Fr. Glenn: The Best Policy

By Rev. Glenn Jones
Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
Los Alamos

When I was in the Marines, one trait that was pounded into our “brain housing groups” was the virtue of integrity.

Integrity…honesty…truthfulness…trustworthiness; these are essential especially in combat situations because lives are on the line, and so these virtues were insisted upon also in training and daily life. Even in training situations, if someone tries to cover a fault or failure by lying, it could cascade quickly into losing Marines. The insistence upon integrity was so adamant that I recall vividly one officer candidate in my platoon who was caught in what most people would likely think a minor integrity infraction, yet he was shipped out that very night. We heard that off to enlisted boot camp he went … sure to receive some extra special “attention”.

Sadly, lying is probably one of the most common of faults and sins; probably it has always been so. But what is distressing in our day in age is that so many seem to have so little compunction whatever about lying. The “sin” today seems to be in getting caught! 

Some people will claim: “I had to lie.” No; we choose to lie to avoid consequences—most often consequences which are the just result of our own action (or inaction). We never have to lie. Lying, then, when done to avoid negative repercussions, becomes a form of cowardice—being too gutless to take responsibility for one’s own actions. Lying to deceive for our own advantage—especially at the expense of others—is even lower. And lying simply to harm another out of hatred or spite is most heinous of all; that is how Jesus Himself came to be hung upon a cross.

Lying is an offense against truth, and since Christians know God AS truth itself, lying is thus a direct offense against—and departure from—God. Jesus Himself (“I am the way, the truth and the life”) denounces lying in the harshest terms, chastising some adversaries: “You are of your father the devil,… there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.’”  (John 8:44)

Below is just a sampling of the many scriptures which condemn lying and dishonesty:

  • You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. (Leviticus 19:11)
  • There are six things which the LORD hates, seven which are an abomination to him:…a lying tongue…[and] a false witness who breathes out lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16)
  • Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight. (Proverbs 12:22)
  • A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who utters lies will perish. (Proverbs 19:9)
  • No man who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no man who utters lies shall continue in my presence. (Psalms 101:7)
  • A thief is preferable to a habitual liar, but the lot of both is ruin. The disposition of a liar brings disgrace, and his shame is ever with him. (Sirach 20:25-26)
  • But nothing unclean shall enter [heaven], nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood…(Revelation 21:27)
  • Outside [of Heaven] are…everyone who loves and practices lying…(Revelation 22:15)

Few things obliterate personal (and family) honor more quickly and completely than lying and dishonesty. For example, you scientists know that, if you falsify research, your reputation is toast thereafter. Young people especially need be reminded of this, for they often take dishonesty lightly, not yet understanding fully the persistent, pernicious repercussions. As the Lord reminds us: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches…” (Proverbs 22:1)…as we remember the truth: “The days of a good life are numbered, but a good name endures forever.” (Sirach 41:13)  We need only live our lives in righteousness—following the way of God’s goodness and truth—and we will not be tempted to lie.

Our Lord commands truth and integrity, and He never requires something of us that He does not give us sufficient strength and grace to observe. And so we again remember St. Paul: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) Our way of escape? Yes…that proverbial best policy: honesty. Yet honesty is much more than that. As a well-known general once retorted: “The real honest man is honest from conviction of what is right, not from policy.”