“A reliable way of making people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth” – I read this on a friends Facebook timeline the other day and its been on my mind ever since.
These lines struck a chord in me, since I have dear friends who have suffered because someone maligned them and most people chose to believe the person maligning them. Very often these friends were then alienated, excluded or even ostracised – often because people preferred to believe the person who repeated the lie over and over again. I too have caught myself doing the same – repeating something negative about someone just because I heard it from a “reliable” source . It made me stop and ask myself – what am I repeating and calling a “truth”? Have I checked my source? Have I experienced it myself? Do I personally know the person I am talking about? Is what I am repeating about a person in any way helpful or am I just plain gossiping?
On a side note, the Jörg Kachelmann case in Germany is an example of how falsehood is spread, people believe the liar and an innocent man is punished for a crime he never committed.
These lines struck a chord in me, because I have many women friends who were (and still are) in abusive marriages. Some of these friends never got help or no one believed they were being abused because they didn’t look like abuse victims (for some weird reason, we all seem to have very clear ideas about what an abused victim looks like!). Some of these women suffered because their husbands repeatedly put up a great show of being caring and considerate in front of people and so the false image of a caring and loving husband was created and upheld. I am guilty of this too: I have told couples that they are made-for-each-other and just perfect based on pictures or because I was impressed by the caring and loving front that one partner repeatedly put up. I never bothered to really look deeper or ask the silent partner what their truth looked like.
These lines struck a chord in me, because I have often parroted the negative opinion that some persons have about people belonging to certain cultures/nationalities/religions without really experiencing that myself or basing my opinion on an individual case. I get very annoyed when someone puts me in a box but do I stop before I do the same? I live in Germany and very often one hears derisive remarks made about the US here, there is even a phrase “amerikanische Verhältnisse” i.e. american conditions, which is used very often to describe situations or things that are superficial (e.g. someone who gives looks or status a lot of importance), or when companies downsize and need to let people go (it is immediately put down to a hire-and-fire attitude), or when a company decides to appoint younger people in responsible positions or even if there is a discussion on gen manipulated foods! On an interesting side note, there are many Germans that talk derisively about the US and yet do not hesitate to vacation there because its cheaper, the weather warmer and it is a shoppers paradise with all the outlet malls. I always got very worked up when I heard such negative talk about the US and Americans in general. And then I visited Paris the first time on vacation after being in Europe for over 20 years. I was “surprised” to find that the French people I met there were all very friendly, polite and even made an effort to talk to me in english. You are probably thinking – what is the connection between the negative attitude towards the US prevalent in Germany and my visiting Paris? Well before having visited Paris, I very confidently and convincingly talked about the French, the Parisians in particular, being impolite, unfriendly and hostile towards foreigners. My opinion about them was based on hearsay and not on what I had experienced myself. Which is the case about many of the Germans that talk ill about the US without ever having stepped into the country or even had any dealings with the US. Since then I try to stop myself from repeating negative things or having a negative attitude about people based on their nationalities/religions/cultures and I am not always successful at it.
On a side note, the Holocaust is a reminder of the horror that happens when a nation believes the lies that are consequently and repeatedly told about a race.
These lines struck a chord in me, because for far too many years I was taught and believed that a good christian girl/woman was one who was meek, never questioned her elders, when married “submitted” to her husband in everything (even when he was abusive), was loving and forgiving towards all even when they wronged her, never took a stand and called out wrongdoing because she was called to be a peacemaker… all this based on bible verses that were repeatedly quoted out of context or wrongly. And I am guilty of repeating such wrong teachings to others, did my share of bible-bashing, did not stand up for those being abused because I was so understanding of the failings of the abuser or because I thought that calling out wrongdoing or standing up for the abused was being “judgemental” towards the abuser or wrongdoer. I still struggle when people think I am “throwing the first stone” or when people think I am unforgiving or hardhearted when I cut off relations with those that continue to abuse me, or when I am seen as being uncaring or unloving because I take a clear stand for the person being wronged. But I believe that when I am silent on such matters or when I maintain a “neutral” stand in the face of wrongdoing, I am only adding to the lie and false teachings and am abetting the abuser and wrongdoer.
