The most unexpected experiences - and scenes - reveal life more fully so we may move through it more freely.
Lies Are Comfortable, But They Cannot Hold Us
There’s an episode of Malcolm in the Middle in which Lois, the tyrannical, type A mother of the bunch, gets pulled over for impeding traffic. According to the cop, she pulled out of a parking lot right into oncoming traffic, forcing a vehicle to slam on its brakes.
In true Lois fashion, she’s adamant that she did nothing wrong, insisting that the lane was completely clear when she pulled out, and the cop was simply out to get her.
Somehow, her husband, Hal (played by the brilliant Walter Whi… I mean, Bryan Cranston) manages to convince her that she’s wrong and what results is a total shift in Lois’ previously indignant assertiveness. She becomes a complete pushover, too insecure and uncertain to stand by any of her declarations and Hal and the boys revel in it. For them, it feels like freedom.
Then, footage from a security camera is obtained, showing that the car Lois pulled in front of had just made an illegal u-turn before recklessly looping into the lane behind her van, nearly crashing into it. It’s now undisputable: Lois was right.
After viewing the tape in her absence, however, Hal ejects it, drops it on the ground and repeatedly stomps on it in order to keep Lois from ever viewing it and discovering her innocence. He’d spent too much effort convincing her of her guilt to let her discover the truth. And so he covered it up.
It’s really a hilarious, light-hearted episode and there’s no denying that Lois is far more enjoyable when she’s under the impression that she was mistaken.
But as usual, it struck me at a deeper level. See, I don’t think it’s all that uncommon for us to be, like Hal, genuinely aware of the truth and still downright disregard it in order to avoid the discomfort of admitting to our wrongness. Sometimes, it’s simply more comfortable to subsist in the confines of falsehood.
I was 16 years old the first time the truth was staring me straight in the face and I blatantly ignored it. I was seeing someone much older who had little interest in the relationship aside from what he could benefit physically. He had a noticeable lack of concern for me, my feelings, or my dignity.
I was in high school but I wasn’t stupid. In my heart of hearts, I was aware of his pernicious intentions but I didn’t have the courage or discernment to act accordingly and guard my heart. Time after time, he disrespected and rejected me, and even his closest friends warned me to keep my distance. (Can you hear Taylor Swift’s song Dear John creeping up in the background?)
Still, there were those rare but oh so sweet occasions when he insisted that I was his one and only. They were small, deceitful snippets of his false sincerity but boy, did I cling to them.
Like Hal and the boys with pushover Lois, it simply felt better, at least temporarily, to live in the lie that he loved me.
But the truth doesn’t care how we feel. The truth functions and prevails at a level far beyond fickle, human emotions.
And sure enough, after months of shoving aside the sad reality of our relationship, it all came crashing down. The unavoidable truth manifested itself in a disturbing and disgraceful yet oddly liberating way, and the lie that I’d tried so hard to lean on suddenly evaporated into a muddle of nothingness.
I’ve made the mistake of avoiding the truth many times since then, and I continue to do it even now, in some form or other.
We all do, and it’s not just in relationships. It’s in matters of faith, politics, health, addictions, destructive behavior, life and death, you name it. We often prefer the cozy confines of a lie because of the discomfort that can accompany the truth.
We run away, hoping our falsehoods will protect us, but the thing about lies is that they’re not dependable. They don’t actually give us anything to lean on because they’re not actual things themselves, but more the absence of something – the absence of truth.
Like how cold is simply the absence of heat, lies are holes in the fabric of truth. They can’t hold us. We just fall deeper and deeper into them.
The truth, on the other hand, is sturdy, dependable and so redemptive. It’s something we can enter more deeply into and lean on in the confidence that we are geared toward what is real and right.
That’s why a guilty conscience belongs to someone not living in accordance with truth. I recall frequently feeling timorous, ashamed and fake throughout that disastrous relationship. I was dishonest with myself and those closest to me and constantly made stupid attempts to justify things that were plain and simple unjustifiable. I spun a perplexing web of lies, trying to cover up the true toxicity of the situation.
One of the advantages that truth has over falsehood is its plainness. Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Denial of the truth, however, requires strategizing and layering lie upon lie. It’s so messy. The truth is simple and liberating and when acknowledged and followed, it heals and strengthens us and the rest of the universe in ways far beyond our comprehension.
In Matthew Kelly’s book Perfectly Yourself, he explains a fascinating aspect of existence that we all too often disregard: connection. “Just because you do something in the privacy of your home, behind closed doors, with no one else involved and no one else to witness the act, does not mean that the act does not affect other people.”
I know. It’s heavy stuff to reflect on because it’s SO much more comfortable to assume that my misbehavior and involvement in lies and immorality aren’t really hurting anyone. But that belief actually detracts from my value as a human being in this world.
You see, I DO matter. My actions and decisions matter, and they matter very much. Even from my itty bitty corner of existence, the repercussions of what I do, whether good or bad, are intricately laced into the fabric of mankind. “Your actions,” Kelly writes, “however private, have consequences for you and for all of humanity.”
I can either cling to the universal, imperishable threads of truth, or lose myself – and my soul – in the murky holes of lies and evil. One leads to freedom, the other to destruction.
The truth will always set us free. That’s why truth deserves to be sought and courageously stood for, and why remaining shackled in the comfortable confines of lies is so extensively detrimental. No matter how temporarily pleasant the toxic relationship or presumably guilty Lois may be, if they’re not based on what is real and true, they’re inevitably going to collapse.
Seek and cling to Truth. We will surely stumble in our pursuit, but like a lighthouse amidst the waves, it will illuminate the way.