Sam Ballard lives a tragic life. Now in his mid-20s, he’ll never experience the rites of passage that all young men yearn to achieve. He’ll never finish college, start a career or walk down the aisle with his bride. In fact, Sam cannot walk. Paralyzed from the neck down since 2010, Sam requires round-the-clock care, suffers seizures regularly and has trouble controlling his own body temperature. So what led to such a heartbreaking state for Sam? Something entirely preventable. Sam swallowed the wrong thing.
Attending a party with friends, someone produced a slug and dared Sam to swallow it. Sam’s haunting final words, the last words he would ever say in his life, were “Should I eat it?” Sam couldn’t have known that the slug was carrying the rat lungworm disease, and that the slug now inside his stomach would release a parasite that would attack his brain, paralyze him from the neck down and lead to his debilitating state. Shortly after swallowing the slug Sam became sick and was rushed to the hospital. He seemed to rally but then fell into a coma for 420 days. Sam is now a quadriplegic and is tube fed. Sam’s seemingly innocent decision to swallow a slug on a dare changed not just his life but his family’s life forever. It matters what you ingest.
Like Sam swallowing a deadly slug, there are deadly lies out there that have the ability to destroy our lives if we believe them. Here are six deadly lies you might be swallowing today:
"It’s okay if it makes you happy."For many of us, our own happiness becomes the gauge of whether something is right or wrong. We falsely assume that God’s main goal in existence is to make us happy, that He would never allow us to be unhappy for any reason, so if something makes us happy it must be right for us. This subtle yet dangerous lie makes our own happiness, not God and God’s Word, the ultimate definition of right and wrong. Many people do the wrong thing because in their minds it makes them happy and therefore must be right. Let’s say you’ve got a family and you move into a neighborhood with many young kids. Unbeknownst to you, the gentlemen at the end of the street is a registered and violent sex offender. Do you really want him to do what makes him happy when he walks by the playground? Doing something just because it makes you happy is like swallowing a deadly slug.
"The more stuff you get the happier you’ll be."This deadly slug of a lie bombards us hundreds of times each day as we walk past, watch and hear advertisement after advertisement, hawking their products that subtly promise to somehow fill the gaping hole in our lives with their products. Why are Americans in so much credit card debt? Because we’re trying to be happy, and companies have promised us that if we by their products, we’ll be happier. Over the past fifteen years the American economy has grown by 76%, which should make us the happiest people on the planet. Yet Americans on anti-depressants increased by 65% over the same timeframe. Jesus himself wisely said centuries ago, ““Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). The myth that more stuff equals happiness is a deadly slug.
"You are the center of your own universe."This subversive lie pervades almost every aspect of our society. From birth, we are bombarded with the idea that we are the center of our own universe, which justifies almost any action as long as it is seen to benefit us in some way. This slug of a lie explains the explosion of social media, where hundreds of millions of Americans are obsessed with broadcasting every aspect of their lives to the planet. This is why “selfie” was Oxford Dictioniary’s Word of the Year in 2013. When our universe begins to orbit around us, our universe becomes small, petulant, and ultimately insignificant. Our life begins to take meaning only when we begin to orbit ourselves around someone much bigger than ourselves (God), but that’s not what the world would have us to believe. The truth is our lives take on much more purpose, meaning and fulfillment when we become smaller and God becomes bigger.
"Life is about today. Give no thought to your consequences."One of the most famous tourism ads in modern times was about visiting Las Vegas, and it was built around a lie, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” It feeds into the false assumption that you can live without consequences, that you can engage in sexual immorality without sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy or the emotional carnage that follows sexual sin. This slug is why you are now facing major health issues as an older adult, because you didn’t take care of your body when you were younger. This lie tempts you to live for the moment and live like consequences don’t exist. The only problem is, consequences do exist. For every single one of us, the greatest regrets we have in life are decisions we made when we were not thinking about the consequences. We swallowed the slug, and now we live with a lifetime of regret.
"You’re not hurting anyone. You can stop anytime you want. No one will ever know."This trio of lies feeds our addictive behaviors and allow us the justification needed to engage in destructive addictions for far too long. The truth is addictions always hurt not just you but those you love the most. You can’t stop anytime you want. That’s why you’re addicted. And the truth will always come out. Everything done in darkness will one day see the light of day. Ask any politician or pastor who had to resign in disgrace after years of hiding a double life. You’re not as slick or as secretive as you think you are. The power of lies is what fuels our destructive addictive behaviors, and only when we embrace the truth will we begin to be set free. Jesus said when we know the truth, that is when we will be set free (John 8:32).
"I can’t forgive until they pay for what they did."
We carry so much hurt around with us because we buy into the lie that we can’t forgive someone until they pay for their actions. It seems to make sense, but in the end it only hurts us. That pain and unforgiveness that we can’t let go of until “they pay” becomes the seeds of bitterness that will lodge themselves deep inside our souls and become a cancer inside of us. If we hold to our own twisted logic of forgiveness rather than embracing the truth that Scripture teaches about forgiveness, anger and bitterness will destroy everything good in our lives. You can think of a person right now whose life has been eaten away by bitterness and unforgiveness. It never hurts the offender as much as it hurts the one who can’t forgive. Unforgiveness is a slug that will destroy your soul.
Now in his late 20s, Sam Ballard will never experience the normal life he always expected, all because of a simple dare. As a friend recounted for the press, the decision to swallow the slug happened in a split second. Someone saw the slug and dared Sam to swallow it. Sam immediately took the dare because he thought he was invincible. Like Sam, you may think you’re invincible and immune from deadly lies. But all it takes is a split second for a falsehood or deception to slip past your defenses and lodge itself in your world, planting roots and wreaking havoc in every area of your life.