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Romano Guardini on Truthfulness



All relations of men with each other, the whole life of the community, depend on faithfulness to truth.

Man is a mysterious being. If someone stands before me, I see his exterior appearance, hear his voice, grasp his hand; but what is going on within him is hidden from me. The more real and vital it is, the more deeply it is buried. So there arises the disturbing fact that the association of persons with each other and that means the greater part of life is a relation which moves from one mystery to another. What forms the bridge? The facial expression and gestures, the bearing and actions, but, above all, the word. Through the word man communicates with man. The more reliable the word, the more secure and fruitful the communication.

Moreover, human relationships are of varying depth and significance. The gradation passes from mere getting along with one another and mans' simple needs to the life of the soul, to the workings of the mind, the question of responsibility, and the relation of person to person. The way leads ever deeper, into the special, individual, profoundly personal, into the range of freedom where our calculations fail.

So the truth of the word becomes ever more important. This is applicable to every kind of relationship, above all to those upon which life in the proper sense depends: friendship, collaboration, love, marriage, the family. Associations that are to endure, to grow and become fruitful must become ever more pure in the truthfulness of each toward the other; if not, they will disintegrate. Every falsehood destroys the community.

But the mystery goes deeper. It does not consist merely in the fact that every communication passes from the hidden depths of one person to those of another, but everyone also communicates with himself.

I consider myself, test and judge myself, decide about myself. Then this duality again unites into the single self and thereafter bears within itself the results of this encounter. This is constantly happening in the process of the interior life. It is the way in which it is accomplished.

But what if I am not truthful in dealing with myself? What if I deceive myself, pretend? And do we not do this constantly? Is not the man who is always "in the right" most perilously "in the wrong?" Does not the man in whose opinion others are always at fault constantly disregard his own fault? Is not the one who always gets his way living in a tragic delusion, unaware how foolish, how conceited, how narrow, how brutal he is and what harm he is doing? If I wish to associate properly with myself and so with others, I must not disregard my own reality, must not deceive myself, but must be true in dealing with myself. But how difficult that is, and how deplorable our state if we honestly examine ourselves!