My parents taught me to lie. Don’t misunderstand, neither of them ever directly said you need to learn to lie, nor did they expect anything but the truth when they questioned me; nevertheless both of them encouraged deceit as a necessary tool for survival. Deceit represents false armor in a dysfunctional co-dependent family. Keep in mind those descriptions of my family were unknown to me until midway into my 30’s. We were a diseased unit, but I didn’t know that then. What I knew was, we had secrets from each other and from outsiders.
One afternoon when I was about 12, my Dad picked me up from the public library and we drove out in the country outside town. I could already smell booze on him and see his eyes were glazed over. I huddled against the door, frightened but unsure what if any course of action was open to me. He pulled off on a dirt road, stopped, pulled a pint of whiskey from under the seat and downed it as I watched. Wiping his mouth, he laughed that strange laugh of a drunk, grabbed my arm, slurring the command, “this will be our secret, no need to tell your mother.” I nodded, wondering what part was I to keep secret, because my mother would know he was drunk the minute he drove up in the driveway. . .should we make it home alive. Still, I knew I was to say nothing and deny that he had been drinking if asked. What I also knew was that my mother had an outstanding grocery bill and whiskey did not figure into a budget already in arrears.
My mother had her own secrets and my bothers and I (especially me, as the oldest and only daughter) were expected to be co-conspirators. In some ways the lies I learned to tell with and for her seemed less malignant than the lies I shared with my father. My Dad did not approve of church, and although he allowed my Mom to take us on Sunday, he did not want us to be baptized. In our denomination baptism was a symbol of having accepted Jesus as our personal savior and our church practiced immersion. Not a problem for my brothers when they were baptized with their buzz cuts, but for me…well. She sat me down and explained that so Daddy wouldn’t get mad and we all knew how Daddy handled anger, disappointment, problems, it was up to me to wear a bathing cap and not share my faith experience around him. The implication to my 10 year old brain was that if Daddy found out and got drunk, it would be my fault. There were other things we kept from him, like money Mom kept back.
Along with all the lies within the family were the lies we told to my grandparents, friends, church members and others. Deceit’s tentacles twisted in and out of the fabric of our lives. For me I tried to create an imaginary world, a backstory–I found an aptitude for learning and in that area I kept my integrity, but still for more years than I care to think about even after my faith became real, when in a sticky situation I would catch myself lying, or almost lying, even about unimportant silly things. Although truth once again is my friend, I realize the damage done by every single lie especially to those I love and to myself.
All those secrets, all those lies in my childhood did not protect us at all. Their destructive power left each of us broken, damaged and estranged. Only in the final 2 decades of her life did my mother and I mend our relationship. Even then there were still secrets, at least I know I kept some of mine.
This is why forgiveness is so important, first to recognize the need in myself and then in others, then to confess it to God and to others, then to accept it, or give it first that GOD FORGIVES ALL…and then that I am forgiven and called to forgive.
Carolyn’s Suggestions for Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Forgiveness frees the one who forgives and the one forgiven.
Forgive yourself for all those drafty little memories that crop up to remind you of all the dumb things you ever did or said…by the way, how come those are the things that stay vividly entrenched.
Next forgive every member of your family–yes, you do have some lingering complaints.
Forgive all your childhood acquaintances, friends, teachers, yes, even and especially the bullies.
Forgive until no face, no hurtful scene crops up to torment and steal another precious moment of the joy and freedom in The Lord Jesus Christ.