Three Lies I Told

By Jack A. Urquhart ©2012 (700 words)

Truth lies

Pity parties are never fun.  After all, there’s really nothing to celebrate, and who wants to be invited.  Nevertheless, I’ll admit I’ve been whooping it up lately, mostly in private but not always, beating myself up for the many ‘sins’ that underpin my failures and shortcomings.

If I were still a religious person, the obedient Baptist boy I was raised to be, I’d prostrate myself before ‘the Lord,’ confess everything (or as much as I can remember), and go begging after forgiveness.  But I don’t go down on my knees like that anymore—except for more earthly, utilitarian pleasures…like gardening, scrubbing the floor, the rowing machine at the gym (and shame on you for thinking anything else!).

Fact is, I’ve had my fill of celestial sacrifice and salvation mythology.  Besides, if God is out there, I figure She already knows my scorecard backwards and forwards and has better things to do than pay attention to my groveling.

That said, there’s much to recommend a good purge now and then, for admitting the worst of oneself in the service of lessening (if only temporarily) the heavy burden of disappointment and regret accumulated across the years.  And since it appears I’m overdue for divestiture, why not take advantage of this forum (it’s so much cheaper than a shrink)?

So, to get to it, what follows are three of the many varieties of lies that I’ve told accompanied by an unadorned, un-explicated example of each.  Whether the samples be whoppers or little white whippersnappers (I’ve plenty of both in my trunk) is not for me to say.  All I know is that I’ve been toting them long enough that attempting to shake them here doesn’t seem a bad idea.

Feel free to comment and to share your own fibs and fabrications if you think it might lighten your load.  Or not.

  1. Lies of Wishful Thinking.  At nineteen, I told my best friend I was ready to marry her and to be a good father to her child by another man.  I did neither.  Instead, come the day of scheduled cohabitation, I drove out to purchase gas for the moving vehicle and never returned.  That lie cost me one of the truest friends I’ve ever known.  Deservedly.  Oh, wishful thinking—how many hearts have been broken in your name!
  2. Lies of Good Intention.  When my children were tykes, I told them they were the most beautiful beings in the world, and that great things were in store for them—careers, acclaim, an easier time than dear old Dad ever had.  That was a series of lies, you’ll say.  True.  And how disappointing for them to find out first hand what a struggle being alive really is.  Parenthood!  Maybe they should issue licenses?  Good intentions aren’t enough.
  3. Lies of Cowardice Years ago, when I was a banker, it fell to me to fire another employee.  The decision to terminate, made by the board of directors, was ostensibly because of a small bookkeeping error made during the employee’s first week on the job.  We’re talking a loss to the bank of less than a hundred dollars—chump change even in those days.  But that was a lie, and I knew it.

The real reason was that the poor Schmo had passed the afternoon of his first day on the job with his fly open, a situation that caused him no end of mortification once a co-worker found the courage to speak up.  No big deal you’ll say, just an unfortunate case of nerves and forgetfulness—the sort of mishap that could befall any guy desperate to make good in a new position.  And you’d be right.  The guy was no pervert.

Nevertheless, I followed through on the board’s instructions, repeating to the employee (with as much conviction as I could muster) the false reason for his termination.  The poor guy cried.  So did I; because I felt bad for him.  But mainly because I was ashamed of having supported an egregious falsehood.  Don’t know if there’s a connection, but ‘executive’ is a role I’ve never since pursued.

So there.  Three lies out of millions (and yes–I know the categories overlap).  But do I feel better for having confessed?

Ask me later.

About jaurquhart

Jack Andrew Urquhart was born in the American South. Following undergraduate work at the University of Florida, Gainesville, he taught in Florida's public schools. He earned a Master of Arts degree in English, Creative Writing, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was the winner of the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Award for Fiction (1991). His work has appeared online at Clapboard House Literary Journal, Crazyhorse Literary Journal, and Standards: The International Journal of Multicultural Studies. He is the author of So They Say, a collection of self-contained, inter-connected stories and the short story, They Say You Can Stop Yourself Breathing. Formerly a writing instructor at the University of Colorado’s Writing Program, Mr. Urquhart was, until 2010, a senior analyst for the Judicial Branch of California. He resides in Washington State.
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7 Responses to Three Lies I Told

  1. rlboyington says:

    On second thought (I got to read this before it was published, and, truthfully, offered input of no substance) – this is not really a light-weight piece. I have always, all my adult life, been inclined to think (feel is probably the more honest term) that withholding the truth and exaggeration are also forms of lying. What do you (blogger and readers of blog) think? BTW – I really like the graphic which even performs its neat trick in the email announcement.

