|Posted on January 11, 2021 at 10:15 AM|
This week I am looking at the eighth of the Ten Commandments, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This is yet another commandment which deals with respect for others.
The Bible says in many places that God is the source of all truth. And in Jesus Christ, the whole of God’s truth has been made manifest. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) If we wish to be Christians and walk with Jesus, we must live the truth. We must not be ashamed of testifying to the truth of Jesus, but we are also bound to adhere to the truth about all things, including others.
Offenses against the eighth commandment include perjury, false witness, slander and outright lying. Especially damaging are lies which harm another person’s reputation.
Many will argue there can be varying degrees of this sin. True! The Catechism states that the gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by the victim. (CCC 2484). Therefore, a lie can be a venial or a mortal sin. “Little white lies,” for example, are usually minor truth-stretches said to cover something up or ease the sting of a situation and would probably be classified as a venial sin. However, repeated little white lies can lead to big lies. And I know because it has happened to me. For me, it is best to avoid ALL lies, and I’m working on this.
Unfortunately, many people do not know the real truth, even though they think they do. We cannot know what motives lie behind another’s words or actions – we can only see what’s on the surface, and even that may be obscured. We so easily jump to conclusions about events and people, especially when those people disagree with our own position.
It is so easy to say things which may not be true, especially in journalism and on social media. We have a right to hold opinions about people or political parties, or have viewpoints about topics, yet too often we blindly repeat things we are told that mesh with or promote our views without thinking. Or we go way beyond that and deliberately slander another person. Even though the things we say may be true, it’s easy to word them in such a fashion as to damage a person’s reputation. But we have an obligation to be fair and respectful towards everyone.
Yes, God does tell us to correct another person when they are wrong. But He also says to do it in a kind way. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken by any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1)
Remember the old adage “if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all?” That’s a good piece of advice, and one I try to follow. When I do feel compelled to pass on some information, it is important that I do some fact-checking before passing it on. Often words and phrases are taken out of context or massaged to make a different meaning than the original, and too many times I’ve repeated something that sounded true but later turned out to be false. This is one reason why I now seldom comment on or forward posts which accuse others of something. If I cannot verify something is completely true, I shouldn’t say it myself. And even if it is true, if the way the message is stated is defamatory, I should not pass it on.
In reviewing the eighth commandment, some questions you may want to ask yourself are: Have I avoided lies, gossip and slander? Do I carefully consider what I say to others about the truth before I say it, and if I do say something, am I careful about how I say it? Have I avoided judging others, especially without knowing all the facts? Have I forgiven those who have offended me?
The Devil is often called the “Father of Lies,” and for good reason. He will try to get you to believe things that are not true, which can lead you to sin. But he also wants you to believe anything that will keep you from turning to God. This week, I encourage you to look at any lies that may have overtaken you. Take them to God and ask forgiveness. And ask for grace to help you avoid those lies. Become an advocate for truth!
Have a blessed Monday!
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