Sad feels better than manipulated.

She was committed to lying to herself. Or to me.

I want to believe she was committed to lying to herself. Because that would make her story incredibly sad. But sad feels better than manipulated. If she was committed to lying to me, then it means that she knows a difference between two stories and chose to tell me the one that is false. To win favor from me, to gain comfort, to find compassion. To get me to intercede.

The first, somehow, feels more hopeful.

When I first talked to her, she expressed terror that a trust had been broken forever. I was sympathetic. I prayed. I was honest. As time went by, I learned that the story was larger, less simple. I learned that I was hearing only one side of the story, and only the contrite version.

I learned that she was repeatedly betraying people close to her. And during twenty-four months we talked, I was part of the ‘treatment’ that wasn’t working: “I’m meeting with several people, including a pastor.” “I made a mistake. I’ll keep meeting with people.” 

I began to sense that there was never a willingness to choose different behaviors. There was a willingness to confess to bad behaviors, enough appear contrite. But now, from a distance, it’s clear that there were always behaviors not being acknowledged, plans not disclosed.

And I still wonder whether her commitment to lying was self-delusion or other-deception.

Let me tell you a secret. I started this story with a name. And as I wrote, I found  other names, I found that I could switch pronouns and find still more names. I realized that I have heard this story most of the last thousand weeks.

Not from a thousand people, of course. Sometimes from the same person a thousand times.

Sometimes, of course, I’m the one talking to me. I’m telling myself that I will change this or that. I’m telling myself that it’s time to follow through. And then it’s clear that I may not be willing to choose those behaviors.

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.

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