I read an article today about the increasingly limited information available to the people of Russia from outside of the country. The Russian government wants to control the narrative about Ukraine. Russians are not allowed to use the words ‘war’ or ‘invasion’ in reference to Ukraine. It is a ‘special military operation’. Because of the false information provided by the government, many of the people of Russia do not believe that a war is going on. And they certainly don’t believe that Russia is in any way the aggressor.
That’s the thing about people. We lie. About all kinds of things. War. Slavery. Our health. Our grades. All the time. About so many things. We simply, well, lie. We say thank you for something we didn’t like. We pay someone a compliment to make them feel good or to get ourselves off the hook when we really don’t mean it. We make excuses that we are busy when we could actually do something we just don’t want to. We are just really good at lying. About big things. About little things. About inconsequential things. About existential things.
And, in my opinion, it must be admitted that religion has certainly done its share of lying to people. And that lying causes untold harm.
Why do we lie? For a million reasons. Because we want to be liked. Because we are greedy. Because we’re lazy. Because we want to get ahead. Because it’s easy. Because the truth is too hard to bear. Because it’s to our advantage in some way. Because we want to protect someone’s feelings. Because we think it will avoid causing harm in some way. And that is just a start to why we lie.
I was thinking recently about our dogs and about nature. Animals. Plants. The natural world. There’s no lying. Animals can’t lie. They can practice deception for the sake of getting food. But it is not lying. It’s a necessary behavior for survival. Maybe that’s how some people think about lying.
But is lying really to our advantage, ultimately? I don’t think so. I think it compromises our character. Diminishes our spirits. Sucks us down – one lie. Then another. Then another. And then, well, what is real? What is truly reality? It’s not a war or an invasion. . . And lying masks the problems we are facing that need to be addressed with honesty, humility, and creativity for our survival.
In the New Testament we are told, “The truth will set you free.” The truth may be difficult. Stressful, even. Hard to deliver. Awful to accept. It may be hurtful. Many people today don’t want to know the truth about things like systemic racism and global warming. But, ultimately, the truth serves our well-being far more than lying ever will. Even though we may only ever see a partial truth.
Look at nature. No lying. Instead there is adaptation, adjustment, creating new balance. There is also the truth of incredible disruption and extinction. We need to be seeing the truth that nature is showing us to help us survive. The truth, hard as it may be, will set us free. That is part of the wildness of mercy. The truth may be painful but it leads to healing.
Prayer: Think about a lie you have told. Or that has been told to you. And the harm that it has caused. May we seek to see the truth. May we seek to tell the truth. May we make amends for the lies that have caused harm. May we seek to be made free by the truth. And the truth is that there is a wildness to Divine mercy and that mercy is our blessing. Amen.