When I was younger, my sister told me I was adopted. For a few minutes, I believed her. It was a story that was plausible. Sometimes I felt like I didn’t fit in with my family. I felt different at times. Her statement tapped into my insecurities. I was vulnerable to believe her.
This is how fake news can also take root in our lives.
In his 2018 World Day of Communications Message, Pope Francis said fake news refers to the spreading of disinformation online or in the traditional media. It has to do with false information based on non-existent or distorted data meant to deceive and manipulate the reader. Spreading fake news can serve to advance specific goals, influence political decisions, and serve economic interests.
As parents, we need to make decisions each day about our children and families. Do we make these decisions based on truth?
To really know truth, Pope Francis says, we should reflect on Jesus Christ who is the truth, the way and the life. If something is true, it encourages communion and promotes goodness as opposed to what isolates and divides us. He says, “Truth flows from free relationships between persons, from listening to one another.”
The best antidotes to falsehoods, Pope Francis continues, are not strategies, but people: people who are ready to listen, people who make the effort to engage in sincere dialogue so that the truth can emerge.
For families, that means respect, kindness and compassion. My sister, who is a wonderful person, misled me at that moment for her own reasons. It might have been jealousy or just a good old prank. But through dialogue and listening, the truth did emerge.
Pope Francis also offered a wonderful prayer that read in part:
where there is shouting, let us practise listening;
where there is confusion, let us inspire harmony;
where there is ambiguity, let us bring clarity;
where there is exclusion, let us offer solidarity;
where there is sensationalism, let us use sobriety;
where there is superficiality, let us raise real questions;
where there is prejudice, let us awaken trust;
where there is hostility, let us bring respect;
where there is falsehood, let us bring truth.