Telling the truth.

I have a problem with honesty.

Do you?

When I was young, this problem looked like actual lying — mostly about things that didn’t matter at all.

“Have you seen such-and-such movie?” someone would ask.  I would lie and say I had.  I laughed or nodded contemplatively along with the person as he or she recounted our supposedly shared experience.  It was too hard to tell the truth because I risked alienating myself.  It was so important to me to find common ground that I lied — which, of course, doesn’t create common ground at all.

Soon, relationships were not the only fragmentation I encountered; I lied to cover up the disconnect in my own life.  I lied to my parents as an attempt to maintain their image of me as a responsible and obedient daughter.  I kept information from friends that would reveal my Christian upbringing and morality, because I thought it would make them feel other.

After years of this, I finally told a silly little lie that grew and grew, about the cause of a car accident I was in.  I lied in the moment after a friend made me feel stupid, and I realized immediately that I couldn’t take back what I had said.  I forced myself to keep the lie going and I told it to my parents, my family, and even the insurance company.  Months later, I realized I hadn’t been able to be truly alone since that day — any time I was by myself with my thoughts I felt nauseated and dizzy.  My lie had grown and made me its slave.

Now obviously, this blog post is not the first time I’ve come clean about this lie.  Eventually, I felt so sick over it that I told the truth.  I’ve often seen this event as the catalyst for a huge life change in me, wherein my conscience was restored — I’ve even said that since this event, I haven’t been able to tell a lie.

But if I’m honest with myself, there are ways dishonesty enslaves me.

I’m so grateful that this situation taught me the importance of honesty, especially in my closest relationships.  God used an ugly but relatively unimportant issue to expose the much bigger lies I was living.  I don’t keep secrets or live a double life anymore.

But I do not have to tell lies to be dishonest.

Dishonesty is also withholding truth.

I find my biggest problem in writing to be that I refuse to tell the real, whole truth.  I worry about appeasing deep-seated anger and self-pity, and, more illogically, about being read.  Why bother telling a truthful story well if I will never allow anyone to read it? I ask myself.

Some time ago, a counselor spoke to me about telling the truth when I talked to her.  In that moment, I was trying to speak about experiences that influenced me to be the way I am.  I censored myself over and over again, worried that I might make my family seem less than perfect, or that I might exaggerate truth based on how something felt to me instead of how it really happened.  I didn’t want to fall into self-pity and blame, or shift responsibility for my failures onto the way others treated me or onto the examples they set for me.

Honesty often requires painful digging.

I don’t want to think about the fact that a friend or family member made me feel inadequate, or that I have intentionally harmed people I care about.  I don’t want to admit that some of my less-than-admirable qualities may have been not only genetically transferred but also modeled in my home, and in the same way I don’t care to remember the awful example I set for my younger siblings and their friends.  I want to pretend I never hurt you and you never hurt me.  But that just isn’t how life happens, or how truth works.

There is a difference between choosing not to remember because all has been forgiven and choosing not to remember because all has been under rug swept.  There is a place for both, and the space between is a fine line I’m still learning to walk — after all, God chooses not to remember my sin.  But that line is not an excuse to pretend parts of my life did not occur just because those parts did not look the way I would like to remember them.

Artists, more than anyone, have to visit the places we don’t want to visit.  We don’t come up unscathed and unaffected.  We choose to rip scabs off old wounds.

What is this artists’ life, that only by grace can we avoid becoming bitter, angry fools with pens?

We dive into mire and come up changed.  We plunge our hands into mud to find lost treasures.  We brush dirt off of diamonds.

But too often, I disregard the high calling to reveal beauty in ashes.  I am a coward.  I skim the surface, and I find nothing worth holding onto.

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  • http://coleandlaura.blogspot.com/ Laura

    Thank you for this, Brynna.

    • brynna

      You’re so welcome. :) Thanks for your encouragement.

  • Lydia

    Beautiful

  • Rachel

    If you were the coward you claim, you would not have written or shared this post.

    I love you and I’m so proud of who you continue to become :)

    I’m sure this post helped more people reading it than you and I both.

    xoxo,
    jj.

  • http://www.sarahjschmitt.com/ Sarah J Schmitt (@SJSchmitt)

    Wow… I totally know what you’re talking about. I like to blame my honesty issues on my creative storytelling, but most of it was really due to good old fashioned self-loathing. It’s nice to be using it for good instead of evil! Good luck with the writing.

    Sarah

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