You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
Today we reflect on what the ‘whole truth’ might mean. There are a number of times in daily life where the ‘whole truth’ might be positively unhelpful – if you ask your partner what they did during the day, you don’t actually want a blow-by-blow account of their every movement since they opened their eyes – you want the highlights that gave them joy or concern. And if you are minuting a meeting, you don’t usually want a verbatim account that includes the digression about how excellent the biscuits are, you want a record of the key decisions and rationale. I would also suggest that there are times when a simple model can be more helpful for understanding the world than a highly sophisticated description – much as psychologists and others rail against Myers-Briggs type indicators as being little better science than astrology, I’ve seen them enable groups to talk helpfully about the differences between individuals, and how members of the group can communicate better.
The challenge of giving a precis, or developing a model, is to make it true to the complicated whole it is describing. You wouldn’t sum up your day without mentioning that you crashed the car, or fail to record the decision to spend £1m in your note of a meeting. Readers of these Devotions don’t need me to point out that failing to pass on exculpatory evidence would be a form of bearing false witness – but what are the other omissions that we might be more tempted to make? For example, churches can be poor at facing up to child sexual abuse, while the efforts of the National Trust to be honest about the way some British people benefited from slavery have been derided by some as ‘wokeness’. What are the things that we find it difficult to be honest about ourselves?
Lord, You know us inside and out Help us to be honest about our failings The times we are weak The flaws we would rather ignore in ourselves and the things we hold dear The complexity that we would like to gloss over for a quiet life Help us find the path of truth that brings healing.