    • marydpierce says:

      My first thought on opening this post (via email) was – how the hell did they do that? My second thought was – I’ll bet Ray found it.
      As to withholding the truth and exaggeration are forms of lying, but have a little more grey area.

  2. I agree with Ray – it’s not a light subject. They say confession is good for the soul, and I guess I wrote a lot about that subject in Termite Queen (particularly Pt.4), but really, Jack, I don’t think you need to beat yourself up in public over these things. I believe it’s best to keep one’s flaws in the purview of close, sympathetic friends. I could tell all about certain things I’ve experienced in my life, but I’m not going to – it’s nobody’s business (that’s the way I was taught).
    As for your first item, my opinion is nobody is ready to commit to a long-term relationship at the age of 19. And one’s judgment is not very good at 19 – don’t they say the brain isn’t fully mature till age 25? And while I can understand why you would regret that, I think it’s something one just has to put behind one.
    The second point … I guess it IS better to tell one’s children that life can be tough and they aren’t going to be handed things on a silver platter – they have to work for what they want. I chuckle at what my mother said about her mother – when people told her how pretty and smart her daughter was, my grandmother would say, “I guess she’ll serve!”
    As to the third point, I was a little confused – which were you required to tell the guy – that he’d stolen money or that his fly was open? Which did you consider the lie about the reason he was fired? I had to fire somebody once, when I was head catalog librarian at a college. It wasn’t fun, but I didn’t have to lie to them. And I was put out because I thought the Head Librarian should have done that sort of dirty work. What a cowardly cop-out on his part!

  3. marydpierce says:

    I started to reply to this, got as far as Ray’s comment, and then got sidetracked by life.

    I suspect that you started out to make this lighthearted, but it did make me think. The fact is, there are so many, many ways to lie. How about the lies we tell ourselves? Or lies of convenience? What I shoot for is to tell the truth, or as near to the truth as I can get without hurting someone irreparably. If I fall short of that – and I do – I just keep trying.

    I never told my son that he was beautiful or that great things were in store for him. I did tell him he was loved beyond measure and that life would sometimes suck, but when he needed us, we’d be there for him. That has always been true.

    I did, however tell him the quintessential parent lie/s of good intention when I played out the Santa Claus/Tooth Fairy/Easter Bunny myth. Boy, was he upset when he found out that it wasn’t true. And he was upset precisely because, in his words, I had lied to him. (He has since gotten over it.)

    We do the best we can in life, most of us, and if we truly love our children, our mates, our family and our friends (as I know you do), that is all we can do. As for lie #1: I agree with Lorinda. 19 is SO young. I went ahead and married a man at 19 because I said I would. And look how that turned out. About lie #2: Your children don’t have problems because they were disappointed that the life you said they’d have didn’t happen that way. They are so many other variables at play. That you love them and they know that is something you don’t give yourself enough credit for. And lie #3: Oh, my God. If I had been the hapless employee, believe me, I would rather have someone tell me I was being fired for making a bookkeeping mistake than to be told it was because I’d been walking around an entire day with my fly unzipped. That wasn’t cowardice on your part, it was kindness.

    And seriously – how the hell does that graphic work? It’s like magic!

  4. Great piece, Jack!

    I think my parents did a great disservice by shielding my sister and I from the world’s cold, hard truths. We were kept in a bubble, and I did believe that good things came to one, simply by being good. As I’ve grown, one of my biggest struggles has been to change the way I’d been taught to view the world (and my future), and instead embrace a less-pretty but more realistic view. Success in anything doesn’t just happen–you have to make it so.

    With our own kids, we offer support and love, but always try to share with them our own struggles in making a place in the world. And it is a difficult line, to be realistic, without causing fear. At times, I wonder if we’re sharing “too much”, but thus far, I see our kids as being smart, sweet, and still innocent. But I do, at times, think, “I wish I could paint for them a picture that is untainted.”

    Instead, I guide us towards making choices that will help create that better world. We volunteer regularly, and illustrate that things can get better–if we make it so.

    • jaurquhart says:

      Thank you for visiting, Kergan, and for your insightful comments. I think I made the classic mistake with my children of over compensating for what seemed lacking in my youth — i.e., any strong sense of parental approval and enthusiasm. Your approach to parenting (and Mary’s; see below) seems much healthier. As you say, things get better only through effort. I expect the same can be said for making anything prettier. Please know that I’m a big fan of your posts — in all your various forums.

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