Concerning falsehood

by Abba Dorotheos

I wish to remind you, my dear brethren, of a few points about lies. For I can see that you do not take special care to control your tongue, and so we are easily led into making mistakes. For you see, my brethren, that for every thing, as I always say to you, habit plays a role both in terms of the good and the bad. Great caution and vigilant attention are therefore needed, so that we are not fooled by lies. Since no one who tells lies has been united to God. Lying has absolutely nothing to do with God. For, it is written that: "Lies come from the evil one". And elsewhere it is written, "The devil is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). See that is says the devil is the father of lies.

God however is truth. He himself says I am the way and the truth and the life' (Jn 4:16). You can then understand from whom we are separated and to whom we are joined through lies. It is abundantly clear that we are joined to the devil. If we truly want to be saved, we have an obligation to take every care to love the truth with all our strength, and to guard ourselves from every kind of falsehood, so that it does not separate us from truth and life.

There are three different ways for one to tell lies. One way is to tell lies with the mind, the other is to tell lies with words, and the third is to tell lies with one's entire life. The person who tells lies with the mind does so by entertaining suspicion. That person, upon seeing someone else talking to his brother is suspicious and says, "They are talking about me". And if they stop speaking, such a person again suspects that they stopped because of him. If you say something to him, he suspects that you said this on purpose to worry him. Indeed, he suspects his brother in all things, by saying: "He did this for me, he said that for me. That is why he did such a thing". That is the person who tells lies with the mind. For, he says nothing that is true, but everything is instead based on suspicion. Thus curiosity, slander, eavesdropping, fighting and condemnation arise. It sometimes happens that someone suspects something, which in the end turns out to be true. This is why he claims that he is trying to correct himself when he acts with mistrust and curiosity while thinking, "If I hear anyone speaking against me and hear him, I will understand my mistake for which I am accused, and will correct myself".

First of all, this bias which he allows in his soul is a work of the evil one, because it commenced with a lie. That is to say, without knowing, he suspected what he did not know. How, then, can a bad tree produce good fruit? Yet, if he wants to be corrected, he should not become upset when his brother tells him "do not do that' or "why did you do this?", but rather humble himself and thank him, and then he will be corrected. And if God sees that this is his intention, He will never allow him to go astray, and will send him the appropriate person in order to be corrected. However, to say "since I want to be corrected, I will believe my suspicions and, consequently, I will continue to eavesdrop and be curious" is a thought which the devil creates and develops, in an attempt to destroy him.

Once when I was in a Monastery, I had the temptation of wanting to deduce someone's internal state by watching his movements. Something then happened. Where I was standing, a woman passed by holding a jug of water. I do not know how I was carried away, but I watched her eyes. Immediately the thought came to me that she was a prostitute. As soon as I thought this, I became very worried and mentioned it to my spiritual father, Abba John, saying: "Father, if, without wanting to, I see someone's gesture and conclude in my mind the spiritual condition of that person, what should I do?" The spiritual father answered in the following way: " Does it not happen often that someone who has a natural disability overcomes it with much effort? You cannot deduce his condition from this. Never believe what you suspect. Suspicions are false and they cause harm". From then onwards, even if my thoughts were that the sun is the sun, or that darkness is darkness, I would not believe them. For, there is nothing more severe than suspicions. They are so very harmful, because they remain within us for such a long time, and they begin to convince us that we see clearly things that have neither occurred nor exist. 

from Voice of Orthodoxy, July 1998, v. 19(7)
the official publication of the Greek Orthodox Archbiocese of Australia

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