May 8, 2016 by Norris Burkes

In this mud-slinging election, candidates from both sides accuse their opponents of being “pathological liars.”
I can’t speak to their pathology, but I suppose more than a few candidates have justified their deception with the argument, “Well, if I have to tell a few lies to become president of the United States, maybe it’s worth it.”

Before we judge them too harshly, I think we’ve all had moments of being dishonest, even when the stakes have been far less than an election. At least that was my discovery during my first fishing experience.

I was just 7 years old when my Uncle Lowell set up my brother and me with fishing poles on his backyard dock in Brownwood, Texas. He then walked down the pier to drop some baitfish traps before returning to the house to visit with my father.

Fishing sounded fun, but after about 20 minutes in the Texas sun, we decided we’d enjoyed all the fun we could possibly stand. However, my brother and I couldn’t accept the shame brought by our pitiful first-time performance, so I stumbled upon a plan to impress.

I pulled my uncle’s bait traps from the water and removed a fish no bigger than my hand. I forced the fish onto my hook and paraded it into the home to show my family.

Now, 50 years later, I remember a conversation something like this:

“I see you got a fish,” observed my uncle.

“Yup,” I said, “a big one.”

“How’d you catch him?” my father inquired.

“With this fishing pole,” I replied.

“Did he fight much?” my chuckling father asked.

“Kind of,” I said, unsure of how deep I had dug this fishing hole.

That evening I sat silently as it seemed unwise to embellish the story further. I’d tried to bypass the work of gaining my father’s approval, and in so doing, I’d also bypassed the real prize – the prize of telling my true story.

Fishermen have a natural propensity to fake results. I guess that’s why it’s a bit surprising that Jesus picked so many disciples from this lot, particularly one named Nathanael. Jesus described him as “a man without guile,” meaning, not a false bone in his body.

But beyond that, the holy book has precious little to say about Nathanael. Perhaps that’s as it should be. Maybe there was nothing else left to explain. For when you live your life as an open book, you’ve shown yourself to be exactly what you are.

I guess the biggest tragedy of faking something is that we are exchanging who God created us to be for a synthetic image of ourselves, rather than a God-created image of us. It always will be this synthetic image that will cause big trouble in the fishing derby of life.

And what about my fishing foolery?

The following day, my uncle took us out again and I honestly made my first catch. But as I reeled in the little sunfish, I wasn’t as excited as I should have been. Because it was at that moment I realized why the grownups chuckled so much at my previous catch.

The catch I paraded into the house like a triumphant soldier was impaled with worm and hook through its side. The fish I’d honestly caught on the second day swallowed the hook and worm – a detail not likely missed by the farm-raised duo of my father and uncle.

– Write Norris at or P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, CA 95759. Twitter @chaplain, or call 843-608-9715.