With the 24-hour news cycle, politics and politicians are sounding off ad nausea. And when they are sounding off, I find myself asking this question … “What is the truth?” It seems like the news media has teams of people who do nothing but inform us when a candidate is telling the complete truth and when they are not. Candidates and their teams use “spin” when making statements to the press, in speeches, and when asked direct questions, leaving all of us screaming … “What is the real truth!?”
One person defined spin as, “To provide an interpretation of (a statement or event, for example), especially in a way meant to sway public opinion.” My definition would be more like, “Half truths or all out lies that keep us from finding out what really happened or what you’re really thinking or believe.”
Some techniques of spin are (as seen in Wikipedia):
- Selectively presenting facts and quotes that support one’s position. That is, giving half of the story so that the real story is never exposed. Some people call this “cherry picking.”
- Non-denial denial – a statement that seems direct, clearcut and unambiguous at first hearing, but when carefully parsed is revealed not to be a denial at all, and is thus not untruthful. It is a case in which words that are literally true are used to convey a false impression. As in the infamous statement made by Bill Clinton when he was physically involved with Monica Lewinsky. He announced, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” It later transpired that the truth of the statement hinged on Clinton’s use of a narrow legal definition of “sexual relations” which had been agreed upon for the purposes of the case—that sex is defined in many legal codes as a person making physical contact with another person’s sex organs. While they had been physical in many other ways, he hadn’t made contact with her most intimate parts.
- Phrasing in a way that assumes unproven truths
- Euphemisms to disguise or promote one’s agenda
Spin has become so much a part of our culture that Bill O’Reilly, host of The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News has, as part of his show, “The No Spin Zone,” a segment of the show when Mr. O’Reilly allows no spin and will drive hard to get to the truth if anyone tries to spin the facts.
Spin is a dangerous thing as it misleads and keeps you from knowing the real truth. But it happens in small groups all the time (especially in men’s accountability groups) and is very, very dangerous because, when someone is caught “spinning” the trust factor in group is greatly diminished.
Small Groups must be no spin zones. Leaders, here are a few tips that may make your group a “No Spin Zone.”
- Create an environment of grace. Remind the group consistently that God always forgives and then tell how and when He has forgiven you.
- Model complete honesty yourself.
- When you catch yourself “spinning” immediately say, “Okay, okay, let me tell you the whole story.” Then do it. You’ll be respected for it.
- Ask group members to tell the last 10 percent. Bill Hybels once did a talk in which he stated that many people give 90 percent of the story but don’t tell the last 10 percent, the parts that make them look bad or reveal who they really are.
- After a group member divulges something that seems contrived or misleading, say, “Is that what really happened?” with a voice inflection that would lead the group member to think you were awestruck by the story. You’ll give them a chance to clean up the spin they’ve just dumped if they care to do so.
- Praise group members when they are so transparent it causes the cringe factor to fill the room. In most environments the cringe factor is sensed at the moment someone tells all. As you praise those who tell all others will note that this is honorable and appropriate.
Small group leader … If you can make your small group a No Spin Zone, you’ll create an environment where people can be set free.
“…confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16