“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” Deuteronomy 5:20
Who would have guessed a doll could teach me about secrecy and lying?
When I was a child, I received a much-desired china doll, actually named after Florence Nightingale. So, obviously, when my mother bought her for me, I was thrilled, so thrilled, I shared my excitement with the wrong person: my dad.
“Earthquake, thunder, fire and fathers.”
He was, indeed, abusive. If my dad didn’t have a good day, neither did we. He’d threaten us with each and every infraction. His booming voice would overpower us. Mom, like most abused partners, spent her energy begging and trying to bargain for a less harsh treatment. I would hide, usually unsuccessfully. He’d hunt me until he could corner and terrorize me according to his desired specifications. This explosive yelling period usually lasted two or three days. And then there would next be the silent treatment of anxious tension, lasting another two or three days. Mom and I knew better than to talk to him during this phase. Finally, there would be the relief phase, a return to “normalcy.” We couldn’t predict how or when it would happen. Just suddenly, my dad would start talking to us and we’d resume our lives. He never apologized. Mom and I were just thankful we made it through another round…until the next time he’s unhappy, then, of course, the whole thing would repeat.
Anyway, back to Florence. Here is where I learned how to lie.
The Power of Deceit:
When I made the decision to share my joy about the doll with him, he erupted in anger. Florence was a waste of money spiting his very psyche. Threats and terror were next; he tried to take her away from me.
As that young child, I didn’t know enough about the abuse we lived. I only experienced how “Daddy was mad sometimes.” Adding further complication, as only a child can do, I honestly believed my dad would be happy by my happiness. I hadn’t counted on his wrath. I hadn’t counted on him wanting to hurt me, simply to secure/affirm his power.
I am still astounded I wasn’t physically hurt. I’m equally surprised Florence wasn’t either. He could have easily smashed her china head against a wall.
But, the eruption was trauma enough. Following the abuse cycle our home established all too well, I endured his screaming, laid low as much as possible and immediately hid Florence from his view.
And, in that instant, I learned how truth was not safe, nor desired. My dad didn’t accept the new doll. I learned lying protects; truth hurts. And I ran with it, incorporating that mantra into my forming addictive tendencies.
He whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble. Proverbs 17:20
I needed to do whatever was necessary. I learned how to make something pretty on the outside, no matter how ugly or painful it is on the inside. And my frustrated wounding eventually manifested in things like eating disorders, perfectionism and constant anxiety. Keep quiet; don’t tell. Be unheard. Continue to walk on eggshells.
Secrecy and deceit were weapons in my arsenal when it came to “staying safe.” No one was interested in the truth anyway. What had honesty gotten me? Punishment? Terror? Screaming? Felling worthless?
I learned, via Florence, anything which brought me happiness was dicey, at best, in the eyes of my dad.
So, no more “show and tell” of any doll or toy I received.
But, more than that, I learned to conceal weakness and desire; he could easily squash it. No more “show and tell” of who was. I employed stoicism. I always had my guard up, because I could never predict when his mood would swing in a menacing direction.
And that only escalated my anxiety: disordered eating, emaciation, suicidal thoughts and an oppressive drive to be the out of reach embodiment of “perfect” were all attempts to survive the warzone, actual or self-imposed.
The truth shall set you free.” John 8:32
In the years since, through the various stages of my faith walk, a large form of healing has sprung to my attention: there are no secrets from the Most High.
“I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.” Job 42:2
At first, I was freaked out about that. I had visions of Him ordering thunderbolts and lightning strikes to smite me for, well, being me. I was quick to emotionally- and physically- flinch every time I screwed up. Every sin. Every shortcoming. Every less-than-ideal situation.
But then, gradually- and imperfectly- I breathed a spiritual sigh of relief. He knows. Elohim knows. And so far, no traces of lightning singes coming off from my person.
Nevertheless, I could not get around Truth, regardless of my permission or comfort level: I was choosing to participate in behavior which was not healthy.
There is a way that seems right to a man. But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12
My addictive tendencies and their assorted behaviors, reverted back to my childish hide and seek game toward Truth. The lessons I learned about secrecy in childhood need not carry over into adulthood.
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of Elohim… 2 Corinthians 10:5
And if they did, as that adult, I had to own my active choice in that.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11
I still have Florence Nightingale. Sometimes, I display her on my book shelf, remembering what I have learned from her.
And part of that lesson involves how nothing is a surprise to the Father of us all. He knows the complicated backstory, the triggers and traumas. He knows how we struggle, cope and fail when it comes to dealing with these factors.
He knows we play hide and seek- especially from Him…especially from ourselves.
“Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” Matthew 6:8
And that knowing never disqualifies the love.
In all of our experiences and struggles, how do our beliefs concerning truth and secrecy impact each of us, even now? Scripture is clear:
“For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.” Luke 8:17
Secrets, silence, lies, denial: they are all heart and life issues. We do learn what we live.
Once we know this then, how do we live WITH that reality?
We choose that response.