by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”
Lent is a time to examine our values and how we express these with action. The Ten Commandments have been a tool for examining values for thousands of years. They make a great tool for seeing our own values in new ways. In this first week of Lent I was drawn to consider the Ninth Commandment and what light it can shed on human behavior today.
Bearing false witness means lying about someone. Usually, the lie defames and misrepresents the target, making them vulnerable for further attacks. Bullying often includes bearing false witness. The person who is defamed is less able to defend themselves because many people will draw back from contact, increasing the vulnerability of the individual to more abuse. Others watching may also join in attacking the targeted person. We see this taking place with children today but adults react the same way.
The individual defamed is often bewildered. They may never know what was said about them. And because they do not know they cannot refute the lies and defend themselves. More attacks can then come from unexpected directions instigated either by the original liar or by those drawn in to participate.
So, why do people of all ages accept malicious lies as the truth? There are lots of motives. Participants can experience a sense of false righteousness. It is easy and satisfying to demean someone made vulnerable. All too few pause to question the stories told them.
What do you do when you hear a shocking or unflattering story about someone you know?
Have you ever gone to them and explained what you heard and listened to their response?Most people will not do this, but they should. Have you repeated unsubstantiated stories about others? As we have seen with young teenagers lies can kill and traumatize. It is not true that little harm can be done.
Perhaps you were persuaded by the vehemence and anger exhibited by the slanderer and decided the person slandered did was undeserving of defense. This is equally a sin because we can know the truth if we question the lie and ask the target.
Our Savior told us to love one another. Part of loving is caring enough to hear both sides of the story.
In this Lenten season reflect on each Commandment and check how well you really keep it.