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Saturday, November 11, 2017

What Are We Willing to Forfeit For the Sake of Surprise?

“A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.” The Lord denounces lying as the work of the devil:  ‘You are of your father the devil, …. There is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.’ “  CCC #2482

“Lying is the most direct offense against the truth.  To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error.”  CCC #2483 (In other words to make them believe that which is not true.)
“The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims.  If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity.”  CCC #2484 (This tells us that a lie told deliberately is a sin.  It may not be a serious sin, but it is a sin.)

By its very nature, lying is to be condemned.  It is a profanation of speech, whereas the purpose of speech is to communicate known truth to others.  The deliberate intention of leading a neighbor into error by saying things contrary to the truth constitutes a failure in justice and charity.  CCC #2485
“Since it violates the virtue of truthfulness, a lie does real violence to another.  It affects his ability to know, which is a condition of every judgment and decision.  It contains the seed of discord and all consequent evils.  Lying is destructive of society; it undermines trust among men and tears apart the fabric of social relationships.”  CCC #2486
If we embrace all these things, then is it still ok to lie some of the time?  Certainly the devil would like you to think so.   We may tell ourselves the truth can be painful and even unpalatable for many who reject it, so a little lie here and there might keep them happy and comfortable, but my own belief is tell the truth always.  What about the lies required to pull off a surprise party?  What’s the harm in that?  I know people who have a long history of surprising members of their family, in fact, so often, one wonders what any of them are ever actually surprised by.    

I have never liked surprise parties.  Our family has never engaged in it for a number of reasons.  I personally don’t even like to standby waiting for the toaster to pop, so why would I enjoy being shocked by a room full of people yelling SURPRISE?  My husband said from the day we were married, do NOT surprise me.  He was not just speaking of parties, to be sure.  This is honestly the best kind of advice a husband can give a wife who depends on his trust, protection, and support.  It keeps open the doors of good communication and builds a stable relationship that can withstand all storms.
 I enjoy surprises, such as an unexpected bouquet of flowers delivered by a florist.  Or a phone call from someone I haven’t spoken to in a while, a task completed by my spouse that I’ve wanted done for a long time, or a spontaneous hug from a grandchild.  I also enjoy surprising others with a favorite meal, an unsolicited favor, or a small unexpected gift just because I want to give someone a little joy and express my love. 
A surprise party on the other hand involves doing something that is wrong---deceiving others to supposedly make them happy.  From what I’ve seen, people go to extraordinary lengths and pile up lie upon lie to get these future events to work as planned.  The amount of coordination of lies is often incredible. 
It can go to the point where the whole planning becomes more exciting than the event itself.  It can involve getting others to do things they would not otherwise have done to perpetuate the deceit. 

I was told by a dear friend of such a scheme involving another friend we have in common.  The names have been changed but the story goes this way:  Linda’s husband called Alicia and asked her to invite Linda to meet her and another friend, Carol, in NYC to spend the weekend together.  He said he would make the plane reservations and her hotel arrangements from his end.  So Alicia called her friend and asked her if she could come to NYC and meet her and Carol for a weekend get together visiting museums and shopping.    When Linda approached her husband to see if this idea would be ok with him, he consented without letting her know it was his idea in the first place.  The three women talked back and forth over the coming weeks getting their plans made of what they would do while they were together and confirming the fact they would meet on the afternoon of their arrivals in the hotel lobby at a certain time in case one checked in before the others. 
The truth is, neither Alicia nor Carol went to NYC.  When Linda arrived in the lobby she was met by her two sons who live in different parts of the country.  They had come there to surprise their mother for her birthday.  No doubt the sons’ two wives were also in on this whole factory of lies from the start. 
There can be so much “fun” involved in this for some that the temptation to do so seems irresistible.  But if your desire is to do something nice for another why must it involve deceit, unless it is more your own desire than the one being surprised---such as a party the other never wanted in the first place,
OR the fact you think lying, the means, is justifiable since it produces the desired end result, the surprise.  What would be wrong with letting the person being honored know of the plans and then let the end result be the memorable and happy event for all? 

We pray, “and lead us not into temptation,” but there may be times we don’t even recognize the temptations in our lives.  “Discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a ‘delight to the eyes’ and desirable (Gen. 3:6) when in reality its fruit is death.  CCC#2447
I don’t think people who devise surprise events are bad or that they intend to do evil, but taking delight in a sin, lying, is in any case a problem.  All the things that please the devil have an element of pleasure in them otherwise more and more of us would be saints.  If we convince ourselves to think the little things don’t matter, how long will it be before we cave in to other things more serious?  This is why we are told to stay away from magic tricks, from palm readers and fortune tellers.  They can be “fun” and appear to be harmless, but they weaken our fortitude against mortal sin. The repeated pleasure we may take in lying to others for the fun of it, could lead us into thinking certain sins don’t actually count.  “Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good.  It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life.”  CCC #1808
Revelations 21:6-8
6)“And he said to me:  It is done.   I am Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the end.  To him that thirsteth, I will give of the fountain of the water of life, freely.  7) He that shall overcome shall possess these things, and I will be his God; and he shall be my son.  8) But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, they shall have their portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
That seems a really bad lot with whom to pitch your tent just to construct a surprise.  Wouldn’t you agree?  This may throw a wet blanket on what has been a favorite sport of yours, but trickery and deceit should never be part of a faithful Christian's way of life.

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