I lied to a friend a few weeks back. Told her I walked the 15 or so city blocks to come play Songkran with she and her son. In reality, I hired a motorbike taxi.
So, I could confess my lie and leave it at that, but that wouldn’t be repentance.
Why did I lie in the first place? What put me in that position? If the roots are discovered and dealt with, then I’ve repented. I’ve gotten to the heart of my broken behavior… So, as an exercise in self-exposure, and as I’m trying to learn what it means to confess and be healed in community, I’m going to journal this here.
Our conversation went something like this. She asked me, “How did you come here?”
I stammered a bit, “Well, the canal boats weren’t running today, and, I don’t live far away, so uh…”
“You walked?” she interjected.
“Yes,” I said. Then, shocked to realize I had just lied, I scrambled to cover the lie – patch it over a bit, “I could walk or could ride a motorcycle taxi. There are so many ways to get here.”
That second part fell kind of flat. (Great cover, right?) I calculated that in that moment, she probably explained my stammering to the language barrier. Maybe she thought I hadn’t understood her question. But, the reality is – I lied.
Did I plan to lie to her? No. In that moment, when she asked me, “How did you come here,” there were lots of unrecognized emotions at play. Everything under the surface led to the response that emerged – which, incidentally, was a lie. So, why?
Shame. I was ashamed that I paid $2 to ride the motorcycle taxi those 15 blocks, while she and her son together paid $1 to ride the bus all the way across the city. I was feeling the weight of my comparative wealth. If she had wanted to cross the city quickly on a motorcycle, she would have been paying $6 or $7. That is prohibitively expensive for a single mom and her son living on Thailand’s minimum wage. The fact that I could afford to pay for a quick mode of transport, while they rode the bus for more than an hour felt shameful to me.
And, even if my shame was misplaced (I think it was), I might have still lied, because another factor at play is my desire to be close to this friend. I want to have a friendship with her unencumbered by socio-economic differences. Last year, when I began my friendship with her, I was living at her income level. Being her friend was easy. We could afford to do the same things together (which wasn’t much, mostly just talking, praying, or hanging out at her apartment or mine or eating food from street vendors together). This year, I have a host family and don’t pay rent anymore, freeing up disposable income. Because of my past experiences, I didn’t trust this friend to still love me if she can see that there is an income gap between us. I was imposing my baggage from my past relationships on her. That’s unfair.
Ultimately, being more afraid of my friend’s reaction than doing what my Lord asks of me (speaking the truth) reveals that in that moment, I was more afraid of her reaction than God’s. The fear of people is a trap, but fear of the Lord leads to wisdom and knowledge of God (1, 2).
I know some of my motivations, but I probably don’t know them all. So, at this point, I’ll ask God to uncover my motivations, since self deception is really common. 🙂
As I waited on the Lord, I heard Him say, “A lot of your time is spent trying to mitigate and control things that you just shouldn’t. Leave results up to Me.”
So, what if I had been honest and my friend reacted to me in exactly the same way that other friends have treated me in the past? I don’t have to respond in the same way that I did as a child. Yes, it will hurt. To be viewed as a just a rich foreigner. To not be understood. To be prejudged. If – and that’s a big “if” – she would have let money become an obstacle to our friendship, Jesus and I could have worked through that pain together. But, my attempt to control that situation actually kept me from seeing the truth. Will this friendship weaken because of money? Because I lied, I don’t actually know.
But now that I know why I lied, I can invite the Lord into those places.
Jesus, I confess my shame over having money while my friend has less. I confess my ungrateful heart. Instead of praising You, I felt ashamed… instead of being honest and living free, I let shame bow my head. In my hiding, I closed off truth. I may have closed off generosity. I’m sorry for lying, Father God.
And, Lord, please forgive me for prejudging my friend – for judging her before she had a chance to pass judgment on me. Forgive me for bowing in deceit when I became afraid of losing her friendship. Forgive me for caring more about her opinion than Yours.
Thanks for telling me that I waste time and energy trying to mitigate and control situations. I guess I hadn’t really noticed that tendency. Lord, I want to trust You to handle situations in my life. I know I’m not able to run my life independently of You, and I don’t want to. Please forgive me for my own sinful solution to that moment of panic.