In today’s Gospel, we read about the fourth antithesis where, Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all (Mt 5:33-34). The foundational principle is that we are not to make a false oath, we are not to take the Lord’s name in vain. This means that someone would tell a lie, and justify it by invoking an oath to make it more believable. “I swear on my mother’s grave that I did not…, I swear to God as my witness that I did not…, I swear on our friendship that I did not…”
Jesus is stating that we are to resist the temptation to swear an oath at all. We are to just tell the truth in all circumstances. We are to be people of integrity and stand on what we say as the truth on its own merits. We are definitely living in a time period in our country where the ability to tell the truth is certainly being called into question, where lies are becoming common place. This is one of the reasons why so many people have such a low opinion of secular as well as religious leadership. But it is also present in our day to day interactions with one another.
In a 2014 episode of Dr. Phil, he gave a list of reasons researchers gave for why people lie:
People lie to take what is not rightfully theirs, to escape accountability, to create a fantasy/false self-esteem to escape their mundane life, to avoid punishment (to which I would add – to avoid facing accountability), to inflict pain, to feel better in the moment; steal admiration, and to gain advantage to exploit others.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a very good place to start. Lying destroys the very foundation of relationships which is trust. Once trust has been broken it is very hard to come back from and rebuild that trust. Lying also supports our false self of the ego, so even if we do not get caught in a lie, we know, and our conscience convicts us of that fact. Their is an ache in our soul because we are not being true to who we really are. Covering up lies also expends a lot of energy because we have to remember what we said in the first place and then one lie often leads to another, and we string together a web of lies and we continue to feel sick inside, because we have not been created to be deceitful and dishonest, but we have been created good, to be people of integrity.
May we take time to meditate on the list above today, to examine our conscience, and be humble to admit where we have lied. May we then visualize ourselves apologizing to the person we have lied to. If possible, may we actually reach out to the person and apologize. If we see there is a deep seated pattern or area in which we habitually lie, then may we seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation for healing and strength to confess that pattern and habit of sin. May we seek strength from Jesus to catch ourselves at the instant we begin to form the lie in our mind, so to transform our habits of deceit into new habits of honesty.
May we strive to live by Jesus’ command to make our, “‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and [our] ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one” (Mt 5:37).
Photo: Mask of our deceit – old Halloween mask on fence line of my parent’s property in CT.
Link for the clip of the Dr. Phil list for why we lie:
Link for the Mass reading for Saturday, June 16, 2018: