Thou shalt not bear false witness

The Lord, who has forbidden to cause injury to the neighbor by deed (the sixth Commandment), demands in this Commandment not to cause injury by word, stating, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”. False witness may occur either in the court of justice or in one’s ordinary conversation.

In the court of justice, one bears false witness as a plaintiff by making false accusation or as a witness by bearing false witness or as a judge by giving an unjust sentence.

In the ordinary conversation, one acts against this Commandment by spoiling or damaging one’s good reputation, honor or good name. It is God’s will that we all strive to earn a good name among others doing good works: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16). Hence, it is precious for each person to earn an honorable reputation and to retain the good name. 

This Commandment, hence, forbids suspicion, detraction, slander, and abuse, that would destroy the neighbor’s honor. So also, it forbids those who listen with pleasure, when a neighbor is spoken against. If the one who slanders the good name of another kindles fire, then the one who listens to it willingly throws fuel to the fire.  

  • Suspicion consists in conceiving evil of one’s neighbor without reasonable grounds.
  • Detraction consists in disclosing the fault of another, so as to spoil his/her good name.
  • Slander consists in attributing faults, of which he/she is not guilty.
  • Gossip, with which one purposely tries to ruin the honor and good name of another, also falls under this category. 

The one, who has injured or damaged the good name and reputation of a neighbor, has the obligation to restore the good name either by apologizing privately, if committed in private or publicly, if committed in public. Those who do not strive to repair the harm, done in one way or other, then they cannot obtain pardon for their sins. Let us love one another as ourselves.

God bless you

Fr. Arul Joseph V.


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