These lines struck a chord in me, because I was born and grew up in a country that in the name of tradition and culture, has repeatedly told women that their “good reputation” is the most valuable thing that they have. They have been taught to believe that a number of factors can ruin this reputation- factors like improper clothes (the definition of which others decide), indecent behaviour (again the definition of indecent is something that others decide-it could be laughing too loudly or even talking to men), having an aunt or uncle that has done something wrong (this wrong could be anything from committing a heinous crime to being a divorcee)… the list of factors is endless. All these factors are deemed more important than the actual character of the girl, she can be very intelligent, loving and wonderful but that does not weigh much in the end e.g. a girl can be deemed a “bad match” just because her aunt has remarried again (a side effect of this is that the poor aunt is expected to live unhappily all her life or even put up with abuse just so that she doesn’t “ruin” the life of her niece). And so women grow up believing the lie that such factors are more important than having a beautiful soul, that if you have lost your virginity before marriage (even if it was brutally taken from you) you are soiled goods, that if you decide to step out of an abusive marriage you are the one to blame and if you remarry, you bring shame and insult to your family and you need to be ostracised for it. Lies repeated often enough till they are seen as the truth.
These lines struck a chord in me, because for years I accepted (and to an extent even spread) the belief that there are typical male and female traits. Being a good cook and “homely”, having an interest in clothes and appearances, being sensitive and understanding, being good in languages or dancing – these are just some of the traits that I I was taught were feminine. Being aggressive, ambitious, playing the “rougher” sports, taking a lead, being the breadwinner or even chasing after the other sex and/or succumbing to sexual temptation because one is “built that way from nature”- all these are traits that were seen as “masculine”. It took me years to stop defining traits as masculine or feminin and to excuse unacceptable behaviour as “its in his/her nature as a man/woman”. The day I started seeing all traits as “human” traits brought a freedom to myself and to those around me – to be the unique people they were born to be.
These lines struck a chord in me, because for years I believed that criticising, condemning or even breaking practices/traditions/cultural taboos meant one was a traitor, had no national pride and gave others the right to attack or even ostracise you. One was brought up with the belief that “what happens at home, stays at home” A couple of years ago, a well known actress gave an interview abroad about the way women are ogled at and objectified back in her homeland. To my surprise, my Facebook timeline was filled with posts on how to ostracise her, how she had brought shame to her homeland by talking ill about it “outside”, that she had no authority to talk about the country like that… The same happened when a British filmmaker made a film about a horrendous rape case – among other things she was told to look at her own country first, was condemned and torn apart in the media and on Facebook. No one stopped to ask what they could do to tackle the deep rooted problems within the country; it was easier to be united against the “foreigner” who had dared to expose the “lies” or had made an attempt to tell the truth.
These lines struck a chord in me, because I have often misjudged/condemned people and cultures based on what was acceptable in the culture that I grew up in or came from. I grew up in a culture that took great pride in condemning “the west” for their “loose morals”, high divorce rates and even high rape statistics. And so I believed the lie for a number of years till I started seeing behind the facade of year long marriages and discovered that many of them were dead marriages (bound together often only by legality, finances and children); that people celebrated silver and golden anniversaries openly but behind the scenes the couple were constantly bickering, fighting, badmouthing and sometimes even cheating on one another; till I realised that women didn’t dare speak up about sexual abuse because of the aforementioned damage to their reputation, or because they were then considered “free goods”for other men, or were even told that they were somehow to blame for it. It made me question the statistics and the truth behind what I was quoting as “evidence for moral decay”.
Being a Christian, I see a similar attitude within many churches. There is a false sense of pride on being “more moral” than the rest of the world and often sin is covered up, not acknowledged or even ignored within the church. False teachings abound in many churches, leaders are not questioned and believed blindly, bible verses are quoted out of context and taught as “biblical truths”.
These lines struck a chord in me, because I often see posts on Facebook that friends share just because someone else has shared it e.g. pictures or news about alleged racism. Very often these are a hoax but have been spread so often that people believe them to be true.
So what is the truth and what is a lie that I believe is the truth? Do I care enough to find out what it is? Is my truth truer than yours? Do I have the courage to stand up for the truth even if I will be ostracised or even attacked for it? Am I a “peoples pleaser”, do I do anything to be accepted by others even twisting the truth or leaving out parts of it? Do I have the courage to walk alone till I find others that have the courage too? What am I sharing on Facebook and do I know it to be true? What lies do I believe in and pass on as the truth merely because I have heard it repeated time and again, it feels familiar and the truth doesn’t?
And what about you? Which truth do you believe in – the lie that has been repeated often enough or the truth that is sometimes silent and waiting to be discovered?