If I recall my Catholic upbringing correctly, seven years old is the age when you are able to make real decisions. At the ripe old age of seven you know the difference between right and wrong and therefore you can willfully sin.
Sin was a big deal when I grew up. There were cardinal sins and venial sins. Committing a cardinal sin would land you in hell. My father had little tolerance for liars. He was adamant that liars are the worst sinners of all. If you are not truthful, you can’t be trusted. And if you aren’t trustworthy, well your life will be very lonely.
I was afraid to lie. I remember being in second or third grade when we walked over from St. Thomas More school to the church for reconciliation. I was mentally prepared to go into the confessional, when the teacher announced that we would be making our confessions face-to-face. I was scared shitless. Had I thought about it then I probably could have confessed to swearing and taking the Lord’s name in vain. I was already freaked out about confessing inside the confessional, my entrance prompted by the green light, and waiting for the screen to slide open. Never mind the brain teaser of trying to decipher which priest was on the other side of the screen. On this day we walked right past the confessionals, behind the altar to a room near the sacristy and found Father Murphy. This was a whole different level of anxiety. And in all of this excitement and fear I realized I really didn’t have any sins since my last confession, or so I thought. I would certainly go to hell if lied about not sinning, so I thought real hard and found some sins. I told Fr. Murphy that some days after school I would go into my parents bedroom and sneak a Little Debbie treat that was intended for our lunches. And other times when I wanted to go to Turek’s on Kedzie and get some candy, without asking, I would take 50 cents or a dollar from my mom’s purse. You would have thought I confessed to murder. Father Murphy read me the riot act and called me a thief because I knowingly stole snack cakes and dollars and change from my mom’s purse. He wanted me to speak with a psychiatrist or a god parent, and told me to say five Hail Mary’s and Five Our Fathers. I said my penance and Act of Contrition and I left feeling like that was all a bit harsh. I was afraid the devil was going to emerge and pull me right out of the pew and drag me into the bowels of hell. I was a sinner. I searched to tell the truth about sins and then I got slammed. It’s one of the few times I felt bad about telling the truth. What would have happened if I just lied. What if I said, “Father I have no sins” what then? He would have probably lost his shit at that, and tried to extricate some sins from me.
I’m stuck on the thought of truth and lies because I am trying to nail down if someone I know is being truthful. This person appears truthful, sounds truthful, but something is nagging me. I can’t figure out, is it him or me? Is this nagging courtesy of my own bullet wounds that cause me to question his honesty? Or is my heart telling me yes, he’s truthful, when all indicators contradict that? My inability to determine if he’s truthful puts us on a plateau. I keep coming back to what my parents taught us, that without the truth there is no relationship. Without trust, everything else is a lie.
Tonight I told a friend about my quandary. My heart and gut are crisscrossed and the whole conflict is causing me grief. I told my friend that I wake up every day and do my best to be happy and this person is making me unhappy. Whether or not he’s truthful is his problem. Whether or not I’m truthful is mine. I’m going to tell the truth that I think he’s lying. I’m not going to ask him to say a penance but I honestly expect I will ask him to say goodbye.