Telling the truth is hard. The truth usually makes people uncomfortable, and sometimes even angry. For the past three weeks, I have been teaching a class inside the Orange County Jail and it has taught me more about my own tendencies than the inmates’. That’s the trick of this trade – I set out to help other people and I end up getting schooled in the process.
Last week, we were reviewing how important it is to know one’s own story in the process of addiction recovery because if you don’t know your own story, it’s impossible to know your triggers and how to prevent relapse. I was using an example from my own life to show them how to map out the events in their lives. I told them the story of six-year-old me who was slapped by a very admired upperclassman during a round of tether ball. I ADORED this girl, who was a grade or two above me, so I followed her around hoping to make her like me. This drove her so insane that she turned around and smacked me one day on the playground. (Side note: this girl is an amazing woman, and I have so much respect for her now!)
I was devastated. When telling this story to the women in the jail, I asked them, “What do you think six-year-old Lindsey learned from that experience?” I wasn’t ready for the answers.
“She probably learned she was annoying and that no one wanted to be her friend.”
“She probably felt embarrassed.”
“She probably started doing whatever it took to make people like her.”
“I bet she cried.”
All of those things were true, but I had never realized how true some of those things remain today. The “slapping”, in addition so other life experiences, taught me that I needed to be or act a certain way in order to gain the approval of others, so I became a full-time performer. Yes, I was into theater, but I was acting on and off the stage as well. I wasn’t comfortable with who I was, so I became whoever (I thought) anyone wanted me to be.
This means I turned into a pretty good liar. It still shocks me how much I used to stray from the truth in an attempt to please someone who prevent something from happening. I used lying to manipulate people and situations, and it is painful, now, for me to realize how easily I used to maneuver around the truth.
Even though I speak and live honestly today, there are still very real consequences for all of the times I haven’t told the truth. A lie can’t be untold. In many ways, I am still learning what it means to live life honestly and openly all the time. When I catch myself wanting to bend the truth, I look for my motivation. It’s hard to find the source sometimes, but it is worth it if I want to live truthfully.
It seems ironic that a group of women incarcerated for lying, stealing, cheating, killing, trafficking, and manipulating could teach me about truth, but they do. Oh, how they show me truth on a daily basis. I am so grateful for their wisdom, even if they see it as a weakness. Sometimes the most beautiful truths come from the most unlikely places.