Why the Truth Will Set You Free

Good people hide the things they have done that cause harm. A guy cheats on a test, steals from the cash register, blows the rent money at a casino, shoplifts a vaping pen, or has an affair. Such an act or omission that is broadly destructive is called an “overt” in Scientology—an intentionally committed harmful act, committed in an attempt to resolve a problem. 

So what does a basically good person do after something like that?

The first thing he does is look for a reason he did the harmful act. “I’m a good person,” he thinks, “so there’s obviously a reason I did what I did, right? The teacher doesn’t like me and is looking for an excuse to give me an F. So I’m just protecting myself by cheating on the test.” Since this is an automatic response, the person may not even be aware he is doing it—it all makes sense to him.

Man by a window
Photo by ArtMari/Shutterstock.com

“Sure I took some money from the cash register, because the owner marks the regular prices as sale prices to trick people. It’s OK to cheat a cheater. And I took a vaping pen, big deal. Stores all have insurance so it doesn’t really matter.”

“So I blew the rent money at the casino, who wouldn’t? I’m stuck in a dead-end job, everything is stacked against me, I work my butt off to keep my head above water, while the rich get richer. My only chance is if I hit the lottery, so hey, I bet the rent money. The landlord can’t evict me unless I get two months behind, so everything is cool.”

“Sure I cheated on my wife, everyone does it—there are at least 10 websites that help married people hook up. My wife doesn’t care, she’s really let herself go, gained some weight, goes around in sweat clothes all the time. Polyamory, open marriages, it’s all OK now. Hey variety is the spice of life, right?”

So the wrongdoer has it all figured out. He has something called a “justifier” in Scientology. He’s convinced himself that he had a good reason to do what he did—almost. He’s not going to tell anyone what he did (a Scientologist would say he has a “withhold”), but he can’t help but blurt out his “reasons” for doing it, at least to himself. He’s done something harmful, he’s keeping it secret, but he has his reasons for doing it all lined up, his alibi ready to go, his defense worked out, should someone find out. He knows he’s harmed someone or some group, and the best defense is a good offense, he thinks. So he complains about the persons he’s harmed to justify what he did. “The teacher is probably racist, the grocer drinks on the job, my landlord won’t repair anything he’s such a tightwad, my wife doesn’t understand me. Bla bla bla.”

If you complain long and loud to a Scientologist about your spouse, your boss, your church or your kids, the Scientologist may ask you an interesting question: “Have you done something they almost found out about?” 

This is the heart and soul of gossip, the nasty “negativity” on social media, the critical buzz around celebrities—all of it is sure-fire evidence that a good person has done a bad thing and is compulsively justifying that thing he did, which he keeps secret. There are legitimate reasons for complaints, of course, but this negative chatter—called “natter” in Scientology—always indicates a real overt. A good person can’t help but natter about someone he’s harmed.

And there are other effects of such a transgression. Someone who harms his or her family, for example, begins to separate from it emotionally. He is more distant, spends less time at home, is less attentive to spouse and kids. Each individual withhold acts as a brake on free and open communication. One must not reveal something, so communication has to pass through a sort of internal censor to ensure the withhold is not divulged. The communication, which has been fresh and open, tightens up a bit, becomes less spontaneous, more careful, less real.

How many times have people said they are breaking up because “We’ve just grown apart”?

And there’s more. The internal pressure of the wrongdoer spikes if he or she thinks people nearly found out—or as Scientology terms it, he has a “missed withhold.” The storekeeper is puzzled when the register receipts don’t match and asks the clerk about it. The wife asks her husband if he thinks their neighbor is attractive, a parent asks the student where she got the vape pen, the roommate mentions that the landlord came by yesterday and asked to talk to him.

In spite of all the justifications and explanations to self about how the action was perfectly reasonable, the person is not happy. “Clean hands make a happy life,” said Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard. And the more justifiers and rationalizations coming out of the person’s mouth, the unhappier they are. Why? Because they are basically good beings exerting a tremendous amount of effort in an attempt to convince themselves that what they did was OK.

If you complain long and loud to a Scientologist about your spouse, your boss, your church or your kids, the Scientologist may ask you an interesting question: “Have you done something they almost found out about?” Ouch! A Scientologist might ask you to write down your overts and withholds, and when those misdeeds have been completely aired out, the relief is considerable. There are no punishments, although once the overts and withholds are disclosed, basic goodness reasserts itself and the person is eager to take responsibility, make up for any damage done and set a more positive course of action for the future.

Mountain and sky

Scientology ethics results in relief for the person, the resumption of full communication with friends and family, and the restoration of integrity, self-confidence and productivity.

None of this would work if people were basically bad. There are a small percentage of people who are truly dangerous and destructive, but even they are basically good, though digging them out of their destructive ways is a much more complex task than the above. For the vast majority of people, however, their basic goodness will rise to the occasion and so pointing out and addressing ethical lapses is usually sufficient to release them from the bad effects of their past misdeeds.

One of the causes of bigotry can be overts and withholds. A soldier, for example, kills a civilian in the Vietnam War, and begins complaining about the Vietnamese. A student lies about another student and from then on makes critical comments about that student to whoever will listen. Why does Frank have such animosity against a person, group or religion? Harmful acts committed by Frank against that person, group or religion.

So if you hear someone on television, in the press, in person or on social media criticizing their spouse, their company or some religion, realize they have committed overts, have withholds and missed withholds and are frantically trying to justify their misdeeds.

STAND corrects the lies spread by Scientology’s detractors—some of whom wrote entire books and made television shows comprised solely of lies and complaints—by exposing their transgressions and countering their lies with the truth.

Clean hands do make a happy life, and the truth will set you free.

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