And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.-John 8:32
Over the past few months, we have been visiting a family that is living in a tiny abandoned house in a city outside of São Paulo. We met this family through one of the sons who lived in the streets. Presently he is incarcerated for dealing drugs. Unfortunately his two older brothers are also in detention centers for the same crime. We are working with this family to help them stop the cycle. However, we can see why the three older boys left this household. It was due to their living conditions. The streets were better than living in their house and yet this is all they have. They do not have a functioning sewage and consequently there are puddles of sewage water in the house. The walls of the rooms are moldy. Besides this, there is hardly any privacy for the family members. This house is not fit for living but they do not have much of a choice. There are still three children ages 7 to 11 that are in danger of following the older siblings’ example. This is why we are working with this family. We want to stop these young ones from running away to the streets and embracing a life of crime and addiction.
One day the father of the household informed us that he had a leaky roof which was causing the house to flood even more. We asked him what he needed to fix the leak and he told us that fifty prefabricated roofing sheets should do the job. We got the money together and bought the sheets. When the day came for us to help him install the sheets, we saw the real problem for the leak. There were hardly any tiles on the roof. The materials we had were insufficient. We were shocked and a little discouraged. However, the father was optimistic. He was confident that what we had was sufficient to stop the leak. He was insistent that it would work but he was wrong. No amount of enthusiasm and optimism was going to change this fact. Some people would mistake this optimism as faith. However, Faith has nothing to do with false optimism. Having said this, none of us had the heart to take this false optimism away from him. It is this false optimism that sustains him. It gives him hope each morning to get out of bed. This man works hard but he does not earn enough to rent a house and feed his family. He can only do one or the other. He chooses to be optimistic because it is the only way he is able to put on a smile and face harsh reality. However, it would be foolish of us to confuse the smile for evidence of happiness.
Why is the Truth important? Why not just let the poor man continue in his false optimism? The poor man wants to be happy. He is seeking happiness like anyone else. He deserves to be happy. This is why the Truth need to be spoken.
True Happiness comes from knowing the Truth. The first step is perhaps to confront this false optimism. Falsity cannot be the foundation of any happiness. It can only lead to illusion and complete breakdown of the human spirit. Our motivation to work with this family is Love. It is not Love that comes from our own sense of morality but it is fruit of our own personal quest to know the Truth. Truth helped us understand the meaning of Love. Therefore, we cannot love someone honestly if we are going to abandon them to the destructive consequences of false optimism.
We don’t have the monopoly of the Truth. We need to seek Truth together with this man. His false optimism has made us question our own notions of happiness. It made us question whether we are putting all our eggs in the wrong basket, a basket that does not exist. It makes us wonder whether we are not succumbing to false optimism. We need to challenge ourselves with the Truth. We don’t go to this family thinking we know everything. We only know that our happiness lies in the Truth and we need to have courage to tear down the walls of false optimism to seek it. Love is the key that helps unlock the Truth. When we allow Love to bring us to places and people to serve, we find ourselves walking closer to the Truth. It frees us from the shackles of false optimism.