Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
Jesus then said to the Jews who had believe in Him, “If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make your free.”
John 8: 31-32
In our last reflection, we discussed the subject of honesty, as it relates to cheating. Today’s reflection is closely related, as it relates to telling the truth versus telling a lie.
The best definition of a lie is that it is an attempt to rewrite history, either to make up for something that happened or to embellish the truth for what we wish would happen. Let’s say that a teenager is out at a party that they don’t want their parents to know about. When asked where they were, the teenager responds with “at the library.” This is a lie, told to cover up a truth that they don’t want to be held accountable for. Here is another common example of a lie: someone doesn’t finish an assignment for work, because they were busy doing other things and didn’t manage their time well. When the boss asks why the job isn’t done, they figure they will blame it on a sick child at home. After all, who is going to be angry at someone for taking care of their child? We rationalize these small lies by telling ourselves, “well, no one got hurt,” or “what I didn’t isn’t that bad.”
Then there is embellishing the truth to make one look good. We see this where people augment their resumes. I see it when high school students ask me for recommendations and they present resumes that are so detailed and full that I think “there is no way a person could actually do all this.” Then there are people who write “I’m active in church youth group” when I know they come once a year.
I read somewhere recently that the average person tells 4 lies a day or 1,460 a year; that totals to 87,600 by the time a person is 60. The most common lie is “I’m fine.”
When I was a child, I enjoyed watching the news on TV. I’d watch the six o’clock news every night. I hear stories about crime, achievement, the weather, sports, and consumer reports. There was very little editorializing on the news back then. Then came the 24-hour news stations and because there isn’t enough news to fill 24 hours, the news stations became more opinion stations. Now we have news stations that are pretty much all opinion, more like political lobbies. Everyone editorializes with their opinion, so there is not much news, and one cannot trust that the news will tell the truth.
Complicating this culture of opinion is today’s environment of political correctness, where feelings oftentimes get in the way of the truth. There is this idea that everyone should get a trophy in sports. This idea has now stepped in front of the truth that some people are better than others and the trophies are rewards for excellence. The truth is that we can’t all excel in everything. And the truth is we all need to learn how to handle failure, as well as focus on the things we are good at. Giving a trophy to everyone doesn’t help on either count.
Here is the other problem with placing feelings over truth. Feelings change constantly. Truth does not. When a person feels hungry or tired or sick, that “feeling” dominates all other truths. One doesn’t feel successful or loved when the dominate feeling is being tired, when all a person can think of is going to sleep. That’s why success and love aren’t feelings. Success is a truth, and love is a choice. Truths do not change. And choices don’t need to be affected by feelings. I can love someone, even when I’m tired. And hunger can’t take away job success.
Society is allowing feelings to lead the way and truth is somehow getting lost. Here is an example, a dialogue between Fr. Stavros and Paphnutios (a made up name):
Fr. Stavros: Paphnutios, what color is my black shirt? (an obvious question).
Paphnutios: Well, it’s black.
Fr. Stavros: You sure about that?
Paphnutios (looks closely at the shirt): I think so.
Fr. Stavros: Ok, so now you are not sure. Would you put a hundred dollars on the fact that my shirt is black?
Paphnutios (thinks carefully, and then answers, a little bit unsure): Yes, I think I would do that.
Fr. Stavros: Ok, what if I told you the shirt is green (something it obviously is not).
Paphnutios (looks again very closely): Well, I guess I can see that. But I think it’s probably still black.
Fr. Stavros: Well, Paphnutios, you seem like a nice guy and we could probably be friends but if you don’t think the shirt is green, you are hurting my feelings.
Paphnutios: Well, I don’t want to hurt your feelings so the shirt can be green or whatever you want it to be.
And there you have an example of how truth and feelings get mixed up in our world today. We don’t want to hurt the feelings of others, so we leave the truth—the shirt is black, I’d stake my life on that—and we change it so that no one’s feelings get hurt. Try this exercise with people of different ages. Many people will end up like Paphnutios in this exercise. They won’t be able to stand on a truth with any kind of conviction.
Jesus says in the Bible, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6)
Feelings are getting in the way of obvious truths. This is true on a practical level. For instance, we might say “I feel like I want to buy that (something).” The truth is that “I can’t afford it.” Which wins more in your life in this instance, truth or feelings? Or, “I know this is wrong, but my friends are doing it and I don’t want them to feel disappointed that I’m not.” Do we succumb to peer pressure, or do what we know is right?
We are faced with the choice to lead our lives with truth or with feelings. And we are each faced with the choice to live out our truth, or to rewrite our truth in the form of a lie. If we lead our lives with God’s truth, loving one another, respecting one another, respecting God’s laws of righteousness, then it won’t be necessary to rewrite history, in the form of a lie.
Back to the lie we tell most often, “I am fine.” There are several reasons we tell this lie so often:
1. We don’t believe others care about our well-being.
2. We believe that others might use our misfortune against us, gossiping about it.
3. We’re not sure how to handle our misfortunes.
4. We are ashamed to admit our misfortunes.
5. We lack an environment where it is safe to be truthful.
When we think about it, answer #5 is probably the biggest reason we are less than truthful. Building environments where it is safe to be truthful, as well as respecting rules and laws and letting truth guide us instead of feelings, all of these things will lead to a more truthful and honest life. Encouragement can play a big role in being able to live our individual lives in God’s truth, and being more comfortable in our own truth as well.
Lord, You have said that You are the way, the truth and the life. Help me understand what that means. Help me to be secure in the truth of who I am, and not desire to stretch the truth to be someone I am not. Help me to make good decisions so that there will be no need to rewrite my history. Help me to be an encourager of truth in those around me. Let the truth of Your love for me be my guiding light always. Amen.
Be truthful today! And help create environments that encourage others to be truthful, where it is safe to tell the truth!