Through my many years of observation of the human condition, I have noticed one act that can have a lasting effect on people more so than any other act. An act so cruel and callous that it is forbidden by the three great religions of our time…Christianity, Judaism and Islam. An act so egregious that many countries have legal protections against it. This single act alone shows the character flaws of a person more than any other good deed they may have done before that point; for there is an act so deadly that there is no reversal known to God or Man/Woman to un-ring the bell.
In our daily lives, I would like to think that most people are inherently good souls. Living a cynical life is very unhealthy and leads to holding in anger which hurts you more than the evildoers try to inflict on you. There are truly evil people in this world, but the definition I proffer might surprise you.
While there is genocide going on throughout the world, with horrific beheadings in Middle East, slavery of the Yazidi women by ISIS thugs, totalitarian suppression by tyrants like Kim Jong-un, there is a crime that is so insidious that most people are not even aware of its very existence. At best they think it is a mere recreational vice that has no effects upon the recipient. The worse thing is that they don’t even realize that they are the ones that will ultimately pay the price.
This crime dates back to the very existence of our moral code. A code which most of the civilized world follows to define a just society. The immorality inscribed in the holy scriptures, which is the basis of most of our justice and ethics in our society, is so severe that there is no way to ‘un-ring the bell.’ I am not saying that this crime is worse than other crimes set forth above, yet this crime is done by so many on a daily basis that it probably will go down as the most numerous crime of our civilization.
The crime I am referring to is, in Biblical terms, ‘to bear false witness’ and ‘slander.’ At first one might say that this is a simple faux pas, an excusable misspeak as everyone says some bad things about other people. Many people like to gossip, so that can’t be a crime for eternity? Gossip is one thing, but lying and spreading malicious rumors is completely different.
Let me first draw from the three major world religions to explain the evilness of this action.
In Christianity, the New Testament states:
Matthew 12:36: “I tell you, on the day of judgement people will give account for every careless word they speak.”
1 Corinthians 4:13: “When slandered, we entreat. We become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.”
In Islam, the Quran states that Buhtaan (saying something untrue about a person) is one of the worst deeds a man can make. Here is just one of many other verses:
Sahih Bukhari Book 52, Hadith 18: The prophet said. “And I warn you against giving false witness, and he kept on saying that warning till we thought we would not stop.”
In Judaism, the birthplace of the former two religions, the Old Testament is very specific about the sin of an unruly mouth:
Exodus 23:1: “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.”
I bring up these verses, not for religious reasons per se (as I am not a religious person), but to put context into the severity of these seemingly overlooked sins. If you believe in religion, then you need to rethink how you conduct your lives. If you do not, it should be at the very least a reminder to the ugliness of this crime against your fellow man/woman. The effects are indeed prophetic.
Being of Jewish descent, I can provide inherent insight into the ultimate sin of ‘bearing false witness’ and its ramifications. I have heard too many stories from friends and colleagues about good people being maliciously attacked by use of false testimony (simply put…words) for an agenda that is self-serving. Now most people would say that this is just how people are? Really? Do we want to live in a world where the words someone says are not carefully thought out and can destroy a person’s good name?
According to Jewish law, there are these sacrosanct tenants that applies to lies and slander:
- Hezkat Kashrut: This means that a person is innocent until proven guilty. It is interesting that our criminal laws in the United States has its roots from the Old Testament.
- Laydat Hasafek: This is defined as spreading rumors about things that are in doubt. One must have a formal investigation prior to spreading rumors. Once words are spoken, they cannot be taken back.
- Ne’emanus: In Jewish Law, it is strictly forbidden to take the word of a non-believer of the faith since they lack credibility of Jewish law. This also applies to the other religions as well. I am not saying that another religious faith is less credible. What I am saying is that if you are a believer of a faith, then this is forbidden. This would apply to clergy of various faiths that violate this sacred tenant, thus making them sinners and hypocrites to their faith.
- Motzi Shem Ra: Defined as the ‘spreading of malicious lies’ and essentially has the effect of ‘murdering the good name of a person.’ This is one of the most egregious acts that a person can engage in. To engage in this act is one of the worst crimes on humankind.
Although I am not a religious man, I look for context from religious teachings to help guide an ethical life. Our code of ethics has it embryonic roots from the Bible. Secular societies still draw from these basic values. The Ten Commandments are adhered to today by most civilized societies.
So why are lies, slander and bearing false witness such major sins and crimes? It is because the ill words against another person can ruin their good name which is akin to murder. I assume most people never thought of the ramifications of such acts. The reason is that it takes an ethical person with self-control and intellect to understand this awful act.
The people who do these bad deeds will eventually destroy themselves. Notwithstanding that it is one of the highest crimes in religious law (and some civil laws), there is a day of judgment that will render its punishment. If you are religious, then it is clearly written in the Old and New Testament and the Quran that those who inflict this crime among fellow man/woman, they will pay dearly for their sins. For those who embrace a secular society, those who lie and slander others to ruin someone’s name will have to live with themselves in internal torment. If they are good and descent people, then they would understand their actions and dedicate themselves to trying to repair the damage. This is a heavy lift since words cannot be un-said. Those that are unethical or sociopathic, there is no hope for them as they have to live a life that burns their gut filled with hate and selfishness. In essence, a shallow life without much meaning.
So the next time you feel the need to say something that will be hurtful to another, remember that karma is a bitch. ‘What goes around comes around’ is a cliche. However, there is a reason for some cliches…it’s an undeniable fact.
We should pity these people because they are unaware of the malice they create. We should also forgive them. By doing so, it allows you to let go of your hurt and hate for what they have done, which ultimately sets you free and at peace. We are masters of our own destiny. Do it for yourself and not for the person who spews lies and slander. Make yourself a better person. Always take the high road and pause before you say something that can never be taken back.
Words are more deadly than the sword. The ramifications can last a lifetime and those who bear false witness will ultimately pay dearly…in this world or eternity.