Monday, February 22, 2010

God's Honest Truth

The truth hurts, doesn't it. Yeah, a lot of the time. I'm not talking so much about the basic honesty we're taught as children...

...Don't steal

...Don't lie

...Don't say REALLY LOUDLY, while waiting in a busy line in the grocery store, that mommy's butt is big.

Ouch.

Those kind of childhood lessons are easy enough to learn.

When I was about 10 years old, my friend and I roller-skated to a grocery store...we had a great scam. We took our skates off...went to the candy aisle...one of us went to buy something while the other stuffed the skates full of candy. We walked out, went to the drugstore next door and told the girl at the counter our bag broke, could we have another bag,  pleeeeeease?? We did this for a week. We never got caught. Ew. I still cringe when I think how we were SO scheming at such a young age. I had a whole dresser full of candy forEVER. And it never appealed to me. I was disgusted with my actions (and didn't much like my "friend"...it was easier to blame her for my sinful ways anyway).

About two years later different friends and I were hanging out in the attic of an empty house for sale. I think one of the boys had a stash of girly mags, but that was as evil as it got for us. When we were leaving the realtor caught us climbing over the fence. He grilled us about what we'd been doing. All my friends bold-faced lied to him. I said nothing. The only question I answered was one I could answer truthfully. I went home and told my parents, horrified I got caught, but proud that I at least answered the guy honestly when I did speak.

I grew up hating liars, cheaters and thieves. But...oh, the irony...

...but...did I ever take the candy back? Nope. And although I never again shoplifted, I sure as hell have collected a nice stash of paperclips, pens and notepaper from my jobs through the years. Did I REALLY tell the realtor the truth? Well, yes, technically, the one time. But by not answering his other questions, I was still lying in effect. Hey...I wasn't going to tell on my friends. But the only reason I wasn't going to do that was because they'd HATE me and I'd be labeled a rat. So I absolved my conscience by confiding in my parents. They were glad I told them the truth, told me to throw three Hail Mary's and go watch t.v., patting me on my head as I scooted to my room.

Since those days events have occurred in which I've had many opportunities to be blatantly honest, almost to a fault. Just ask my mom and dad. When I was 20 I was in an accident that totaled my car. Initially the police officer told me it wasn't my fault...but, after opening my mouth and telling the truth, I was found 50% at fault. Crap. If there's an authority figure involved, you will get every friggin' truth out of me possible. They may not even be mine!  I'll start spitting out some other guy's truth, just to keep the flow going. I'd be a terrible spy. Don't ask me to aid and abet you in anything. Hell, given the right pressure, I may even confess to being the third man on the grassy knoll and I wasn't even born until 1968.

Then there's the kind of truth where I've helped others become better people by being brutally honest with them about their personality problems. Riggggghhhhht. Good God, who the hell am I to do such a thing? Have I gone to millions of years of post grad school and received a degree in Psychology? It's one thing to pull a friend's covers, it's another to to point out their flaws – that's when I'm usually forcefully reminded that while I'm pointing one finger at someone, there's three pointing back at me.

But here's the easily deceptive beast of honesty I'm really talking about –

What I call God Gut Truth.

This is the kind of truth that is persistent, niggling...right there behind and slightly above my belly-button and it's annoying as hell if I ignore it. THIS is the painful truth I'm talking about. The kind that, should I acknowledge it, has potential to break my heart. It may even involve taking a symbolic bullet in order to do the right thing. It usually means action of some sort. It's also the kind that is the most spiritually powerful of all, if faced.

It's sometimes small....so small it's almost (ALMOST) undetectable, but the more I ignore it, it grows. I could lie to my mom, I could lie to my best friend, I could even convince the reflection I see in the mirror – and maybe even my dog (but dogs usually KNOW something's up – face it, if you can't look your dog in the eye, you're in trouble), but if I am really aware of myself, I KNOW when there's a truth being ignored because it's pinging around my insides.

Facing God Gut Truth with myself is probably the hardest thing to do, because it usually means I have to change something while I want to pretend nothing's wrong. Or maybe I risk something big by facing it. Then, to make matters worse, once I'm truthful with myself, there's probably someone else I'm gonna have to share that truth with. Who am I kidding...there's ALWAYS someone else involved. That's why the whole pretending thing happens. Gah! Lying to myself protects me from having to face the music elsewhere. I'd rather convince myself everything is fine in order to not deal with the fact that there is something to be dealt with.

I can lie to myself for lots of reasons:
  • Don't want to face reality. Happy fantasy, selfish indulgence, emotional gratification...it's a lot more interesting than problematic, old reality.
  • Don't want to be the bad girl and hurt someone.
  • Don't want to be the bad girl and hurt myself.
  • Don't want to know I'm capable of doing "such a thing" whatever that "such a thing" is.
  • Don't want other people to know I'm capable of "such a thing."
  • Don't want to know the truth because it means I have to take action. Ew, that means work.

Whatever it is, it usually comes down to fear of something:
  • Failure (or success??)
  • Losing dignity/not saving face
  • Losing possessions
  • Losing people
  • Losing a dream or a hope, which is sometimes the scariest loss of all
These, my friends, are called "consequences." And I am at a point in my life where consequences are much more profound than taking candy back to the store, or getting a lower insurance settlement. The consequences I deal with nowadays are of the type that shape my soul and my self-worth. I can make any choice I wish. I just need to be ready to deal with the  consequences.

Writing, I have found, has been the most effective way of uncovering the truth (and consequences) rumbling inside me. It's difficult to actually write down a lie and then READ it. Try it. It's actually impossible. You might be able to write it, but I dare you to try to read your own lie and know it as anything other than that. Especially if your dog is watching.

When I learn to face and answer those internal red flags of the God Gut on a regular basis, life gets to run fairly smoothly. But sometimes it's hard to be honest. Sometimes the fear makes me hesitate but there will be no serenity until the truth is told. Sometimes I tell it anyway, even knowing the consequences aren't tipped in my favor.  Sometimes the after-effects of being honest immobilize me – sometimes for awhile, sometimes just for a day – during which time it's pretty difficult to be proud of the fact that I have been noble. Telling the truth in face of humiliation may be noble, but sometimes noble sucks. Sometimes noble should just stay in old books and movies. But eventually the pain and tears of nobility pass and I have become a little stronger in character and in God's eyes. And the God Gut settles down a bit.

P.S. Dog is God spelled backwards. Weird, that.

2 comments:

  1. God can also mean "Good Orderly Direction."

    Great read; keep up the good work.

    Dave C

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  2. This matches my experience. I find that it is MOST important that I be honest with myself. If I cannot be honest with myself I will not grow as a person and I will not find serenity. Whether I lay the truth on someone else who may not even want it (does my butt look fat?) is a choice and may not be the right choice. The person who is asking whether they look fat is actually asking another deeper question and sometimes I choose to answer that (yes, you are acceptable as a person - I like you). It takes humility sometimes, no usually, to see and accept the truth, but without humility I cannot learn anything and my mind will close. -Jane B

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