November 2016 Print

Thou Shalt Not Lie

by SSPX Sisters

“Mom, Luke pushed me!” “Teacher, Patrick’s copying off me!” “Mom, John took my book!” How should we respond to this sort of tale bearing? Should we encourage it by approving? Or even use the information thus offered to us? Is the talebearer acting out of a sense of justice, or the desire for the good and the true to triumph? Is not this sort of behavior inspired rather by selfishness and pride? Alas, such is all too often the case. If we were to complete the talebearer’s sentence, would we not hear, “Luke pushed me by accident and I do not want to forgive him for being inconsiderate even if it wasn’t on purpose.” “Patrick is copying, and since I don’t like him, I want him to be punished.” “John took my book because I was selfish and didn’t want to lend it to him.”

So in most cases, we can answer the talebearer curtly: “I don’t listen to tale bearing.” The child understands that it is not good and it puts an end to this sort of behavior. But if the tale bearing continues or becomes a habit, we absolutely must take the time to stop and help our child realize the morality of his acts.

“You just said Cecilia is cheating at the game. Cheating? Really? What did she do?”

With a few more questions, their mother realizes that Cecilia actually did not cheat.

“Just a little bit; she blew in the die so it would land on six so she could get her little horse out…”

“But that’s not cheating and you know­ it! So you are actually accusing Cecilia of cheating when it’s not true. Do you know what it’s called when you say things that are not true?”

“A lie…”

“So you have to admit you lied. Would Cecilia be winning by any chance?”

“Well, yes, Mom…”

“And were you maybe a little jealous of her and you wanted to get her back?”

“A little…”

“Then that’s a lie that’s called calumny. Calumny is telling a lie about someone to harm them, to get them in trouble for example. And that’s a sin.”

And most severely, their mother concludes: “Do not ever say things like that again.”

Then she adds more gently: “Now go finish playing with Cecilia charitably and with a big smile.”

Here is another story. Alice comes home very excited: “Mom, Mary doesn’t have her pink pen anymore; Anne took it, all the girls are sure it was her because she loves pink pens!” “Oh my,” thinks Mom to herself, “a theft at school now…and what if it’s true?” Prudently, she simply answers: “I don’t like tale bearing.” But she goes to see the teaching sister, who knows her students well and easily sheds light on the matter: “Mary probably lost her pen somewhere; it would not be the first time she has lost her things. As for Anne, she is a little girl in the middle of a growth spurt; she is clumsy, and so the other girls do not like her much. But she is not a thief. I’m afraid your Alice needs a lesson on respecting the reputations of others.” That evening Mom takes Alice aside:

“Yesterday you told me Anne stole Mary’s pen. Did you see her do it?”

“No, Mom, but Anne loves pink pens.”

“That’s no reason! You like pink pens, too, but that doesn’t make you steal them. You accused Anne of stealing for no reason. Do you know what that’s called?”

“No, Mom.”

“It’s a rash judgment, and it is very wrong. And now all the girls at school are saying that Anne is a thief. Would you like everyone to say you are a thief when it’s not true?”

“I’m not a thief!”

“Well neither is Anne. You acted wrongly. Tomorrow, to make up for it, you will tell your friends that you know Anne did not steal, and you will play with her at recess.”

The eighth commandment forbids revealing uselessly the evil committed by another. But according to Luce Quenette there are four cases in which a child not only may, but must speak if he has witnessed another’s sin. They are four serious cases in which it is not “useless” to reveal the sin but rather it helps the authority to put a speedy end to the serious scandal caused: blasphemy, cruelty, sabotage and impurity.

Alan comes home from boarding school. “Mom, I’m disgusted: Louis manages to keep his cell phone at school and he uses it to go on certain websites in secret in the dormitory with his friends. I won’t say what websites, but they aren’t clean…” A few questions (the minimum) allow his mother to convince herself of the truth and the seriousness of the facts. “Alan, you were right to tell me, because it is serious and it is a scandal because it leads others to sin. Now that you have told me, you have done your duty, do not think about it any more and do not speak about it to anyone else. But in the meantime, stay far away from bad friends.” And now Alan’s mother has the unpleasant duty of going without her son to see the director of the school and revealing the matter to him and to him alone, and then leaving it up to him to take care of the problem.

The tongue is a small member, but it can start a terrible fire! St. James tells us in his epistle that “if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man.” That is the perfection we desire for our children.