Professional Truthers

My 9-year-old daughter, Zaidee, and two of her classmates decided to do a Social Studies Fair project on America after 9-11. You know what that means: mommy’s going to be doing a lot of “helping.” With that in mind, I wanted to narrow our topic to something more interesting than how it’s changed our economy, and something more uplifting than the obvious tragedy of it all. In my research I discovered a new department that has stemmed from the Transport Security Administration, performing behavior surveillance at the most populated airports. According to, there will be over 3,000 “Behavior Detection Officers” employed in 161 airports this holiday season. These officers are specially trained to detect deception from body language and “microexpressions” among airport passengers. Microexpressions are involuntary facial expressions we make, revealing emotions that we may be trying to hide. One of the more prominent men in this field, Dr. Paul Ekman, claims that the 9-11 hijackers’ faces were full of deception on the surveillance videos from Boston’s Logan Airport. While there is much controversy surrounding this inexact science (which will be the focus of our S.S. Fair project), it is pretty fascinating. Its appeal has reached into the entertainment industry. The popular show, Lie to Me, was inspired by Dr. Ekman. Other shows, like Criminal Minds and The Mentalist, refer to this science often in their profiling and consulting practices. Now there is talk of expanding behavior detective services to major sporting events and the like. All this research got me thinking about how much we conceal, how much we should conceal, and how little we really people watch. We live in the “how are you?”(don’t really tell me) age. How many masks are we wearing? On one hand, it is a mature social skill to have a natural filtering of our emotions. We don’t want to over-share with every acquaintance. After all, some of our emotions are liars themselves. What if we all just let everything out like a two-year-old? But all this social behavioral maturing can easily turn into building a false image of ourselves. We can start creating a façade of what we want people to think of us. That’s where the fakery comes in. Our cultural obsessions with confidence and happiness can really hurt the Christian witness and the Christian life. Take for example the overly happy Christian. Sure, some people just have a more jubilant temperament. But a little discernment in people watching can quickly spot the faker. One of the seven universal emotions detected in microexpression training is happiness. There is a marked difference in the genuine verses the forced smile. The forced smile usually only involves the muscles around the mouth. A natural smile involves the whole face, especially the eyes (that’s why crow’s feet are a good thing!). The forehead pushes down a little, the cheeks raise, and the nose may wrinkle a bit. A real smile is difficult to fake. There are many reasons why this kind of detection is useful. If we tend to be one of these fakers, we need to evaluate why it’s so important for us to have others believe we are so happy. If we tend to be one of those who are easily annoyed by the overly-cheesy, maybe we should compassionately do a little digging. Does this person feel a need to please us for some reason? Are we overly critical or do we come off as intimidating? Whatever it is, the Christian faith is real, and we should maybe portray that better. The study of microexpressions and behavior detection has to do with honesty. Dr. Ekman believes a small percentage of people are naturals at spotting a liar. He calls them “truth wizards.” Likewise, some Christians are gifted more by the Holy Spirit in discernment, which separates God’s truth from a lie. Even so, all Christians have a responsibility to be discerning. Paul explains “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:14-16). We need to detect the truth and speak the truth. This verse highlights for me the importance of being a member of a church that is faithful to God’s word. So much so, that my next article will focus on that issue.  And if it’s crucial for us to be unified by and growing in God’s truth, we need to make sure we are living truthfully. Do you really believe that your relationships will have eternal significance or not?  Maybe the conversations you are having, the books you are reading, etc., are mediocre and valueless, neither cultivating nor creating anything of eternal value.  It is possibly the opposite.  Your speech, or information you receive may be downright damning, influencing others in a path that will be judged and condemned.  Are you seeing the importance of discernment yet?