It seems such a number of words have never been heard in our world before. And words have never been as weak, fruitless and deceptive as they are now. And they are so dangerous because of their emptiness.
Centuries ago we heard far fewer words than in our days, and mankind’s ability to transmit information was limited by the natural ways and means (very modest for our times) we had at our disposal. People exchanged information through direct contact involving relatively small group of people; the speeches of orators were heard at public meetings where the number of participants was also limited; laws were read out in squares. Rolls, parchments, books, later—newspapers and magazines, radio, TV, and, finally, the internet… We walked very slowly into what we have today.
But today… Today every word in the media or on the ‘net has a life of its own. It is translated, transformed, taken out of context and brought into a fundamentally different context by all who desire to do so. This incontrollable life of words, which often distances them from the original meaning attached to them or their combination, turns our lives into an endless jungle of information, messages, ideas and concepts. Information portals, email servers, social networks, Telegram channels… People drown in this and at some point lose the ability to analyze what exactly is offered them through all these resources, eventually resembling “broiler” chickens stuffed with hormones, antibiotics and God knows what else, being prepared for the “slaughter”. Of course, this happens on a spiritual and mental, not physical level.
But this is only half the trouble. The real trouble is that nowadays words have almost ceased to be what they used to be: the expression of one or another reality, phenomenon, let alone truth. If it is not technical documentation (though today it is no exception either), today words are an instrument for manipulation, the achievement of goals by any possible means, at best—the way of filling in a pause (that is, have an auxiliary function). By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned (Mt. 12:37); today you have to wear down more than one pair of shoes before you find someone who truly strives to follow this Gospel warning and tries his best to tell only the truth.
The pandemic of lies
Those for whom lying is a sin are so few and far between that now we hear lies everywhere. People make each other the promises they aren’t going to keep and pronounce the words of the meaning of which they think very little. Politicians pledge to their voters that they will definitely fulfil every point of their election programs without even remembering what they are. After a time they are sincerely surprised when people blame them for breaking their pledges. Though this doesn’t happen very often: there aren’t many naïve people in our days; we believe every Tom, Dick or Harry only by inertia or because of our natural gullibility—this is how this life soaked with lies transforms us.
It’s really trouble. Not private or local but a universal—a virus that has invaded all of us long before COVID-19 (this accounts for the fact that it is still hard for some to believe that it exists and is serious). Not only does lying disable us from understanding what our world (which is filled with lies) is like and what is happening in it. It also (imperceptibly for us) becomes our way of existence, avoiding responsibility and finding a way out of any halfway difficult situation. And we get confused not only in the world but even in ourselves when lying becomes something usual and natural. How can we understand what is true and what is false in us? And what is truth for us?...
Hence this frightening and constant sense of instability of whatever you touch and the falseness of everything around us: at any point everything can change, turn out to be very different from what it seemed to be or what you were told it was. We are sold things that “will serve forever” but they break before we begin to operate them. We are sold “miracle remedies” which mysteriously haven’t any a placebo effect. We are promised heat and the clear sky, but instead we get cold and wet in showers from leaden clouds. Where should poor people go from all of this?
Lies stand in our way to God
There is only one answer: to the Only One never deceives, Whose words are always true, Whose faithfulness isn’t abolished by our unfaithfulness. We can have doubts about anyone and anything but Him Whose word called into being all things, and Who has upheld their existence.
There is only one answer… But despite its obviousness it has become so unobvious today! When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth? (Lk. 18:7).
Lies prevent you from believing: if you perceive them as the only reality, the ability to believe runs out in your heart. It becomes covered with the armor of such torpor and distrust that it is possible to fight through into it with the tremendous efforts people don’t usually dare to take. If you are used to such a life, when you are deceived all the time and permanently lie to others, bringing yourself to believe is a far more exceptional podvig than the Apostle Peter’s readiness to walk on the raging sea at the Savior’s command.
And if we try to understand why it is so hard for our contemporaries to seriously convert to God, why spiritual life seems like a sealed book to many, why many tend to perceive it formally and magically, here is one of the main explanations: the lies in which everything has been absorbed and distorted.
And it seems to me that in these circumstances it is our huge duty (of people who by the mercy of God have nevertheless joined the Church and the little flock that, though scattered, hasn’t been abandoned by its Shepherd) to be people of truth despite everything.
We are aware that if money isn’t backed by gold, it loses its worth and value, becoming a pile of useless paper. Likewise, words that aren’t supported by deeds, that are at variance with actions and never presupposed any actions in the first place, lose their value. Words lose their value as such—our own words, the words of the Fathers and even of the Holy Scriptures—if they come from the mouths of those whose lives contradict them. People cease to believe them, and worse, cease to listen to them…
And we are powerless to do anything with this world and with billions of people unknown to us and even with some dozen people we know more or less closely. We can only change things that concern ourselves. Simple, natural, evident and extremely difficult things.
What can we do?
We can stop voluntarily wallowing in a sea of information where it’s impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff, truth from fiction. We can minimize to a reasonable extent its incoming flow, instead turning to the clear source of truth as often as possible—the Word of God and the writings of those for whom the highest priority was doing, speaking, thinking and even feeling according to Christ’s truth. And our mind will become purer and more lucid, and our hearts stronger and wiser.
We can begin to learn to live, seriously, courageously and uncompromisingly, by what we read and hear in the New Testament, realizing that bearing the name “Christian” and not being a disciple of Christ in practice is lying and self-deception, which we will have to repent of very bitterly.
We can give up resorting to lies as to a lifesaver, try to be responsible for each word we say, and consider every situation when we had to beat about the bush instead of speaking frankly as a time of temptation and sorrow and not a norm, as Venerable Abba Dorotheus of Gaza advised.
We can start familiarizing ourselves with the world anew, keeping in mind that the tree is known by his fruit (Mt. 12:33), and it is only by fruit that we can judge anything more or less objectively.
We can, while remaining the same little flock, be an island of light and purity, which souls exhausted and withered from lies will long for, to fathom what is behind our truth and Who gives us the strength not to lie.