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  • Writer's pictureShelli Owen

My First Lie

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

"…Do not lie. Do not deceive one another” (Lev. 19:11).

istock photo 65695139 by zdravinjo

Children are not purely innocent. At least I know I wasn’t. I know I had a bad temper—that I became angry easily and held on to my indignation for as long as I could. It’s possible that the trust issues I was developing had their roots in life circumstances, but the way I chose to cling to my grudges made everything that was in need of redemption further from it.

I became downright resistant to my parents’, babysitters’, and church teachers’ discipline. I might comply eventually, but I was going to be as contrary as I could be first. I fed my wrath at every opportunity, reasoning so that I felt justified in it.

One day one of my parents asked me to take an empty tuna can and its lid to the outside trash. They told me not to play with the lid because it was sharp and could cut me. They extracted a promise from me that I would be careful. They told me they were only letting me do this because I was such a big girl (at five-ish years old) and that they thought I could safely handle this task.

I took the can with its lid outside as instructed, but then in contrariness I had to test whether the lid really was as sharp as they said. Without too much trouble I found out that they were right. I ended up cutting the meaty part of my left index finger just above the knuckle more than half-way around its circumference.

I didn’t realize what a good cut I had made. My first reaction was to try to wipe away the blood and hide it from my parents. I think I found something in the trash to wipe it on and to wrap around it. It was hard to get the screen, then the house door open and keep my finger wrapped at the same time.

When I first got into the house, my parents didn’t notice that I was holding my finger, but it didn’t take them long. When they asked me why I was holding my finger and if I had cut myself, I immediately tried to think of a good story to keep myself out of trouble.

I can’t even remember what story I told them while they were cleaning and trying to bandage the fairly profusely bleeding cut. Whatever I told them, my story didn’t seem likely to them. They asked me again if I was sure I hadn’t cut my finger playing with the lid. I denied this again and reaffirmed my story.

My dad took me aside and in a kindly manner talked with me about it being worse to lie than to get in trouble for disobeying them. He even promised not to discipline me for disobeying if I would tell the truth. Stubbornly, I hardened my little heart against his kindness and stood firmly by my story. I could tell he was all but absolutely sure I was lying and that it grieved him more than I’d ever seen.

I felt almost unbearable guilt and shame for a while afterward in my parents’ presence. I started noticing how good my parents really were to me, while I was being really bad and, now, pretending not be.

It wasn’t apparent to me then, but a couple of good things came from my recognition of having wronged my parents. It separated me from my justification for my anger (at least towards my parents). And it caused me to see them in a different light and soften my heart toward them. I wanted to behave for them. My attitude of resistance towards them dissolved. I didn’t want to hurt them anymore.

I still didn’t confess to lying to them then, though I was pretty sure they already knew. I was too ashamed and afraid to say the words aloud and remove all doubt. Instead, I tried to be more cooperative and helpful to them.

It made me feel separated from them in a way I had never experienced before. I knew I still belonged to them, but I didn’t feel worthy of belonging.

I believe this was the beginning of a deep and sometimes skewed conviction within me of my own badness and unworthiness. It also began an amplification of an already existing tendency toward low self-esteem. These were effects that played out for much of my life in various long-lasting and often very negative ways.

If I had somehow known then that all I needed to do was to confess and tell the truth and that my parents would have gladly forgiven me, and that the air would have been clear between us, and peace of mind returned to me; I would have done it.

What kept me from confessing? Fear? Pride? A lack of knowledge of the actual kindness of my parents? All these were true in my case.

This is what has been true between me and God many times since then.

And, if I had known the power of a single lie to begin a series of destructive, life-affecting consequences, of course I would not have felt the price was worth it. But who of us has that kind of vision even when we’re older, let alone as a child?

The greatest wisdom is to trust God in the first place and obey one’s conscience to do right. A lot of grief and misery could be avoided this way. Most of us aren’t this wise.

That was my first intentional lie. I still bear the scar on my finger and in places on my soul—and yet God has forgiven me for this sin and many other sins since then, while I learn how truly good He is. He wants me to come to Him and confess, not hide my sin. Then He can be my help when I need it (all the time) and I’m free to let Him.

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.

Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!

~David, Psalm 32


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