Thursday, October 18, 2007

In Truth

I used to lie. Not all the time, but whenever I felt like it. Sometimes to get myself out of uncomfortable situations, sometimes to make a story better. I don't really remember when I began to make an effort to not manipulate people with my words. My husband says I am one of the most honest people he's ever known, so I guess I've been speaking truth at least as long as I've known him. Coming to Friends Meeting and learning of "let your yea mean yea and your nay, nay" felt right to me. Lately, I've become aware of exaggeration and sarcasm (my verbal forte) as being dishonest, and of saying things like "I swear" (as in "I swear, I am the biggest klutz" or whatever). Whenever I've found myself exaggerating or sometimes when I've been sarcastic, I've felt that vague discomfort one gets when one is being gently prodded by Spirit (or conscience...or both in one).

This has been on my mind lately because there is someone in my life who seems to be a compulsive liar. Our paths cross frequently. Normally, I would call someone I see as often as this person a friend, but that word implies trust and I am not able to trust this person. I've known her for some time-a couple of years, or so. She's very friendly and outgoing and is kind to people. She's friends with a lot of people I'm friends with or would like to know better. Last year, we had some regularly scheduled events together so I spent a lot of time with her. At first, I noticed that there would be inconsistencies in what she would say, but I figured she was distracted and not paying attention to what she said but the better I got to know her, the more I saw that the inconsistencies happened often and regularly. I see her once or twice a week, now, and almost every week, without exception, she'll say something that completely contradicts or negates something she has said in the recent past. Never anything big. It's not like she's "scamming" people; it's always something rather minor, the kind of thing that I'd feel silly "calling" her on. But these regular inconsistencies stand in my way of trusting her and even liking her.

I'm going to give an example. This isn't something she has said but it's very similar to something she did say: "My husband is allergic to the sun. When he is in the sun, he gets a rash and suffers for weeks." And then, two weeks later said, "We went on a trip to the beach this week so my husband could lay out and get a tan."

This doesn't really matter to anyone. She's not trying to hurt anyone with her lack of veracity. But I can't get past all these misstatements to want to be friends with her. She usually seems to want to be in the center of attention and I think the lies are a part of that. She is one of those people who always does this or never experiences that. Whatever anyone has to say, she has done the same only much more so. And that's irritating, but I understand that she needs the attention and that's ok with me. What bothers me is that, because our paths cross very frequently (I couldn't avoid her if I tried), I have to maintain a relationship with her. I prefer my relationships to be based on trust (duh). I don't feel manipulated by her exactly, but I don't like being aware that I can't just accept at face value what she is saying. Not that anything important hinges on her stories; I'm not going to make any decisions or act in any particular way based on something she is saying to the group of people we're with, but when people are talking, I'd rather not have to be aware that what they are saying should be taken with several grains of salt.

Am I making too big a deal out of this? Probably. I'm not sure why it bothers me so much. No one else in our circle of friends has ever mentioned it (and I'm certainly not going to bring it up). They all seem to take everything she says as straight up. As I said, she's kind and helpful to other people. She doesn't gossip or talk meanly about others. She just seems to need to be in the center of whatever is going on and one of the ways she does that is by representing herself as more extreme than anyone else. I understand this. Maybe in identifying this, I'll be able to let it go.


Babette said...

It does seem to me, Friend, that thee must speak with thy friend about this before thee posts lest she think that thee is speaking ill of her behind her back? In the end, we welcome our true fFriends. This, of course, takes courage but I am sure that thee has it.

We Friends often mistake "being loving" with "being kind" or "being afraid to tell the truth" and this leads us to be afraid to elder, afraid to stand up for ourselves. We become a bit passive aggressive and often have a "sense of the parking lot" rather than a sense of the Meeting."

I hope this helps. I applaud your forthright willingness to share your journey with us.

Elizabeth Roebling
Asheville Friends Meeting
now in Santo Domingo

Friendly Mama said...

Thanks for your thoughts (and "sense of the parking lot" is funny!).

Yes, I've been unclear about whether I should speak with her. I am struggling with whether I'm judging her according to my own standards and values. This person is not a Friend; she does not have any faith practice nor does she want to have one (having rejected an overly strict religious upbringing). I am uncomfortable with untruth but I don't know her beliefs about honesty. She may not feel any sense of wrong in misrepresenting herself to others.

I have not felt any leading about speaking with her. I do not want to speak out of my own ego or personal sense of right and wrong. If I speak, I need to clearly feel God speaking through me. I guess that's why I blogged about this; so I could identify where I am and what I need. Does this bug me on a personal level or is this a leading? I will wait until I know.

Liz Opp said...

Hi, Mary Linda--

"Waiting until you know" is a wise course of action in my own book.

Your inward conflict reminds me of how I think of what John Woolman went through. As I understand it, he didn't immediately start preaching abolition as soon as he recognized he was uncomfortable with Friends holding other human beings as slaves.

Woolman "held" it--his discomfort, the practice of slavery, his question of what to do. At some point, he felt the motion of Love. At some other point, he understood he had come under the weight of the Concern that God had lain on his heart. At still another point, he found he was given the Opportunity to act, to speak out, and he took it.

I don't know that you need a leading in order to approach the person with whom you have this question. I do think, though, you need to feel a movement of Love towards the individual and towards yourself. And then you must be alert to the opening, the Opportunity, when you might say you are wrestling with something very tender that is interfering with the two of you getting to know one another better.

Accept that you are concerned for this person's behavior; do not minimize your concern. It is not "minor" if it is bothering you. After all, others might say of you--as you have said of others--that you seem to "take everything she says as straight up."

I recognize my words may come across as harsh or pushy. My words however come with great empathy and tenderness, having been down this road with people in my own life.

How would you want an acquaintance to approach you with something awkward to bring to your attention...?

Be gentle with yourself, and keep Listening.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Friendly Mama said...

Yes, the motion of love. Up until now, I've only felt mild irritation. I have not gotten past my own ego responses to open to that of God within me and within her. Thank you so for the gentle reminder.
Mary Linda