“Honey/baby/sweetheart/daddy/mommy/bro/sis/boss … I got something difficult to tell you. I accidentally/deliberately/carelessly broke your prized possession/lied to you/didn’t make the grade/got fired/quit/kissed someone else/cheated on you/messed up. Whether what I did was intentional or unintentional, I was wrong. I can’t change what happened, but I wanted to apologize and offer to make up for it, however you need me to.”
It’s not easy to admit being wrong, whatever the reason you were wrong or that you hurt someone. Sometimes you attempt to justify yourself and say that because your intentions were good, or at least not-evil, that an apology isn’t needed, that you don’t need to tell the truth early if you can somehow avoid taking the blame for whatever.
Maybe this is a trend for you. Perhaps you start relationships by hiding everything you think might turn the other person off. Perhaps you screwed up and you just can’t bring yourself to fess up to your mistake, at least not until the person you’re hiding it from finally finds out. Or perhaps you deny it even then, thinking that you can avoid the trouble if you can just cover up the situation with enough lies, misdirections, denials … you name it.
Truth is, it never works, and it only makes you less trustworthy and, ultimately, causes more pain for everyone — yourself included.
You could keep this cycle going, always running from bad events, avoiding the blame, fleeing the heat.
Truth is, and I can tell you this from personal experience, truth early saves you pain. A lot of pain, actually.
When I was in sixth grade living in Macon, Georgia, with my mom and brother, living in a basement apartment because we had nowhere else to go, with a crappy 1982 Dodge Aspen (whoever has heard of that, right?), I was playing outside with my brother. We had discovered that if you threw these domino-sized magnets onto the faux-convertible white top of the car, the magnets would not skip or slide, but would stop right where they landed. For a sixth-grader and a ninth-grader, this was terribly amusing. So we carefully were throwing magnets onto the top of our rather old beater from around the vehicle.
And then it happened — I threw the magnet and it did not hit the rear windshield. Did not touch the glass. But it hit right on the very edge where the chrome liner seals the glass to the steel top, and to my horror and that of my brother, we watched the entire rear windshield of the only vehicle we could afford — one that took us back and forth from central Georgia to central Florida so mom could visit important family — spiderglass all the way down. Stunned, we gasped, terrified. And we were sure, it did not hit the glass, but no matter where it hit, I was responsible for shattering our rear windshield.
We made our way into the house, down the narrow staircase to the apartment where my mom was watching a tiny little television, eating a bowl of cereal, and with a face likely as white as the milk in her bowl, I fessed up. I told her we had broken the windshield. She followed us up and we showed her the car. She didn’t yell, and didn’t even spank me.
Whenever we sit around telling the story, usually laughing because it is rather funny, she tells people that because I was willing to come to her immediately and be completely honest about having made the stupid, youthful mistake of not thinking about the extended consequences of my actions, and of course the absolute terror on my face, that she knew going further for punishment wouldn’t have served a purpose. I knew I had done wrong, and I had done the right thing by coming to her and telling her about it.
It wasn’t the first or only time I’d fessed up. The one thing I can say as a child was that, expect for one or two exceptions, I never lied, and tried always otherwise to be as honest as possible. It doesn’t make me the best kid in the world, but I can tell you it goes a long way with parents when their children tell them they’ve done something wrong.
I was talking with a friend of mine — my instructor from NCO academy who happened to be deployed out with me in the Middle East — about what makes him angriest when his kids make mistakes. It’s not the mistakes, it’s that his children attempt to hide it or lie about it. If they would just be honest and up front, he said he’d never really feel angry with them. Upset they may have broken something? Possibly. But honesty can go such a very long way.
What in your life have you been hiding from people? How do you attempt to keep the truth from coming out? In what ways has hiding from that truth hurt yourself or those you love?
Are you ready to be done with lying? Trust me, getting hurt, pain and mistakes out in the open hurts a lot less in the long run than you might think, and speeds up the healing and corrective processes to bring trust and love back to our relationships.
And more than anything, it is the quickest path to peace.