty excited about this series. In fact, the idea was mine—so I was REALLY EXCITED about “Heroes & Bums.”

Looking back, I’m rather embarrassed about the whole thing. It took some serious finagling to fit these Bible characters in either the “Hero” box or the “Bum” box. The heroes weren’t all that heroic and they had quite a few shady bum tendencies.  The bums weren’t all bums either—every once in a while, they had bright heroic moments.

What’s embarrassing to me is the amount of spin required make this sermon series work the way we wanted it to. We left large amounts of information out, and we emphasized the bits that reinforced our angle.

Spin. It’s everywhere.

Sometimes I wonder, “Can we just admit it?”

In case you’re not sure what I’m talking about, let’s define spin…

“Spin is a form of propaganda that relies on deceptive methods of persuasion. Think: politics, advertising, and religion. Spin is often characterized by exaggeration, euphemisms, inaccuracies, half-truths, and excessively emotional appeals.”

There’s actually a book called “How To Lie With Statistics.” The English version alone has sold over 1.5 million copies.


Think about a fan. The faster it spins, the more blurry the blades get. And it’s hard to make out what they actually look like. In fact, they sometimes create optical illusions as they spin.

That’s what spin does. It makes it difficult to see what’s really there. It creates illusions.

I thought it would be fun to put some flesh on this – so here are a few statements WITH SPIN and then WITH NO SPIN:

  • Spin: The new iPad is a truly magical device offered at an amazing price.
  • No Spin: The new iPad has a few minor changes and costs the same as before.
  • Spin: Our church is bursting at the seams—it was standing room only today!
  • No Spin: The chairs were 80% filled. Five people were standing for various reasons.
  • Spin: Sorry for those tweets from my account. I got hacked!
  • No Spin: I clicked a sketchy link and it used my account to send spam to all my followers.

We put spin on our résumés, Christmas letters, online profiles, carefully cropped Instagram pictures…

Can we just admit it?

Like, can we just admit that the duck-faced selfie “makes my face look thinner than it actually is” ladies?

And guys, can we just admit that whatever you’ve been saying about how tall you are, you’re actually 1 to 2 inches shorter in real life?

Can we just admit it?

As a Christian leader, I am often tempted to “faith it.” That’s where you fake it, but add an element of faith. In other words, I’m tempted to say what I want to be true AS IF IT IS ALREADY TRUE instead of just saying what is.

Another temptation is to employ “Christianese” to portray what I’m doing in a more spiritual light. This is when I say, “The Lord is leading me to…” instead of, “I want to do this other thing now…” (Rachel Held Evans has an excellent post on this here)

Can we just admit it?

Can we admit that our politics don’t actually fit into only the “Hero” box or the “Bum” box?

Can we admit that we’re addicted to image management? Is it OK to show some cracks in our Christmas letters and online profiles? (Yeah, I’m not gonna suggest we show cracks in our résumés. We’ll just keep spinning those)

Aesop said, “No one believes a liar even when he’s telling the truth.” He illustrated this principle through his well-known fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”

I want to modify Aesop’s story a little bit.

What if, instead of announcing scary wolves, the boy told everyone there were cute bunnies? What if he had fake happy news instead of fake bad news?

Would he be any more believable?

I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing Aesop’s principle would still apply…

No one believes a liar even when he’s telling the truth.

Maybe all the constant spin has inoculated us from being able to see what is truly great. And perhaps we’ve heard “magical device” a few too many times from the beloved Apple Co.

Can we just admit it?

“Don’t do or say what isn’t so. I hate all that stuff. Keep your lives simple and honest.” —Zechariah 8.17 MSG

This is part 1 of 3 posts this week. Come back tomorrow for “Spin & My Ego” and on Thursday for “Can Spin Be Redeemed?

QUESTION: What’s your take? How (and where) do you see spin?


I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

8 Comments to SPIN: Can We Just Admit It?

  1. Brilliant truth here.
    Not afraid of the underbelly, the dark side, the bad- but ready to expose it and enter the transforming thing that happens when truth is shared.
    Happy, flawed, imperfect, me is better than the fake Barbie me.

  2. I love this.

    I think we often find ourselves trying to create a perceived image of ourselves that deflects from our faults and imperfections.

    I think living in the truth of how God views us and admitting that our sins are real and we are working on them creates a healthy atmosphere for growth to happen.

    I’m very passionate about this topic. I can’t wait to see what else you’ll write about!

