When I was a little girl I lied to the teacher.
Well, she wasn’t “only” a teacher. She was also a Catholic nun.
I was scared to death of her and she had caught me in something that I could hardly deny. I mean, it wasn’t very likely that someone else in that first grade class would carve the name “Carmelene” into the top of my desk, was it? Still, I stood right in front of the raised Diaz on which her desk was installed and boldly, bare-facedly, straight out lied to her.
“No Sister, I didn’t do it.”
Of course, I had done it and I loved doing it. I loved the fact that I had figured out that all those lines and circles Sister had been making on the board actually meant something. I loved the feel of wood giving way under the point of my ink pen as I scratched deeply into it. I even loved the sheer look of my name there on my desk, imbedded in such a way that made it look oh so permanent.
I was satisfied. I had made my mark on the world.
And I wasn’t going to let any nun take all that away from me. I was going to define my own reality.
“No, Sister. I didn’t do it.”
To this day, I like the fact about me that I lied to Sister. To this day I remember that scene as a turning point in my life. I was only five-and-a-half-years-old but I stood up for myself in the face of authority.
But, there is a dark side to the story.
By the time I lied to Sister, then lied to the principal, then lied to my mother about it, “No, Mother, I didn’t do it.”
I began to believe my own lie.
In fact, I had to believe my own lie—in order for my lie to be true, if that makes any sense.
It took me decades to stop believing my own lies. And in the process, I made myself a little crazy because I ultimately couldn’t really tell the difference between what I wanted-hoped-thought-lied about happening and what really happened. I would literally have to scratch and claw my way to reality and then stick to it as if it were the lie.
But then, who of us hasn’t lied?
“No, mum, I didn’t order the Lone Ranger Books.”
“No, mommy, I didn’t pee under the bed.”
“No honey, I didn’t sleep with that woman.”
I mean, we all lie.
The trick is to get the point in our lives where we recognize it when we do it, or else we end up like me—believing our own lies.
My heart actually goes out to NBC News Anchor Brian Williams.
I can relate to him. His is the grown up version of lying to Sister. His is the grow-up version of creating his own reality, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.
By lying about being in a helicopter that was shot down in Iraq when he wasn’t on such a helicopter, Mr. Williams was attempting to make his mark on the world in the way he wanted to make it, in the way he needed to make it, not in the way he perhaps already had.
Mr. Williams was being “six-years-old.”
I would venture to guess that Mr. William’s helicopter story has many iterations and that there is a childhood version of it that started it all.
Look at the picture of him. That face is the face of a little boy who has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. You could just as easily put “I’m sorry, mommy” as a caption on the picture as anything else.
We can say that Brian Williams has committed a breach of ethics. We can accuse him of having a moral flaw. We can even say that he has assassinated his own character in a very public way. All of these things are true.
I would say that the tragic fact about him, however, is that he has not grown up.
Somewhere along the way, he began believing his own lies and telling them to others as if they were the truth. And now, perhaps he too has made himself a little crazy not being able to really tell the difference between what he wanted-hoped-thought-lied about happening and what really happened.
Unfortunately, Brian Williams is not on the playground anymore.
But if he were, I would probably choose not to play with him.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock