Seeking Truth vs. Not Lying

May 18, 2022

Dear Souls and Hearts Members,

We shouldn’t just focus on not telling lies.  If we’re wondering whether something we are about to say is a lie or not and we’re basing our decision on splitting moral hairs around the technical definitions of the words, we have a problem.

We need to focus on truth, not on lies. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2465 reads as follows

The Old Testament attests that God is the source of all truth. His Word is truth. His Law is truth. His “faithfulness endures to all generations.” Since God is “true,” the members of his people are called to live in the truth.

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (cf John 14:6).  He is the Truth.  Jesus doesn’t describe Himself as “the absence of lies.”  He describes himself as being something, not “not being something.”  Of course, there is no deceit in our Lord.  But there is much more to the truth than just the absence of falsehood.  You can think of falsehood as the absence of truth.  Who of us would say the best description of truth is a double negative, “the absence of the absence of truth?”

I am talking about living out a commitment to Truth, not just avoiding the sin of lying.

Truth is not just about obligations to our neighbor…

St. Thomas Aquinas describes how the virtue of truthfulness is primarily grounded in our obligation to truth itself, not just from our obligations to others.  The Angelic Doctor understands lying to be evil, not primarily because we have obligations not to mislead other with falsehoods (and we do have those obligations), but primarily because when we lie, we place ourselves in opposition to the truth. 

We are harmed by telling lies, even when no one is deceived by our falsehoods.  We are harmed by telling lies, even if they seem to benefit our neighbor (like claiming we love Aunt Bee’s eggplant-and-rutabaga casserole as we choke it down with suffering).  Why?  Because lying is fundamentally an offense against God and only secondarily an offense against our neighbor. 

We need to live the truth, in truth and for truth. 

We need to be oriented to the truth.  Living by the truth and for the truth is so much more than avoiding lies.  Being oriented to the truth gives us a clear direction – it says “Go here” instead of the negations of avoiding lies, which at best can say: “Don’t go there.  Or here either.”  Do you see how non-specific avoiding lies is as opposed to seeking the truth?

Pursuing the truth – practical advice

Whenever we ask ourselves if something we’re contemplating doing is a sin, we should also ask if we’re on shaky moral ground.  It’s often the wrong question.  How about asking “What is best in this situation?” or “What is most loving to God and my neighbor?” 

That way, if we fall short what is best, despite our efforts, we will still land in the range of what is morally acceptable.  But if we set our sights and shoot for what’s merely morally acceptable, we’re much more likely to land in what is actually sinful.

Living the truth can be hard

Living the truth can be hard in a world that seems so far from it.  People discuss and bemoan the prevalence of the lying of our politicians and government officials.   There can be so many motivations to move away from the truth.

But this is not new; falsehoods and lies have been prevalent for thousands of years.  King David in Psalm 116:10-11 writes:

I believed, even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted”;  I said in my alarm, “All men are liars.”

One of the distinguishing characteristics of many early Christians is that they did not lie.  They did not lie even when it cost them their lives in martyrdom.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church includes paragraph 2473 on martyrdom under the section on “Bearing Witness to the Truth.”

Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death. The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine. He endures death through an act of fortitude. “Let me become the food of the beasts, through whom it will be given me to reach God.”

The martyrs primarily sought to reach God to be with Him – not merely to avoid the sin of lying.

What would we be willing to offer for the whole Truth?

What we are up to at Souls and Hearts these days…

Check out Dr. Gerry’s recent 15-minute Mastermind Interview with Dominic De Souza of smartcatholics.com – all about the Litanies of the Heart, and also about Dr. Gerry’s history and the history and mission of Souls and Hearts.

If you really like the experiential exercises in the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast, learn more about the  Resilient Catholics Community

Warm regards in Christ and His Mother,

Dr. Peter

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