It is commended: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
If we lie about our neighbors, or to them, we might make them angry, or hurt them, but they need not accept. They can easily destroy the lie by searching out the truth.
But, what if we lie to ourselves? What if, because we can’t face the truth, we tell ourselves that what is isn’t. What isn’t is. Or deny we did what we did? Or said what we said?
Or lie to ourselves that it’s okay to cheat on an exam, or a score card, or income tax. And what’s so wrong with adultery as long as your mate doesn’t find out?
Some lies weave a web of fantasy, and to maintain that fantasy we need to concoct another lie, and another, and another. Until the mind gets confused it can’t distinguish between truth and falsehood, reality and fiction.
Truth has substance; no matter how it is hidden it’s still there. A lie is a figment of the imagination, vaporous, for which no truths can be found when needed?
O Lord, let us not lose our sense of reality, or fear to face a truth.
Teach us, thou shalt not lie unto owns self.
I’m writing a response to this invocation on Christmas day. A few minutes ago, Bryan and Casey, my step-children’s sister and her husband showed up. They were carrying a newsletter, which showed a picture of one of their relatives who quite suddenly announced they were breaking up.
They’d been married for years, and to observers they were madly in love, a model couple. However, it came to light that they husband had been having an affair for many, many years. The truth caught up with him after years of lies. Evidently, he worked with the woman with whom he was having the affair, and there was no covering up the truth once the deception started to leak out.
Regrettably for the perpetrator, and those around them, a lie or deception can be challenging to mask. My grandmother wrote in a diary she kept in 1953 of my mother’s mendacity. At the time, my mother, who was 22 years old and was having an affair with Herb Ross, an older, divorced man, whose Jewish origin (and sincerity) was questionable. The affair had been going on for quite some time, with their breaking up, and then getting back together.
What was consistent was the lies of my mother saying she wasn’t seeing him, but then disappearing for days or come home in the wee hours. Herb had confided in my grandmother that he wanted to break up with my mother, but they continued to see each other.
In mid-year, my mother moved out of her parent’s house. While she said she was living with someone named “Mickey,” she was probably spending most of her time with Herb. In November, they announced they planned to get married. However, my mother never married Herb. Five years later, when she was 27, she married my father Bernard Stark, who was 10 years older, and worked with his father in the garment industry in downtown Los Angeles.
I’m not sure my father ever knew of my mother’s past. I do know my mother confided in my father’s best friend that she was still in touch with her ex-lover. Sure enough, when my father died in 1970, after 12 years of marriage, my mother promptly resumed her relationship with Herb. At the time, he was married, and owned a children’s camp in Mammoth, California.
Running the camp gave him the freedom to spend weeks at a time with my mother, claiming he was on the road meeting with families of future campers or up in Mammoth, fixing up the camp.
My mother’s relationship with Herb, of course, perpetrated another round of lies. This time, my brother and I weren’t allowed to tell anyone about Herb. We’d refer to him as “HR.” When he called, sometimes when my grandparents were visiting, we were instructed to say “HR was on the phone.”
Our lies extended to not telling the truth about the cars parked in the driveway, beat-up boat in the side yard, and why my mother would spend most of the day in a bathrobe or sexy lingerie, jumping in-and-out of bed with Herb.
Where did the lies get her? Nowhere. Eight years after my father’s death, we moved to Oregon. My mother claimed we moved because I’d visited my cousin’s beach house in Lincoln City, and I wanted to move. However, no one packs up their house and moves because their 14-year old daughter liked a particular city.
Instead, we probably moved because my mother didn’t want the responsibility of caring for her aging parents, or her paranoia about Los Angeles crime convinced her Portland would be a safer place to live. In either case, Herb visited Oregon once, and never returned, and never called her again.
To this day, she continues to basks in the fantasy of her “perfect” relationship and love with Herb. However, reality bears another truth. She was never more than a convenient bedmate. Once her usefulness or convenience ran out, she was discarded.