With each Commandment, God reveals what He has made sacred and is to be protected. The Eighth Commandment follows suit. God’s warning to not lie reveals that truth is sacred and is to be protected.
God, who is the Creator of all things, established truth in the very things He created. When He created the solar system, He created the truth of gravity. When He created a sparrow, He created the truth that sparrows fly and produce offspring. Therefore, Jesus is justified when He says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” And so, logic follows that anything that falls short of what is true, leads us away from God.
Truth is the foundation of relationships making it possible to live in harmony with one another and to live a peaceful and joy-filled life. Truth establishes honor and respect for one another, and truth is a pillar of trust necessary for healthy marriages and strong communities.
However, because of our selfishness and pride, we struggle with accepting the truth and go to great lengths to deny the truth, creating a mess. In time, the lies produce confusion, fear, disagreements, anger and division, and we spin more lies to cover the first lie with each lie growing bigger than the last. With each lie, our humanity and dignity diminish, making it more difficult to recognize the truth as we are led further from God.
Satan devised the lie and first used it in the garden of Eden when he sprinkled a little doubt by asking Eve, “Did God really say you would die…?” He then lied to make God out to be the bad guy saying, “You certainly will not die!” and then followed up with the false promise of “your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods.”
Satan, the father of lies, causes nothing but confusion, division, destruction and slavery to sin. Because of their disobedience, Adam and Eve hid themselves from God and from one another. Satan’s strategy worked so well with Adam and Eve that he uses the same strategy on us today, and it still works!
Through the Natural Law, lies always have negative consequences, such as shame, confusion and division. Lying can have devastating lifelong impacts that span generations. Alternatively, truth leads us to Jesus, who is Truth, and living in truth sets us free. Free from the slavery of lies, free to enjoy good relationships and experience authentic joy.
To help navigate difficult decisions and to recognize lies, the Catholic Catechism offers this definition of a lie.
To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has the right to know the truth. (Catholic Catechism 2483)
This definition exonerates the Polish family of lying to the soldiers when asked if they were hiding Jews because Nazi soldiers did not have the moral right to know the truth,
This clarification is helpful to solve such difficult, but rare, situations, but it allows for erroneous rationalization and emotions. Therefore, St. Augustine warned against all lying. His fear was that exceptions could open the door to erroneous rationalization and emotions. He also warned that exceptions for lying introduce the risks of becoming a habitual liar.
There are many ways the Eighth Commandment can be broken. All of them turn ourselves, and others, away from Jesus and His truth which offers clarity of thought and freedom of living free and joy-filled lives.
To become better aware of the lies that we have grown blind to, the list below is a breakdown of the types of lies along with some examples.
White Lies – False responses given to avoid hurting other’s feelings, e.g., “Yes, I really do like your new haircut. (Gag, cough, smile.)” To avoid white lies, we should be loving, respectful and sincere in giving a true response that will be helpful and not hide the truth.
Fib/Exaggeration/Boasting – A false statement to impress someone or diminish someone’s credibility. This type of lie is prone to becoming habitual lying, e.g., “I have done that a million times.” Or, “You never get to work on time.”
Half-truth – Withholding some of what is necessary for others to assess the full truth, e.g., telling your boss the third quarter preliminary sales are up twenty percent, but intentionally leaving out that the final results will be considerably less.
Gossip/Fabrication/Plotting – Talking about someone with the intent of damaging their reputation or boosting your own, e.g., “Did you hear that Bob might lose his job again?”
Flattery – Insincere compliments that misleads others to think they are better than they are. Flattery is often used insincerely to make others like us, e.g., “Your cooking is absolutely the best.”
Compulsive/Habitual – Frequent use of any one or multiple forms of lying. Habitual lying is a symptom of severe confusion and insecurity.
Breaking promises – Making a promise with little or no intention to keep the promise, e.g., “I promise I will make it up to you.”
Living a lie – Portraying to be someone we are not or living contrary to reality, e.g., Living above our income to impress others or being in denial of our talents and the person God created us to be.
Disclosing Secrets – Sharing something that was told to you in confidence, e.g., “I’m not supposed to tell you this, but…..”
Euphemisms – Flowery words that hide the real meaning of something bad. For example, “freedom of choice,” “death-with-dignity” and “right-sizing the workforce.”
Bold-faced/Blatant lies – A direct false statement that we know is not true and is intended to mislead someone.