We're coming up on a very strange, yet neighborly, holiday. Halloween, the night when we invite our neighbor's children to venture up to our front door and accept candy from us. What's even stranger is that some of us like to make their trek as frightening as possible. Some sweet little Cinderella and her 2-year-old baby ninja brother ring the doorbell and we jump out, wearing a creepy Richard Nixon mask. Yes, nothing says, "Won't you be my neighbor?" more than Halloween, does it?
I'll confess that I don't know much about my neighbors. I keep intending to get to know them better. In my mind's eye, I have this idyllic picture of me taking a fresh-baked pie over and having quality coffee time with them. But that would mean, first of all, me learning to bake a pie. Secondly, it would take time out of my already packed schedule. And, let's face it, it would take courage to knock on their door. After all, who knows what kind of people live behind those walls?
In truth, most of us know very little about our neighbors. And what we do know, or supposedly know, is more than likely gossip based on a bunch of big, fat lies.
Well, talking about neighbors and about lying leads me to some ancient instruction about how to live authentically. It's found, believe it or not, in the ninth of the Ten Commandments, which says:
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."
"False witness.'' That sounds like something from the days of powdered wigs, doesn't it? Like "Hear ye! Hear ye! Thou hast been a false witness! Off with his head!" But a simple definition of false witness would be "one who presents misleading or mistaken information."
Another word in this edict that we've heard used quite a bit lately is the word bear. "To bear," means, "to harbor, or to carry, like to carry a heavy burden." So if I may, in my Pollyannaish way, reword this decree into a more positive declaration, it would read like this:
"Don't give safe harbor to false information and mistaken ideas about your neighbor."
I was always taught that the ninth commandment said, "Don't lie." But, looking deeper we find that it's not so much about telling lies as it is about believing them.
Why would this be important?
First of all, believing false information about your neighbor keeps you in a place of fear. I call it Foe Fear, or should I spell it Faux Fear? It's the fear that what you think is good, right, and acceptable might not be the same as what your neighbor thinks. So, you piece all sorts of mistaken ideas together, convincing yourself that whoever lives on the other side of that backyard fence is up to something and you just know that it can't be good. So the walls go up.
By believing false or misleading information about your neighbor, you can't possibly see them honestly and clearly. In a way, you've put a mask on them.
But digging even deeper we find a much more important key to authentic living. You see, the truth is that your neighbor is who you are -- an expression of Pure Truth. So when you rally your forces to be on the lookout for dishonesty, deceit, and deception in others, you keep your mind in a stressful condition contrary to who you really are. You might as well be wearing a mask.
At the core of this cosmic credo is The Principle of Authenticity. It challenges us to take back the energy we've been expending on fears and false beliefs and to connect with the truth about Life, ourselves, and about others.
So, take off the mask. Erase all doubt about who you really are and what you're here to do. Allow yourself to clearly see yourself and your neighbor and it will, in the words of the wise, set you free -- free to live life the way it's meant to be lived -- peacefully, truthfully, authentically and successfully.