Two people have, and keep, a secret that no one else knows. They tell lies to everyone else to protect their secret, to protect each other, to protect themselves. Because the secret belongs to them. And only them. It’s special. It’s something that can be revisited over and over again by the two who share it. And that’s lovely. It’s even unifying. But lies, well, lies are destroyers. Like the people who wield them, whether wittingly or not.
I’m not talking about the lie you told your boss to avoid explaining you had diarrhea for the last hour instead of a meeting. Or when you tell your spouse you’re at an appointment when you’re actually arranging for a second honeymoon. I’m talking about BIG lies. The kind of lies you tell because you know the truth is so horrific, the person you are lying to would smile but maintain eye contact, then slowly, very slowly, back away while making the sign of the cross.
When you’re vulnerable—socially, like children, or financially, like a spouse, or emotionally, because you suffered past trauma and abuse—you will learn how to lie, and, lie well. Lies told for self-preservation are understandable, even if still painful. But what about lies that are told just because a person wants to drag you, and everything you are, and everything you have, through 1,000-miles of mud and back again??? That’s about the distance between #NewYork and #Georgia, by the way. I’ve driven it. Often. And it ain’t fun. But neither is the truth that drives a lie.
Have you ever had someone call their adult child by a different name for over year before you learn the kid’s first name is something you’ve never even heard before??? I have. And, that the reason for the initial lie was to cover up the truth about the new adult’s felony crime? Sadly, I have.
Have you ever had someone lie about their former spouse being involved in the wrongful death of another human being? I have. And, that the lie included omissions about their spouse’s name(s), multiple marriages, age, and, place of employment in an effort to side track you from the truth??? Indeed…I have.
Have you ever had a person omit the truth about the reason behind their incarcerated family member’s jail sentence, only to learn that two of the charges involved a minor child…a fact you discovered AFTER you were pregnant? Oh God in Heaven, I have.
Have you ever had someone deny the truth about their participation in an aggravated assault against you that included shooting arrows into your home, through metal doors, a glass window, one of the half dozen or so even sticking in the drywall 25-feet away from the entry point—something only a very tall man with a massive upper body could accomplish from the initial distance the arrow was shot from??? I. Have.
Of the many lies I have heard in the last two years, the worst by far was this: “I love you.”
All the other lies pale in comparison to that last one. IF it was a lie. See, that’s the problem with lying. Even when you tell the truth, after a while, no one can tell the difference.
Words are certainly the popular delivery method of most lies. But as the Adrienne Rich quote so aptly points out, silence conveys lies, too. The biggest lie in silence is that the person withholding their words is doing so because they no longer find you valuable enough to speak to. Usually, however, it’s quite the opposite. The silence itself, a mere symptom of deep shame and guilt.
That shame, that guilt, is completely understandable given the magnitude of the lies I’ve been told. And all from the same person. But look at the lies. Look at what they’re about. It’s actually reasonable. Who wouldn’t lie about those things??? I mean, if he had told the truth, would any intelligent, worthwhile woman agree to have a child with a man whose family ties reflect crimes like the death of another person, harming a minor child, and, felony theft??? Who would ever take him seriously? Besides other criminals. Or, the people connected to them. And those individuals are not exactly the most discerning group.
No, if the man who told me those whoppers wanted even a modicum of normalcy in his life, he would have to lie. But he would also have to trust that the person he chose to be his friend—out of the seven-billion people on this planet—would at least try to understand when he finally revealed the awful truth. Even if she could not fully wrap her brain around it, she would attempt to empathize.
But I suppose a man whose life is full of criminals has only one context: Distrust. It would seem, then, that the bigger challenge is not in telling the truth, but in having enough faith in another human being to do so.