Monday, September 2, 2013

Honesty, Absolutely the Best Policy

I have found in life that there are many people who don't value honesty.  It blows my mind how willing people are to compromise and twist the truth.  I am sure that each of us could look back over past relationships and identify someone who has lied to us or a relationship where you were the one lying.  I have done my fair share of bending the truth, exaggerating, or flat out lying in my past.  When I was a junior in high school, I remember being so convicted of the lies I was living.  The pressure of covering up my life choices with lie after lie weighed my heart  down.  What I hated the most about lying was that only a few people really knew me.  Everyone else had an image of me and thought they knew the real me.  I remember being in between boyfriends my junior year of high school and being overwhelmed with guilt and shame.  I was a prevalent member of our church's youth group.  I knew I had several younger girls looking up to me.  I had three younger siblings who thought I was as close to perfect as a person could be.  I had distanced myself from the Lord in attempt to stifle the conviction I felt, so I could keep doing what I wanted to do, and so that I could justify my choices.  The bigger the lies became, the further from the Lord I strayed...He didn't move, but I sure did.  I also felt myself drifting away from my siblings...who were the most important people in my world.  I especially remember the way my brothers would look at me, as if they admired who they thought I was.  That was what broke me.

I met with my youth pastor and his wife (Larry and Joan Ledford).  I poured out my heart to them.  I confessed to them the struggle I was dealing with, the secrets I had kept, and the lies that I had told to cover up my sin.  The two of them hugged me and loved on me.  They prayed with me in the youth room at Macedonia Baptist Church.  I told them that I wanted to talk to my parents, but I was afraid.  They offered to join me in talking with my parents.  The following day, my parents, me and the Ledfords met at their home.  I opened up to my parents and unloaded two years worth of hurts, pain, and lies.  Naturally, my parents were brokenhearted.  My Daddy was furious.  And, they had every right to be upset with me.  I had broken their trust.  I had lied.  I had made choices that could have had lifelong physical repercussions.  (Even now, I have emotional struggles tied to this season of my life when I was 15-17 years old.)  I had put myself in a precarious situation.  I had been a poor role model to those who looked up to me.

Even as painful as it was to tell my youth pastor, his wife, and my parents what I had done wrong, I felt such freedom in telling the truth.  The Bible tells us that "the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).  It did just that for me.  Things weren't instantly better.  It took awhile to earn my parents' trust back.  I sought accountability from my youth pastor and his wife.  I started walking back toward the Lord.  After meeting with my parents, I spoke with my brothers and sister.  Now, that is what really hurt me...the disappointment in their sweet faces, the disbelief in their eyes, the pain that I caused all made me so sick.  I was supposed to be someone they could count on and someone they could follow.  I had let them down.  BUT, they were so forgiving.  Just like my parents, more importantly, just like Jesus, they showed me unconditional love.  That summer, my youth pastor asked me to share my testimony with our youth group along with another youth group who would be at the same retreat center.  I remember getting up in front of that room of at least 60 teens and various adults and telling my story.  My motivation was to help someone keep from making the same choices I had, to let someone who was where I was know they could turn it around, and to let everyone know that God's love for us is bigger than the messes we make.  Because of that season in my life, honesty has become essential in my existence.  I asked God to convict me the MOMENT I begin to tell a falsehood, exaggerate or not tell the whole story.  I do not want to ever be a liar again.

Now, as an adult, honesty is by far the thing I crave the most in a relationship...any relationship.  I am recovering from a past filled with lies that weren't my own but that deeply affected me.  Because of the dishonesty I have dealt with, I have trouble trusting others.  I struggle to believe that people are telling me the truth.  Thankfully, God has blessed me with wonderful friends who are honest.  I love spending time with people who are authentic and transparent.  It is my goal to be the same.  I want to be honest about my thoughts, feelings, shortcomings, victories, pain, and joy.  I want God to shine through me.  I want to be genuine.  I want to surround myself with people who are the same.

With my children, I try to teach the value of honesty.  If I catch either of them in a lie, we talk about it right then.  I want them to understand that when they do wrong, there will be a consequence, but the consequence will be much greater if they add lying to the list of wrongs.  I told them that it is far more important to be honest and to take a punishment than to take a greater punishment because they thought lying would make it better.  I also want them to understand how quickly a lie grows, how it can infiltrate your heart and mind and take over your life.  I want them to guard their hearts against lies and to surround themselves with honest people.  Cecely is very honest...almost brutally honest, so we are working on honesty with respect and compassion.

I am honest with my kiddos in our relationship.  We talk about everything (at an age appropriate level, of course).  As we go through this separation/divorce period, they have had a lot of questions.  I answer them as honestly and appropriately as possible.  One of their favorite questions is why don't I have a boyfriend like Daddy has a girlfriend.  My answer is "because the Bible says a man should have one wife and a woman should have one husband...not a wife and a girlfriend or a husband and a boyfriend."  I have explained that until the court declares their Daddy and me divorced, we are still married.  I want them to be able to have those dialogues with me as uncomfortable as they might be.  I want them to understand that even though a topic may be awkward and difficult, it is better to be honest about it so that we can work our way through it together.

The Bible is full of verses about the importance of honesty.  These are a couple of my favorites:

"The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them" (Prov. 11:3)

"Do not lie to each other, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices" (Col. 3:9)

Finally, I'll share this song with you.  I love that God can take us with whatever faults and sins we have.  And, He can change us into something new.  Isn't that just amazing?  I love this song by Brandon Heath...
I'm Not Who I Was
I wish I could go back to high school and tell everyone that I'm not the same as I was.  I am a new creation who God is using everyday! 

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