(Mis)Trust

How do lies, deceit, and betrayal affect us — and our world?

The Scripture

Psalm 27
interpreted by Deborah

The Lord is my light and my life,
what do I have to fear?
The Lord is my sanctuary,
who can harm me?

When evildoers attack me they will stutter and stumble and fail. A whole army of the wicked won’t turn me away; no matter how ferocious their assault, I will stand my ground.

All I want —
and I yearn for it with all my soul —
is to know God’s grace:
to see beauty
and feel love
and live with compassion.

Then I will be safe and secure.
Then all will be well.

Then I will hold my head up,
regardless of my enemies,
they will hold no power over me,
whatever they may do;
I will celebrate the Almighty
with joyful offerings
of love and praise.

I’m really going to need some help here, Lord!

My heart cries out, “Seek your Beloved!
Be on the lookout for divine grace and goodness!”
And I do, O Lord —
at least I try to.

Show Yourself, O Radiance,
make such a big display
that I cannot miss it.
Don’t leave me to my own devices,
O Source of infinite mercy and compassion!

You are my light and my life,
what do I have to fear?
You are my sanctuary,
who can harm me?

Photo of a flower

~ Reflection ~ by Deborah Beach Giordano
January 29, 2017

A Life Lesson

There once was a woman I’ll call “Teresa.” However, this story isn’t really about her, but about me.

mirrorI guess it is an exploration of my own … what? sensibility? intuition? reason? calling? faith? belief? Whatever it is, The Teresa Event ushered me into a season of doubt.

It has been a few months since it happened. I’m still confused and a little hurt, but not as stunned as before, so it’s time to put things into (healthy?) perspective.

I believe that Lessons Can Be Drawn from every life event. These will not always be pleasant lessons, some may be outright painful, and others distressingly repetitive (“But I knew that already!”). Our task is to discern the message and take it to heart.

What can be challenging is that “discernment” business. If the lesson is sufficiently unpleasant, we may prefer to leave it undiscovered.

distressed stomachIn my case, the lesson hit me right where I live. (“Wow. That’s going to leave a mark!”) Over the years I’ve come to consider myself rather expert at “reading people”: able to intuit whether a person is compassionate, good-natured, kind to animals, truthful — or not. It had got to the point where I didn’t even stop to consider, but simply trusted my “gut reaction.”

It turns out that our innards can be mistaken. Seriously mistaken.

The Story Begins — and I do mean “story”

Teresa was referred to me by a colleague whom I know and respect, and who I assumed (!!) knew her personally. During our time together, Teresa spoke about this individual with the easy familiarity of a friend — in apparent confirmation of what I thought I understood.

We met in person occasionally, usually connecting via Skype or conversing over the phone. We had monthly meetings, which became weekly for a time, when she was going through a bad patch. These were in-depth discussions of her spiritual path, personal development, and aspirations; she spoke of her difficulties in overcoming traumatic past experiences, damaged relationships, and current health concerns.

As an ordained clergy, I consider such sessions to be under the seal of confession: what is said is held in confidence; you can, as the saying goes, “speak your truth” without fear of condemnation or judgment. What’s said here, stays here. There is never a need for deception, dissembling, or lies. Moreover, there is no point in lying.

And yet it happened.

Big time.

The Big Reveal

Without revealing how it came about, I can say that I received clear proof that a great deal of what Teresa had been telling me — and that I had been believing — was untrue. Vast amounts of her story were outright fabrications with no basis in fact.

It turned out that she was an extremely adept manipulator and scam artist. And, within our relationship, apparently a recreational liar — just to keep in practice, I guess.

And I never had so much as a moment of doubt. It never once occurred to me that any of what she said might not be true.

pile of shredded paperAs the weeks passed, more disturbing revelations began to present themselves. The Almighty Spirit was steadily, thoroughly, shredding Teresa’s tissue of lies.

Along with my ego.

An oh-so-wise spiritual director, hey? An advocate of honesty, alert to Spirit’s leadings, a resourceful companion to others as they grow in grace and wisdom? You: who’ve been utterly taken in by blatant dishonesty??

To say it took the wind out of my sails would be a great understatement.

After the “Ouch”

Beyond the shock and disappointment (in myself as much as Teresa) was the sense of betrayal: what I had believed to be a relationship built on trust turned out to be an illusion.

Without honesty between us, human beings are mere masks and make-believe; there is no “there,” there. I had been responding to a performance, not a person. And to what end? I still don’t understand why she felt the need to put on the act or why it went on for as long as it did. (And might have gone on longer — might still be going on — had parts of her story not begun to unravel.)

Lies, deceit, and deceptions can feel like a wounding, an attack on our integrity, a theft of our trust. We’ve been hurt. Ouch.

Then comes the really tricky part: what happens after the ouch? How will we respond? What will we allow it to do to us?

The first response to pain is to pull back; to keep ourselves safe from danger. “This,” we say to ourselves, “won’t happen again! We will never again be so open, so trusting, so gullible, not ever.”

crabCautious reserve can turn into withdrawal; we can begin to pull away, to shut down our concern, close off our compassion. A self-protective shell starts to develop: a shell that forms from the inside out. It begins to harden our hearts.

While it is wise to be cautious, we must be careful not to slide into cynicism and suspicion, erecting walls between ourselves and others. A big part of faith is trust: trust that, whatever happens, we will not be crushed and we will not be moved from our confidence in God’s unwavering love — and our call to embody that love.

The “Sin” of Lying

What makes deceit, lies, and deceptions so wicked is their power to erode trust between people — not just between ourselves and the identified liar, but between all of us. We begin to suspect everyone we meet of some sort of dishonesty, we pull back from relationships, we wrap ourselves in cynicism as a defense against hurt and disappointment. And the world becomes more isolated, angry, and violent.

hearts taking wing

It takes courage to continue, day by day, being compassionate, caring, daring to believe in and hope for the best. But it is ultimately important. Our optimism and our love can be a balm to those who suffer, our lives of faith can be an antidote to the poison of deceit and deception.

Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,

Deborah 

Suggested Spiritual Exercise

Live in faithful optimism. And pray without ceasing.