Liar, liar! Pants on fire.
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16
Do not bear false witness against your neighbor? I had never thought of myself as a liar. I mean, I value truth telling. I’ve always thought this commandment was for children, court cases, or people who struggle to tell the truth. Imagine my chagrin, when I realized it applied to me! I had been lying to myself… about other people!
During the retelling of a conflict I can sometimes create a narrative in which I’m the victim (right) and they are the villain (wrong). We all do it at times. This is bearing false witness. I know I’ve done this at times in interpersonal conflicts. I gave myself the benefit of having the best of intentions, and distrusted the intent of others.
Can you relate? I think we all may have done this at least once. But, whether our intentions are good or not, and if we want to grow honor in our culture, a necessary ingredient is believing the best about people even when they show us their worst. This is how “You shall not bear false testimony…” moves from the court room into the family room and gets real.
I’ve had to learn to exercise self-control in my thinking when I have been hurt by someone so that I don’t think and behave dishonorably. I’ve developed a few principles to guard my heart against bearing false witness against others.
1. There are no villains or victims in conflict among friends/family. I trust the person loves me, and is for me, and I reassure them that I love them, and I am for them. We are on the same team. When someone hurts/offends me, I don’t tell a story of why they did what they did, and I refuse to build a case against them, or make accusations about their motives.
2. Apologize first. Because being right ISN’T more important than relationship.
3. Never do conflict via email, phone , or text. Facing one another allows us to hear and understand each other, say we love each other, and hug afterwards. I endeavor wrap my communication up in love and show mercy, not judgement.
4. Break the cycle of sensitivity and insensitivity. What does that mean? Rather than becoming offended when someone hurts me or insensitive when I hurt someone, I chose to listen empathetically. Ask, “How does my behavior impact others?” and engage in healthy conflict resolution. This can also look like be easily offended by others, or being offended when they tell me, my actions hurt them. I choose to stay “unoffended” to protect the relationship, and LISTEN.
Jesus knew we’d mess up in our relationships. He actually said it’s unavoidable. He instructs us to be relentless forgivers. In Luke 17:4, Jesus says, ‘and if he sins against you seven times in the day and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
He invites us into healthy relationships. Not by being sin-free, but by being relentless forgivers. May we become a family of love-filled truth tellers who forgive often.