We’ve been told lies about ourselves. Depending on our frame of mind when these lies are told, we may or may not be able to respond in a healthy way. Sometimes, in unfortunate times, we take the lies to heart and they change our lives. Lies can shape our self-perception and determine what we believe ourselves capable of. Lies limit us and belittle us; they make us fear and doubt. Lies are powerful because they parade as truth. Lies have enough of the sheen or smell of truth to make us believe that they are real, like a scarlet carnation placed brazenly in a bouquet of lover’s roses. It takes a discerning eye to distinguish between what is true and what is false.
When I was a little girl, I rode the bus to school. My relentless bully G.W. rode the same bus. Whenever he was near, G.W. teased me, threw crabapples at me, sang mean songs about me, called me names and made the other boys laugh and point at me. He was nasty and cruel but somehow lots of our classmates like G.W.. One unfortunate day we had to share a seat on the bus. To my everlasting shock, G.W. struck up a friendly conversation. Surprised that he was talking to me like a real person, I talked back. I even made him laugh. At the end of our conversation G.W. said, “You know Corrie, you could be really popular if you hung out with cooler people. You know, just got different friends.”
All of the sudden life seemed pretty rosy. Here was one of the “coolest” kids in school telling me that I had what it took to be popular. A few seconds later reality hit me like the stench of last week’s garbage piled in a hot garage. G.W.’s comment was a big, stinking lie. The lie was not that I could be popular, but that being popular mattered. Though G.W.’s words courted me with visions of life being loved and admired by everyone, he offered me a worthless promise. I loved my friends; they were kind to me and we always had fun. If being popular meant abandoning loyal friends for cruel G.W. and his pack of meanies, then I wanted nothing to do with popularity. For a few moments the lie tempted and flattered, but ultimately, I saw it for what it was.
The ironic thing is, not all lies are meant to deceive. Some lies are obvious and their purpose is to intimidate, to harm and to maim. These lies are like giant clubs swinging toward your head at the hands of a herculean warrior. Even if you sense danger, there isn’t time to get out-of-the-way. Suddenly you’re hit, knocked to the ground, breathless and wounded.
When I was a young woman I made a friend named Alice. Though we were absolutely nothing alike, Alice became my best friend. She loved me, cared for me and understood me better than any friend I’d ever had. Like all relationships, ours had its difficulties. A series of squabbles left underlying tension. Then one week Alice was sick and I was overwhelmed with schoolwork. I stayed away so Alice could rest and sleep and so I could get some projects done. I didn’t know that Alice expected me to take care of her. My friend felt abandoned and was so upset that she refused to speak to me. Instead, she wrote me a letter. Alice said that I was a horrible friend, that I could not call myself a Christian because I didn’t stay and take care of her. She wrote several hundred slicing and hateful words. Instantly, I knew that she wrote out of anger and misunderstanding. I knew her words were lies not to be taken into account, but they hurt. I cried for hours. I was numb for days. I was sad for weeks. I never imagined that my best friend could say such horrible and untrue things about me, to me. I kept telling myself that they were lies, but I couldn’t shield myself from the hurt they caused. Despite many attempts at mending, our friendship never fully recovered from that incident. We quickly drifted apart and are no longer friends.
It seems that the older I get, the more I understand the power and potency of lies. They can change the course of our lives, sometimes for good, but often for bad. Lies are everywhere – spoken by friends and strangers, hidden in all forms of media and advertising. I wish there were special contact lenses that I could wear to discern between the truth and lies. I wish I had a magic force field that protected my heart from the destructions that lies have caused in my life. Often, I’m blind and weak. But I’m fighting back.
Your story about Alice makes me so sad. I think the fact that you give me space when I need it is one of my favorite things about you as a friend. I’ve never had a friend who was as good at that as you are. It’s so sad that she misinterpreted that and hurt you.