“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:15
How often have you thought this commandment was fairly straightforward? Don’t spread gossip about your neighbor and don’t lie. Most people would say, they don’t lie, but would most say they don’t get involved in gossip?
The 8th commandment is actually much more than what not to do (lie) but rather, what to do, tell and live the truth.
“So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” John 18:37
We are called to adhere to this commandment by speaking the Truth, and that Truth is that Jesus is our Lord, our God and our Savior. To deny this statement, is to deny the Truth, violating this commandment. Not only must we speak the Truth about Jesus, we must live it too. We must strive to live the truth as well as speak it. Our actions and are deeds should be shaped by the Truth. In all societies, we respect truthfulness and we rely on truth in our dealings. Life is hard when there is rampant distrust. As good Catholics, we must strive for living the Truth to testify to it.
If you do not bear truthfulness, in grave situations, you violate the truth to a greater degree. When you deny the Truth of the Lord, you rob someone of hearing the truth that saves.
Regarding every day matters, I hope it is obvious that truthfulness must have discretion. Not all truth must be shared. In many cases, the truth would only harm and in those instances, it is not necessary to speak the truth. If you know something embarrassing that happened, you are not obliged to share that truth or imagine you are at a dinner party, and the host asks how are the meatballs, it is not appropriate to tell him they are dry and tasteless.
Rash judgement also speaks to the truth. When someone gives you their opinion, its best to assume the best and ask for clarification if it differs. Often, many people speak from their heart about some touchy subjects and its important to try and understand their rationale, even if you disagree. How much better would any political or religious discussion be if you assumed that the person’s heart was in the right place, even if he or she is wrong?
Identifying objections to another’s faults, without purpose also violates the truth. Constructive criticism is important, but if it is delivered only to harm, then it does not align with truth. Silence and or discretion should be sought to protect others.
Truth that is scandalous should also be avoided in sharing. When you are taken into confidence about a sensitive subject, that confidant’s subject should end with you. How easy would it be to then take another into that same confidence? For example, “I’m going to tell you something I heard, but you can’t repeat it…” often a recipe for disaster.
I’m often told that in life you just need to be a nice person and if you are a nice person, you don’t need a Church or a religion. The 8th Commandment might seem obvious and that nice people know it, but I don’t know of one person in this world that has mastered the 8th Commandment (me included). I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t benefit in their life from the Church instructing oneself to the 8th Commandment.
The Church calls us to live a better more truthful life. We strive to adhere to this life as the Bible prescribes and the Church teaches. Happy learning!