Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Lie

The first time we learn that we can consciously manipulate the truth for personal gain, we have no idea  what we are doing, what the consequences are and what negative, even evil, power has now entered our lives.
Children usually work at lying, they tell those obvious and broadly transparent fibs that do little to conceal the truth. The turned over cookie jar, spilled milk, messed pants or broken glass give it away pretty quickly. The lie, "I didn't do it!" Or even simply "Nothing!" are comical. Fortunate kids are corrected, and the reason is explained. Not so fortunate kids are stroked and even benignly encouraged. Kids from really dysfunctional families get both, and are left to try and figure it out.
The really dangerous lie is the one that is believed. That's when we learn to lie. Because the believed lie carries something terrific with it; the believed lie carries power.
I don't remember the exact year or grade, but I remember this: it was during Lent. Holy Week, to be specific. My class was in church for one of the solemn services traditional to the Catholic Chirch at that time of year. Some of the other boys and me, bored at the length of the service, began to clown around. We got loud. It distracted the priest, who said something from the altar. This was an unheard of rebuke in the late 50's and early 60's, and we knew that hell was coming as soon as the rite was over. You could see the nuns already shaking their heads and feel the tangible atmosphere of fear and doom that filled the church like the scent of incense..
We were instructed to stay after the service. The priest came out and asked "who was laughing?" No one spoke. He had someone bring out the crucifix, a big crucifix, with an agonized, bloody Christ on it. One by one the nuns brought the boys up to the crucifix and the priest asked "Were you laughing.?"
Everyone gave it up. They cried, they shook, they sweat and they admitted that they were laughing.
Everyone except me.
I hated to be kept after school, I hated detention and I especially hated boredom.
And, I had the idea in my head that as long as I didn't give in, they couldn't do anything to me. I mean, I knew that they could carry on and slap me around, which was common in those days, but they couldn't really do anything to me.
So I lied. When he asked if I was laughing, I said "No."
And they did holler and shake me and slap me. They made me kiss the cross and asked me again. My peers looked at me with hate in their eyes, and I lied. They took me around to all the grades, and  the crucifix, and asked me in front of all the other kids, and I lied.
And finally, they let me go.
Over the Easter break, every other boy had assignments to write (The Apostles Creed, 100x), convent basements to clean, parents to answer to (because they were called, of course.)
I read comics and played basketball.
I felt on top of the world.
I felt powerful.
I had lied, and was believed. I figured I had pretty much damned myself to hell, so what the heck. Might as well be out for me.
Obviously, this was not my last lie.
I lied about it the first time I drank alcohol, and I lied about it the first time I smoked pot and I probably lied about it when I popped my first pill or took my first hit of dope.
I lied to spouses, children, employers, landlords, friends and lovers.
It took me a dozen years to find my way to recovery and another forty years to find my way back to God.
I don't lie today. I don't lie because I really believe that my recovery and my connection to God can be easily severed, because both are truth and lying kills the truth.
Because every time I lied, I hurt someone. Starting with those kids writing the Apostles Creed who looked at me as a friend and then felt stupid and betrayed as a result of my actions.
Anyhow, a lot of my young clients seem to have the same disease I had, and we talk about it. They might say, well I don't know, I don't want to get clean and sober.
I say, then let's just work on telling the truth.


  1. Great post, I am so glad I found your blog. I'll be back...

  2. This post hit home. Lying and believing the lie elevate denial to a whole new level. Thanks for writing about this.

  3. It is hard for me to express how monumental, in my recovery, deciding to walk in truth was for me. It has changed everything about the way that I exist. I really enjoyed this post. Thank you for following my blog and i look forward to following yours.


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