Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hiding Doesn't Work

Going now into the third week of Lent, I find myself face to face with the human tendency to keep our truths well hidden, both from ourselves and others.

We see this taking place on an international stage as Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi continues to make pronouncements that are difficult to swallow about the situation in Libya.  He asserts that he is much adored by the people of that troubled country, where he has announced, "Either I will rule you or I will kill you."

Then there is Charlie Sheen, the talented and amazingly self-destructive actor, who speaks a version of truth that many who know him appear to have some trouble swallowing as accurate.

The challenge with truth-telling is that most of us want to tell the truth, or what we think is the truth, about others, but are less likely to want to speak it about ourselves. So Sheen calls the writers and producers of his TV show unspeakable things, but seems to see himself as a version of the Master of the Universe. Not a whole lot different from Col. Quddafi's public pronouncements. The rest of the world is evil and out of control and spaced out on drugs, but he himself? Well, he, of course, is a sane and much loved ruler of his people.

Most of us do the same thing, although generally on a smaller and less newsworthy scale. We spin public versions about ourselves in order to hold onto a carefully built outward image and also to keep from having to face sometimes painful inner truths.

Our personal spin jobs work for a while. In time, however, both the energy needed to keep them up and the internal discordance that they bring will wear us down. Only truth ultimately sets us free.

I watched part of a movie recently--it was so poorly done that I gave up after a short time--that showed a world where people spoke only truth. The movie portrayed a cold, cruel place, with no social graces, no softness or play. The person who learned to lie discovered a big social advantage over those who spoke "truth."

However, I don't think real, holy, God-centered truth looks like that. Real truth says, "I know I cut myself a lot of slack, and excuse a lot of my own behaviors, so maybe I should give others that same kind of space."  Real truth acknowledges both our shortcomings and our accomplishments. Real truth shines the bright light of exposure on our own souls. Real truth pushes us to find the things that frighten us the most and helps us to see how that fear keeps us from loving God and loving others.

We hide because we fear what will happen if we don't. We hide from our real truths because it is easier to pretend all is OK. We hide from our doubts, disappointments, and betrayals because we are not sure we can embrace the pain of facing them fully. We hide from our sins so we don't have to really forgive the sins of others.

At our Ash Wednesday service, we sang, "It's Me, It's Me, O Lord, Standing in the Need of Prayer." Now, while the song uses questionable grammar (it should be "It's I" not "It's Me" but it just doesn't have the same ring!), the sentiment works: using this time to recognize that we ourselves are the ones in need of prayer. Too often, we spew hatred of others that actually reflects deep self-loathing. We hold grudges because we refuse to believe that God chooses to offer forgiveness to us. We choose fear over courage, thinking it will keep us safe, and we end up in binding chains.

The words of Jesus: You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. A true Lenten journey.


Batbogey said...

Well, now. This is an uncomfortable entry.

How does one begin to acknowledge their doubts? And who is the best audience for the revelation of our sins?

What do my excuses really mean? Why do I use any diversion available to keep from thinking, much less praying, about these things?

- Lucinda Breeding

Christy Thomas said...

Many have turned to therapists to acknowledge their sins. It's a place to start, and often does much good. There is something extremely freeing about an oral acknowledgement of sins, doubts and all the rest of this stuff: it helps us own them, rather than being owned by them. Once we assume ownership, we are freer to deal with them. But when they own us, and I do think that is what happens when we keep these secret, we lose power to deal with them healthily.

At least, that has been my own journey.

Vicki A. said...

Sometimes with my negative truths, I am judge and jury and I hold the trial within myself. Sentence is passed with a slight silence and expression moving across my face for only the most observant to see.

I battle it out all by myself. The truth is, I sometimes need others to help me with my truths, to help me see evidence of their validity and to encourage me. Finding my truths just so I can wind up being entangled by the fear they produce is not what I need. I would like to live in openness and freedom.

Angie Hammond said...


You don't know me, I don't live in Krum. I live in Waco, TX and I know Christy from her days at LLUMC.

You ask a very good question about how one begins to acknowledge their doubts?

I think Christy gave you some great advice about seeking a therapist or someone to acknowledge your sins or doubts.

I want to add to this because I suffered abuse and depression over it for years because I didn't want to admit that I was also in need of help. I could not admit to myself or anyone else for that matter that I needed just as much help as my abuser.

As for your best audience for the revelation of your sins, I'd say that depends on you and who you can learn to trust enough to be truthful with about such things.

For me once I admitted that I needed help, it was then a matter of trust that determined who I would and could tell things to. It took me many different times of trying before I finally found the right persons to help me. The trick here is to not use the trust issue as another excuse to not face the problem.

Finally I was blessed to have several friends that I could share my doubts and fears with and know that I was still loved.

However, the hardest thing for me to do was to admit to myself that I had allowed myself to be abused. Once I did that and owned it, then I began the process of learning to love myself enough to take care of myself by getting the help I knew I needed.

I am pleased to tell you that I am now divorced for almost 7 years and I am very happy with who I am and what I am doing.
I enjoy life and my teaching job at the Methodist Children's Home.

Do I still have rough days? Yes of course I do. The difference now is that when they come, I look for someone to help me through them because I know what it is like if I don't.

I also figured out that in the midst of all of my hiding and running away, God was always there. All I had to do was let him in and accept the forgiveness he offered.

It is my prayer for you that you will find the truth that you seek.

Angie Hammond