Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings. Chapter 9 On Falsehood
“Brothers, I want to remind you of a few things about falsehood. For I see that you are not very careful about controlling your tongues, and from this we easily are carried off into many other faults.” Ouch! Dorotheos begins this chapter in earnest.
No one who lies is linked to God; otherwise God would be a liar. It is written, “Falsehood is of the evil one” and again, “The devil is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44 You see he calls the devil the father of falsehood. God is the truth. He says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” John 14:6 See how we sort ourselves out and what position we take up through lying – clearly on the side of the evil one.
There are, according to Dorotheos, three different kinds of falsehood:
- The man who lies in the mind (imagination). This one is given to conjectures and is suspicious. If he sees someone talking he says, “They are talking about me.” If they stop the conversation he conjectures that they stopped because of him. Out of this way of thinking/speaking come useless investigations, slander, deceptions, quarrelling, rash judgments and the like. To always be suspicious and to spend a lot of time in self-examination is the justice of the devil when he is trying to betray you. Never put any trust in suspicions, for a wrong premise leads right reasoning to a wrong conclusion. Nothing is more serious than suspicion, nothing brings so much blindness, because if we entertain them for a while they begin to persuade us, until we are convinced that we have seen things, which do not exist and never could exist. Conjectures are not reality. (Page s156-157)
- The man who lies in word. This one does not speak honestly and does not come to the point. Suppose a man shirks getting up for vigils and instead of saying honestly, “Forgive me, Father, I hadn’t the guts to get up,” he says, “I was feverish and felt giddy and so was unable to get up, I was too weak” – a whole string of lies to avoid kneeling and humbling himself and seeking forgiveness. They blame others. They do not come to the point and say, “I want that,” they say, “I suffer from this and therefore I need that.” Lying has its roots (as all sin) through a love of pleasure or avarice or vainglory. (Page 160)
- The man whose very life is a lie. A man whose very life is a lie is one who is licentious and pretends to be temperate, or a miser and speaks of almsgiving and compassion, or ostentatious and goes in rapture over poverty, not wanting to acquire the virtue he praises. He takes to himself the reputation of virtue in order to cover up his own disorders. And he speaks about the virtues either as if he himself possessed them of (often enough) to harm and catch others. He is not a simple but a two-faced man; he is one thing on the inside and another on the outside. (Page 161)
Dorotheos clarifies: “There are times when urgent necessity arises and unless a man conceals a bitter fact, the affair gives rise to greater trouble and affliction. When, therefore, such circumstances arise a man should know that in such cases of need he may adapt his speech so as to avoid a greater disaster or danger.” (Page 160)
Dorotheos ends the chapter warning us to flee from falsehood that we may be delivered from the hands of the enemy and let us struggle to take hold of the Truth, so that we may be united to the One who said, “I am the Truth. May God make us worthy of his Truth.