Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Honesty and Self-Forgiveness

I am a liar.

I know some people will say, "Oh, that's ok, everyone lies sometimes." The thing is, I don't ever want to lie. I want to be like Temperance Brennan on Bones (I'm slightly obsessed with this show). She says in one episode, "I never lie." I greatly admire that about her. I respect people who are open and honest in their communication. I want to be one of them.

In the last week or so, I have been mulling over the fact that I lie. It is directly related to my inability to forgive myself. The topic is such a huge one for me (and a relatively complex one) that I anticipate covering it in the next several posts, to explore the situation from several angles, and to share with all of you one of the hardest moments of my marriage (related to lying), one I have not stopped punishing myself for, even though Donald has forgiven me and moved on.

Please understand that I am not a habitual liar. Most of the time I tell the truth. The lies come through at strange times. For example, I was returning the E-ZPass I borrowed from my in-laws and wanted to pay them back for the tolls I had incurred. Wanting to avoid the hemming and hawing that comes with trying to give them money, I said that I had already been paid back for the cost by other people on the trip. This was not true, although it accomplished my goal of avoiding further conversation about the matter.

When I was growing up, I told many lies to avoid consequences and to avoid conflict. Of course the boy's parents were home while I was there (they weren't). Of course there was only pee in the toilet when it backed up and overflowed (there wasn't). Of course I washed my hands before dinner (I hadn't). Of course I waited until marriage to have sex (I didn't).

As I remember these events, I realize just how terrified I have been of conflict and of people being upset with me. I say whatever I know the person wants to hear. Most of these lies seem to be in response to direct questions that make me feel judged, that make me feel like a child, that make me feel like I have to defend my actions or choices. Instead of engaging, I lie and flee.

I also lie to avoid judgment, to avoid being wrong. I would rather be the one to volunteer the blame and to accept it before someone asks me or calls me out on it. In fact, I would rather this so much that I have been willing to accept blame even when something wasn't my fault. When I worked as administrative support, when something went wrong and it was my bosses fault, often to smooth things over and fix the situation, I accepted the blame. I have done this on countless occasions, never once feeling that it was a blemish on my integrity.

But when someone asks me directly to account for myself, I get defensive and fearful of the outcome. Even when it's something small, insignificant, and easily remedied. What is wrong with me?

This past March, Simple Marriage had a post that touched on the importance of telling the truth, called The Virtuous Marriage: Sincerity. The part that jumped out at me most is when Corey says "In general err on the side of honesty. Be honest to a fault. Sometimes it may get you in trouble, but generally it will win the respect of those involved."

Since Donald and I are hoping to start a family in the relatively near future, I know that I need to get this problem under control before our children learn bad habits from me. And, while I don't believe that my lying comes into play in our marriage, it's something problematic enough for me that it's in my best interest with or without children in the picture.

So here's where self-forgiveness comes into play. I am unable to forgive myself for mistakes I have made in the past because I have not ended the behavior that led to me making those mistakes in the first place. The biggest issues in my past that I cannot let go of are those mistakes that involved lying to someone or lying to myself.

I don't deserve to be forgiven because I haven't learned from my mistakes in being dishonest. I cannot forgive myself until I learn that telling the truth always is the right thing to do. That is the only way to regain my integrity. If I forgive myself, doesn't that mean that I'm saying that what I did was acceptable?

I'm really going to need your help on this one.


  1. Hi Daphne .. irritation - just lost the post!

    Sorry - my brain isn't exactly here at the moment .. your honesty at the situation shines through. Some one posted an answer to you on their post in the last few days - when yu asked for help regarding this post ...

    All the best & delighted that the little ones might come rolling along -that's what happens isn't it??!! Enjoy your new home and situation being together .. hugs from here - Hilary

  2. Hi Daphne,

    The best gift you'll ever give yourself is forgiveness. We all make mistakes. It's what we do with the mistake - you can either beat yourself silly or learn from it.

    Forgiveness really will set you free.


  3. While I hope that you can someday forgive yourself, I do understand why you feel you're not ready for it. Part of apologizing is a) not doing it again and b) reparations. If you don't feel like you've reached either of those steps, then yeah, it could be hard to feel like you've really put something behind you.

    My personal philosophy on "sin" and mistakes is that the greatest mistake is one you don't learn from. I believe that so long as we embrace our life lessons instead of running from them, our deities are happy for us and please by us.

    Honesty's a toughie because white lies are so easy. Gary used to tell a lot of them - mostly to other people, but I told him one night a couple years ago that when I see him fibbing to other people, it makes it hard for me to trust that he's not fibbing to me. That really caught his attention.

    And most recently, I was very honest about something last night with Gary and it sucked. He'd thought everything was ok, but for me, nothing had changed and hearing that I still feel dissatisfied on the matter was a bummer for him. I wish I hadn't had to tell the truth, but I had to remind myself that I respect Gary and he deserved it.

    I'll be glad to support you in this however I can.

  4. Hilary - Thanks for your comment. I guess I'm on the way to being more honest through my blog, how ironic.

    Peggy - I'm definitely working on forgiveness. It comes easier for me to forgive other people somehow. Thank you for your support.

    Kate - I thought you'd understand! Being a history major, I truly believe in the idea that we are doomed to repeat that from which we do not learn. When I look back at moments and choices in my past, I believe that I have learned from them (I certainly never intend them to happen again), but something is still holding me back. Perhaps I do not feel adequately punished, so I punish myself.

    I'm sorry and glad that you had a tough conversation with Gary. I'm happy to listen if you need another ear. It is amazing how respecting each other also comes with causing short-term pain for long-term happiness. Good for you for being brave and doing what you thought was right. I hope things work out. Thank you so much for your encouragement and understanding.

  5. What an interesting exploration on a really important topic. I can so relate to lying to avoid conflict --- because conflict is uncomfortable for me.
    And, I think that not only can you forgive yourself now, but that this is the time to do it. Right now you can forgive yourself, not because you've changed your behavior, but because you've doing the best you know how, and lying because, if I understand you right, because of some fears and conditioning around conflict. You know you want to change this, and you are also doing your best to figure out how to do that.
    My experience is that when I forgive myself, when I have real compassion for myself, it opens up room and energy for change.
    Warmly, Tara

  6. Tara - Welcome to my blog, and thank you! You interpret my intentions and the things that are holding me back correctly. I know how good it can feel to fully forgive and be compassionate for others, I just have to apply that same knowledge to myself. Since I wrote this post, it has been better. It seems to go in phases for me, some days I am more forgiving than others. Thank you for commenting!


I welcome and appreciate your comments!