  3. I’ve always disliked “spin.” I think because quite a bit of my life has been lived in survival mode, I decided from a young age that it was not worth the energy- or the disappointment in finding out or hiding the real truth. I’ve always only wanted to be authentic and honest, and struggled in social groups where that wasn’t the norm. So funny you mention Christmas letters- growing up I’d read my own family’s letter every year and want to vomit, haha. I think the desire to want to spin the truth comes from our insecurities about the way things are, whether we think we should be doing better, or we think others will judge us for the real story if it’s disappointing to their standards. Comparison is probably at the root of a lot of spin.
    There is absolutely value in “faith it til you make it” living, but to do it right, that requires the ever delicate balance of hope and reality. I’m such a hope-seeker, I’ve often wondered if peope think I’m living in the clouds. But as I share more of my journey with authenticity and don’t spin and especially don’t outright omit the dirty details, more people tell me the encouragement they receive from my fight.
    I am so thankful for leaders like you and my own pastors; you help us all by sharing the truth with no spin, and include the “underbelly” of your own ups and downs. It makes me feel welcome and normal even with all my own not yet redeemed baggage.
    I think this topic of Spin follows up the Disappointment series really well. So often one of those things leads to the other.
    Hope I didn’t veer off topic too much :)

  4. I am about as successful at spin as a sloppy joe sandwich on a merry go round…. it’s just messy.

    In my real life at least – I work in development in my “work” life so there is no hope there.

    I love awkward because life is entirely too short to walk around faking it.

    Meaning I won’t always know what to say and sometimes what I say you won’t like, even it is unintentional.

    I think there is a balance between spin and encouragement.

    You can be positive without being full of highly processed meat with nitrates.

    Because in my mess I want to people to know that even if I don’t always live up to their expectations, I am ultimately sincere.

    Which is a risky place to be. But that is OK.

  5. Good stuff PB. It’s amazing the pressure that social media has put on us ‘average joes’ to create things (spin things) bigger/better/broader than they are in real life.

    Love the resounding reminder – can we just admit it? I think so many (myself included) would find contentment in life, leadership and ministry to admit and embrace where we are, where Jesus has placed us and make the decision to thrive there vs. trying to live with an illusion of what doesn’t even exist.

  6. Rev. George W. Wilson

    This is a great confirmation of a FB post I made this morning!

    We ‘like’ things on FB and make cute comments as long as it does NOT describe us, convict us or expose us for wrong doing, wrong thinking OR wrong being! But when the truth is shared openly and we KNOW it pierces our heart with conviction, we are silent as a church mouse. I pray that we are silent because we quickly find ourselves a place of repentance before God….? But, I must say I am grieved that many times this is not the case! I am not trying to stroke my own ego to get ‘likes’ to make me feel better, but pleading for people to BE real. We are brave enough and quick enough to speak up and comment on things we don’t like and when we see general injustice, but are totally opposite when it’s US doing the injustice!

    This is the one downfall of FB, emails and texting. We can hide ourselves behind a façade of our FB profile or screen name on the internet. It seems to justify and encourage us NOT TO BE REAL and HONEST with one another. It makes us feel ‘safer’, safer from what? We like to think sharing our opinion without confronting people face-to-face is nicer and makes us more honest, but it actually disguises our fear of dealing with conflict. We fear openly confronting sin! It’s even being played out in our churches when ministers say, “We don’t want to embarrass anyone.”, not calling people up front. It gives people more reason to justify NOT being real and honest.

    Why are we fearful to honestly confess our sin even in public? Are we ashamed to admit and confess that we have sinned? This is CLEAR evidence that we lack the humility and meekness to BE REAL! Too many are NOT REAL in the Body of Christ, in the ‘local body’, even in our families and marriages.

    NO, no one ‘likes’ to be humiliated and/or called out! But when we are real enough to express repentance and to humbly ask for forgiveness from the ones we have offended or from those that were witnesses to it, it sets the example of being REAL!

    It comes right down to our eternal relationship with God, more-so where we will spend eternity…! We are not promised one more second of life on this earth! Why do we fear “other people’s opinion”? We must REALIZE, their opinion truly doesn’t matters in the face of eternity! The closer to ‘the Coming of the Lord’, I would like to think that those who claim the name of Christ would cast aside those fears and WELCOME the truth of God that brings conviction, that challenges them to change and become more like Christ. This is where we SHOULD embrace the work of the Holy Spirit which draws us to the Father and makes us who we were created to be! May we begin to cherish the truth and not despise the messenger that brings it! It’s far too easy to blame the messenger rather than admit God is speaking to us through them. Let’s not be angry or frustrated because ‘we’ didn’t have that revelation ‘first’, OR that ‘we’ didn’t realize it on our own. Let’s again embrace the ‘beauty of humility’! Let’s live without the fear of others opinion and begin to reverently FEAR God’s opinion of us instead!

    Let’s actually be thankful and enjoy the fact that God is merciful enough to make us aware of the truth about our sin and error even when we didn’t see it and ‘missed the mark’!

    For The Harvest,

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