The second Cardinal Sin listed in Proverbs 6:16-19, is listed as a lying tongue. Oh boy! Here we go. However, before we go on, we want to clarify a few things–in the interest of TRUTH. So, we came up with this blog topic, not on our own, but as a suggestion from our good friend, fellow blogger, and someone with a great sense of humor and inquiry, Natalia Corres. She thought it would present a challenge, and we do love a challenge. Hence, the blog topic. Secondly, we can take no credit for these sins and their definitions since they stemmed from the Catholic church and specifically Pope Gregory I in the 6th century. So take heart! If the pope was concerned about the morality of humans in the 6th century, we are definitely not an aberration in the 21st century. That, having been clarified and set out for you, we will now expound or hide in shame over the Cardinal Sin of having a lying tongue.
Lying is called an abomination to God. It is stated that God will not deign to look on a liar. A very telling synonym is “vainglory.” Now, one more point to offer. The very definition of sin, according to scripture and the Catholic church is that it is something done as a deliberate and purposeful violation of the will of God. Hmmmm. That seems to leave some wiggle room if one can say it wasn’t exactly “deliberate and purposeful” against God. And yet, if you believe God sees the heart, it’s kind of hard to say you made a goof when you knew what you were doing. So–on to LYING.
Judith Viorst wrote an essay on lying. We taught students that particular essay and totally enjoyed their responses to it. The essay covered white lies, protective lies, and the all inclusive triangle lies. Insofar as the white lies–can you declare innocence? Your friend comes up, wearing a new hairdo that makes your mouth drop open, and says, “How do you like my new hairdo? Isn’t it great?” Do you lie and say “Oh, yeah. You look great!” as you wonder how fast you can get away from such a freakish do without getting called out on your lie? Hey, this is just a little white lie. But if you’ll lie about this, will you lie when something more serious needs truth to be told? Hmmmm. But who wants to shatter this friend’s obvious joy and happiness by saying, “My god! What did you do to your hair!” We have lied. Let someone else tell them the truth that isn’t their friend. Is it worth it to tell the truth and bring the friend down? You take on the vainglory of deciding whether the friend merits the truth or not. It is deliberate and purposeful–and selfish because you don’t want to lose a friend.
Then there are lies where you again decide you are the best judge of what truth shall be told when you know a friend is going to face something catastrophic and you decide they should not be told. This often happens when a doctor friend or someone who has test results regarding a family member decides the truth should be hidden. We have heard, honestly heard, a family member tell the person that is terminally ill, “The doctor says it is a virus and your weakened immune system is just responding poorly. No worries. We can just wait it out and help you and you’ll be fine.” It is an out and out lie. It is deliberate and purposeful and robs the person with the illness the chance to deal with what is happening and untowardly keeps them thinking the liars can be trusted and keeps them in a state of wondering what is going on with no truth afforded to them. The liar has assumed the role of the wise one in knowing what truth can be told and what cannot. And, unfortunately, physicians will become complicit, not wanting to tell the truth either. So the game of lying goes on, to the detriment of the individual being lied to. It happens most often with shielding and protecting children and the elderly from unpleasant truths. HMMMMMM. Who is protecting whom?
The lies nearly everyone participates in, similar to the white lies, are the triangle lies. These are deadly. We remember a friend asking us to say we were having her overnight for the weekend so she could go out with her boyfriend because her parents didn’t understand her love for him and forbade her to date at 15 years of age. Now, no one is more sympathetic to being misunderstood by parents or caregivers than one teen for another. So we agreed. And unbelievably, sooner or later you and your cohort get caught and then two families, plus the boyfriend and his family, are enraged and everyone involved suffers. Worse, though, is not learning what this should have taught us and becoming adults and participating in triangle lies. Your friend confides in you that her husband is knocking her around and is being unfaithful. Your heart goes out to her. She then confides she has found Mr. Wonderful and if called, will you say that she is doing something other than having a romantic tryst and watch the kids for her so she can go to Motel 6 for the afternoon? A knot forms in your stomach, you look into her desperate eyes, you know how her husband is, and…you agree. Unfortunately, in our circumstances of being a third party to the triangle of lies, the guy who was Mr. Wonderful was simply a replica of the husband, her husband got shook and went to counseling with her, their marriage was saved, and we became the enemy that could no longer be trusted because we lied. Hard lesson learned.
But the one lie that always threw our students and caused the most consternation among them– and some wonderful essays submitted– was one simple lie–Santa Claus. Was it harmful? It was most assuredly intentional and deliberate, loaded with a purpose. It was extremely interesting to see the adamant reactions to being told there was a Santa Claus as a child and those who were told the truth. Some said they never believed parents again after finding out at school they had been played the fool and ridiculed for believing parents. Others said they loved the lie, even after facing the truth because it made Christmas magic for them. Those who were told the truth and enjoyed the myth with full knowledge said it was no problem, 100%, but they never felt the urge to enlighten their peers and just enjoyed it all. You gotta wonder, don’t you?
