Exodus 20:16 “Thou shalt not bear false witness”
One of my teachers says that this isn’t just about lying but about not bearing witness. Not showing us for each other. How often do we bear false witness in a year, a month, or in a day? What does it mean to bear witness? What does it mean to show up for each other? I think it’s more than just physical presence, even though it can include that, it’s about hearing a person’s story in the way that their heart felt it. It’s about listening people into sharing their stories not just telling their business. It requires presence and deep listening. It requires patience and care.
We live in a world, in a time, where we have forgotten what it means in so many places to bear witness. We are moving too quick and are too busy to slow down enough to share our own stories let alone hear someone else’s. Recently I was talking with a group that is planning a gathering where the two main topics are story and trauma and they were proposing to give the participants 20 minutes for two people to share a bit of story with each other about their experience. This to me not only felt unkind but it felt like a kind of violence. Of course not intended violence but violent still. When I named it as unkind they agreed and said maybe we can stretch it to 30 minutes.
I use this as an example not because I think they are unusual but because they aren’t. This is the culture that we have co-created together. A culture that plans 30 minute meetings and then wonders why their employees feel disconnected and distrustful. A culture where are most recent school shooter writes a not that says, “my life is useless” and “the world is dead” and his parents resist taking him home from school that day even knowing that they had just purchased him a gun two days before. This is the world that we have co-created. These are some of the ways we are bearing false witness and the price is high. We are paying with our lives.
Tho shalt not bear false witness is so much more than lying. God help us all.