Friday, May 26, 2017

lying is always wrong

St Augustine has some strong words for us today about lying in A Year with the Church Fathers. He says that just as adultery and stealing are always sins, so is lying always a sin.

Now, I'm sure many examples of "good lies" or "white lies" come suddenly to your mind. If a woman asks if a dress makes her look bad, is it right to say "No, you look terrible in that."? If Nazis came to your door and asked if you were hiding any Jews in your home, would it be wrong to tell them no even though you were?

But our dear St Augustine makes a good point. There is a purity to the truth that we do not want to violate even for good reasons. And we can take the lessons of the last several days to help answer this question: sometimes silence is the best answer.

The focus, I think, should be on the point that St Augustine makes about the PURPOSE of language. We were given language, not to deceive each other, but to share what is inside of us. Even if what is inside of us is mistaken, we should share what we know and feel and think. That's being honest and that's how we learn. It takes humility to share what we're thinking sometimes. (And there are, of course, lots of times when wisdom tells us NOT to share what we're thinking. That's where silence is handy once more.) But in general, especially with those we love, we should be more in the habit of sharing our thoughts than keeping them to ourselves.

That's why He gave us language. So we can haiku to one another. A haiku, as you probably know, is a type of poem in which we try to convey to another person what is happening inside of our hearts and minds in a given moment. To share a snapshot of our internal experience. That's what language is for, St Augustine says.

God, thanks for giving us language so we don't have to be alone in our experience.