Now you’re going to ask if we told our kids the truth, our friends, and if we ever got into a triangle of lies again. You should! We fantasized right along with the kids until the day they asked if it was a lie–was there or was there not a Santa Claus. We were prepared and gave them the history of Saint Nicholas and the other names, and then said yes, they were dead and gone, but it honestly gave us a chance to show them love without putting to ___ from MOM, but rather Santa. It made it special for us as well as them. Even two of our kids who were angry in the asking seemed to understand our explanation. One of them, and god how we loved this question, went further, and asked if we would lie about other things, too. We could honestly say NO. Truth would always win out. And that was accepted and the end of the discussion with all satisfied. We became more creative with our friends to avoid lying by being asked if we liked an outfit, haircut, etc., by saying “You look so happy! If it makes you happy it makes me happy.” It was said sincerely and they sincerely accepted our answer. Don’t lie, but don’t destroy them. Be honest that it does indeed make you happy that they are happy. You’re not required to offer an opinion and that’s where the old adage, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, comes in real handy and life saving for a cherished relationship. The triangle lies? Oh, those are traps and once the trap has snapped on you, it is easy to say, “No, I can’t participate, but I wish you the best.” The asker will find another person who will bite, so you aren’t in danger of destroying a friendship or becoming the enemy.
The lie to keep the truth, as bad as you deem the truth to be, from a person who needs to make choices regarding their last days or not, is not one we have wrestled with. It has always been a no-brainer to us. We know what it is like to wince from the pain of the truth. But we know if someone had not been kind enough to let us decide what to do with truth, we would not be where we are today or the persons we are today. We would have been literally fleeced and broadsided by not knowing the truth. Our friends, one who died from cancer, and one who is dying now, each asked us to be honest about how we felt and what we would do in their position. The answer to both was and is, “We are not in your body or mind. We aren’t experiencing your anguish or pain. We do not feel qualified to say what we would do because we have not faced this. But… we can honestly say that we believe you know best for yourself and your body and mind. No one knows you better than you and whatever you decide to do or not do, we are 150% with you and will support you no matter what you decide! We love you and always will. We trust you to know what you can and want to do. We are here for you!” When asked if we would be scared, too, we have no problem saying, “Damn straight! We are scared for you! How much more if we faced what you are facing!” Truth. It can hurt or console. Lying destroys trust, belief, sows doubt. We see why God will not look on a liar.
To lie to further personal ambition is even more destructive. Do you want a doctor operating on you who lied and cheated to get his M.D.? Do you want a minister who tells you the wages of sin are hellfire and then is caught in a rest stop molesting a young boy or girl? Do you want a boss who promises you a fair wage and lies as you have more hours and less money? Do you want people to dictate your life choices and manipulate you with their lies? Would you look at your child and tell them daddy was just showing love to him/her when he molested them? How far will your lies carry? We have all lied. We will lie again. But to do it willfully and for selfish gains is a cardinal SIN.
The opposite and the virtue opposed to lying is integrity. Integrity says you value your fellow human by being honest with them. As we said earlier, the truth, integrity with our answers and actions, can be painful. Excruciatingly painful! But we cannot live in a bubble of lies and good wishes. We will never grow. Remember the teacher who wouldn’t give you the A because you were capable of better work? Oh, how you hate that teacher! But you work, you push, you doggedly become determined to get that A out of him or her! You will not be told you can do better! You will not be put down by another! And then one day, you get the A. No compliment, no adulation, just the A. You rise. You are triumphant because someone dared to tell you the truth and demand you honestly try to meet their standards–and YOU DID! Had that same teacher/professor given you the A on the first paper, you would never have learned, pulled on everything within you to show him/her! The pain of the truth is a great motivator. The shame of living a lie, being beguiled by a lie is the most humiliating thing a human can experience.
We would add one more thing. We hold a special place in our heart for animals–all animals. Animals cannot and do not lie. We may, as humans, try to lie to them, but they will quickly know. Animals do not lie to people, and do not lie to each other. This is a cardinal and detestable sin of humans only. What do you do when an animal comes to you? We gently touch it, talk to it calmly and with love. It responds in kind. Its owner can lie to us, saying it is untamed or vicious, but we believe the animal and it’s response to us. It won’t lie.
So you can lie or you can operate with integrity. For us, integrity is what it is all about. Come back to our blog tomorrow–we’ll explore another detestable and cardinal sin and its opposing virtue. Think about lying. It’s a long, deep subject 🙂