Can you forgive a lie told to "protect" you, but not a foolish, whimsical teenage blunder?
Can you forgive a betrayal from a friend, but not a lie told to avoid confrontation?
How many times can the truth be mocked before it's too many? How many times do you go back for manipulation and mistreatment from friends and family before it's too much? When are lies actually justifiable, for any reason? I have certainly found ways to justify them. I can't imagine someone who hasn't. As a young child I remember being shocked when I heard my mother tell a manager at ToysRUs that the box to a toy she was returning had been destroyed, knowing full well it was out in the car. I tried to correct her and remember being swept aside quickly. It shattered some lofty ideal I had in my head and probably led to the downfall of my absolute faith in fairies. Mom, you a responsible for the death of a thousand pixies (just kidding). Years later when I shared this memory with my mom she was absolutely mortified, and no surprise, couldn't even remember the incident. To this day my mother would rather be chained to the rack and forced to eat a thousand spiders than tell the smallest white lie, knowing the impact that made. It's really inconvenient when I try to pretend it's my birthday for a free coffee in front of her. But it's a good way to get her to pay for my coffee, reminding her where I learned my dishonesty skills...
I believe in grace. Without it, I would be friendless, loveless, homeless, childless, and most likely dead. I am the chiefest of all sinners and have not a stone to cast toward a lesser sinner than I. There are people that I have chosen to distance myself from because the heartache and the dishonesty that go hand in hand have become too heavy a tax on the life I have chosen. And yet how many people have I taxed to exhaustion that still love me? I believe intensely that for every spotless person you introduce me to, you will find a closet of filth and shame that they simply can not acknowledge. Some people say this is cynical of me, and if this truth made me avoid people, I would agree. I believe in the depravity of man. How can I not, when I live it? I am depraved. We are all animals with instincts of self-preservation and self-indulgence and curiosity and driving needs. The thing that sets us apart from many other animals is our ability, our privilege to chose to forgo our comfort for that of others. We see this act of will in other animals too - dogs are the great protectors who will shiver in the cold to keep a lost child warm, or bark until they lose their voice to alert us to danger (imagined or otherwise). This is selflessness. This is a response to a duty that they have adopted. Much like we adopt the duty to care for one another. For our children. For our lovers. For our friends. I have been guilty of the worst imaginable violations of this duty. To my children. To my lovers. To my friends. Every day I examine myself and am no longer surprised to find the messy remains of selfishness that are spilling over into my relationships. But every day I try to chose to be right to the people I love, at the expense of my ego, my reputation, my sterling innocence. I still mess up. I still have things that I hold so tightly protected inside that I can't imagine sharing them with anyone. And maybe some of these "secrets" are ok. But where is the line. How many secrets can a person have before he becomes nothing more than a liar? One? Two? Sixteen?
It is apparent to most people who know me that I have some issues relating to trust. These issues would probably be easier to deal with if people would stop lying to me. Certain people would love to remind me about the deliberate dishonesty I have issued them. Which is true. I have and probably will again. Where is the line between a white and a black lie? Does telling my mom I love the sweater she knitted equate grossly under exaggerating the amount of money I've spent to my husband? Does omitting the fact that I hate lima beans to my friend who served them for dinner cause the same damage that omitting information to my husband about someone who propositioned me at the bar? Why do we hang on to information that should or could be shared? Is it fear or kindness. I have almost as many honesties as lies in my life that I regret. Maybe because the consequences simply weren't worth it, but is that because in the same breath that we issue forth lies we deny grace for admissions of guilt? What is wrong with us people. Why can't be honest like dogs and children. Your shoes are ugly. I crapped on your bed. I am sorry. Please love me again. I didn't do it to hurt you. Only very, very troubled people enjoy inflicting pain. Like body piercers and tattoo artists. Right, Ariel? But by and large, as humans, we tell lies to avoid accountability, to spare pain, to cover our asses. How much is too much? Is it ok to tell my husband that I cleaned the house spotlessly and hope he never finds the bill to MerryMaids? What he doesn't know can't hurt him right? Why would I withhold information about a guy flirting with me online, unless I enjoyed the flirting, or somehow thought the inappropriate contact made him a good candidate for a family friend and wanted my husband to not hate him?
I have given to others almost as much grace as I have been given in my life. Some would argue that it was too much in both directions. For my part I cannot imagine withholding grace because I deserve so much for it to be withheld from me. Of all of the depraved human beings, who am I to judge another? I have enough to sort out in the hereafter with the Big Guy without needing to tattle tale on a bunch of other losers. Unfortunately sometimes too much damage is done to a relationship to salvage it. I understand this. It doesn't really mean there's no grace, but luckily as human beings we get to choose how we live our lives and who we surround ourselves with. Not like dogs or kids who are stuck with whatever fateful lot they are assigned. It's a crap shoot for sure. I know that I got damn lucky as a kid. And I know my dogs got damn lucky too. It only makes sense that my kids get to be damn lucky and I give a little bit of the thankfulness I have for the life I was given back to some other people. It isn't that mom and dad did everything perfectly - I have yet to meet parents who have. But they were surely selfless, and responded to the duty that they were assigned. This is as much as a child can ask for. Or a dog. Or a friend. "Freedom's not your right to choose. It's answering what's asked of you."
I have no control over the honesty, integrity, motivation or response to duty over any one but me. I have come to believe that dishonesty hurts the person carrying the lie exponentially more than the one being lied to. For all I am worth I hope to be the one who can own my mistakes, uncover my lies and be the person that the people around me need. And full of grace.