On Friday morning last week, one of my children came downstairs with blue teeth. I didn’t notice but the other children clocked it in a second. “Why do you have blue teeth?” one sibling asked.
“Oh, maybe because I was eating blueberries last night,” the child replied so nonchalantly she could have flicked her hair.
Groggy and not sure I’d understood her correctly (this was pre-coffee, you understand), I asked, “But didn’t you brush your teeth before you went to bed?”
“No, I guess I didn’t.”
“That’s funny, because I was with you last night and I never saw you eating any blueberries,” said another sibling, who must smelled a rat.
Someone else asked, “Did a friend give you sweets at orchestra last night?”
“Yeah, she did!” she explained happily, then, “But just Haribos.” (gummy candy)
In what might have been the biggest grass-up of the century, her brother pointed out, “Some of those are shaped like minions. They’re blue.”
“OK, I SAVED THEM AND HAD THEM THIS MORNING IN BED,” my child finally declared with an indignant sigh. All I could do was belt out an uproarious belly-laugh (if you know me, you’ve heard it). She knows I’m not that excited about candy-before-breakfast. She tried to lie, then realised she should cut her losses and own up, because those siblings of hers were not going to let it pass. She and I, two people who are so alike in looks and temperament, gave one another that knowing look that says, “I know you and I love you, but sigh.”
This is just a small event, a moment in time between spoonfuls of porridge, in the hour after we wake up and before we began our day in earnest. It wasn’t a big deal or an extraordinary event. But it set me thinking about truth-telling and lying.
Back when I used to work with refugees, truth-telling was a big issue. People would tell me their stories, I’d write them down, and help them explain how they met the tight rules for receiving asylum. Then when the authorities refused their claims (which was usual because– I’m not sure whether you noticed– but asylum seekers aren’t all that popular, generally), I’d help them show why the authorities were wrong.
One of the biggest reasons a refugee would be refused asylum was because he lacked credibility. The authorities would point out that the claimant had lied, and those lies (even if it was a single lie) meant that the veracity of the whole claim was called into question.
We all lie. Some are little white lies (or blue ones, chewy and minion shaped, as the case may be). Others are a bigger deal. Nobody likes being lied to. Lies alienate people. Lies create disconnection. Lies destroy trust.
What I’m thinking about is not the lies my children tell me, but rather, the lies I tell myself. I wrote about them in my last post. Those lies that say:
You’re a bad mother.
You’re no good at this.
Anyone else could do this better.
You’re all alone.
We believe lies all the time. When we are mired in our own struggles—indeed, when we are desperate—we lie to ourselves. Desperate people lie.
We alienate ourselves from our Selves.
We become disconnected from the Truth.
We cease trusting ourselves.
In our own eyes, we lose credibility. We don’t know what to believe anymore. We convince ourselves that the lies are Truth. This is nothing but delusion.
The biggest lie of all is that we are separate. When you come to see this “truth” as a lie, you begin to see the world in a different way. You find that you’re not a terrible mother, just a person who is struggling to follow your heart and that other people do too. You find that it’s not that you aren’t good at this, rather you’re having a challenging time in this moment, and those challenges are a universal human experience. You find that everyone else is struggling too, to varying degrees, with different things. You find that the people who seem the most “together,” the ones who seem confident and well-dressed and happy—they too have their own secret pain. And their pain feels as painful to them as our pain feels to us.
Take a moment to consider: are the things you tell yourself about yourself Truth, or are they lies? Observe your mind and when the critical thoughts, the victim thoughts, the disconnection all come to the fore, can you see those lies for what they are? Can you smell the rat? And can you, like my child, admit that you got it wrong and give yourself that knowing look that says, “I know and I love you, but sigh”?
© 2015 Lisa Hassan Scott