“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses” (Proverbs 10:12, ESV).
Watergate. Whitewater. Iran-Contra. The Abu Ghraib tortures. All of these terms elicit the smell of a cover-up, the attempt of powerful men to hide their misdeeds.
This desire to cover up is a basic instinct. Immoral, but basic, nonetheless! We sense that it is wrong to cover up actions that were done in secret! In a democracy, the people have a right to know!
A couple of years ago I wrote a letter to someone expressing sorrow that his wife had died. The impulse was a good one, but I had misidentified him. It was his brother whose wife had died. He phoned me first — before contacting other people — and with gentle humor quoted Mark Twain’s classic statement: “The rumors of my wife’s demise,” he said, “are greatly exaggerated!”
I appreciated the way he covered over my wrong. It took a big man to contact me, and not, in his offence, expose my mistake to dozens of friends and family members.
Of course most of us have been covering up wrongs all our life — our own wrongs, that is. On the one hand, we find alibis, extenuating circumstances for our “mere” moment of weakness. On the other hand we like to expose wrongdoing — other people’s wrongdoing. We highlight others’ faults, and disguise our own.
The book of Proverbs suggests we do it the other way around. When your friend makes a mistake, don’t shout it from the rooftops. Don’t announce it on “Channel 7.” Lovingly, gently, cover for him.
This week, cover for a friend or a colleague. Those kinds of cover-ups are good!
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