The Courage to be True

“Lucy has been in a terrible car accident. She is in the ICU in a coma. Please pray.”

It was an email that stopped you dead in your tracks. Fear, horror, dread: my loved one might die. Dear God.

The thing is, Lucy (not her real name) wrote the email herself. A slight fender-bender, not even requiring a tow truck or repair, had sparked her imagination, and upon arriving safely home she opened her father’s email and sent this message to all his contacts.

Lucy is family and someone I love, but the relationship is complicated by her amorphous relationship with truth. It has always been so difficult to determine whether her tales of trauma warrant my sincere empathy. I always know there will be a seed of connection to the truth, yet whether it is merely a seed or rather something of grave concern is seldom clear. I wish more than anything that she knew she is enough, even without dramatic stories to draw others in. I try to walk the fine line of showering her with affection in ordinary times and not over-reacting to every purported terminal diagnosis or life-threatening encounter without seeming callous or uncaring.

The irony with pathological liars is that while the stories they create may not be true, the depth of their pain is. The gulf between story and reality is as wide as their fear of true authenticity.

Pathological lying is antithetical to relationships. While trying to rope in love with a home-made lasso, compulsive liars instead flail and whip away any who might come close. Connection – true, meaningful, satisfying connection – can only be built on authenticity.

And authenticity requires vulnerability, which requires that we be brave. Not just brave enough to expose raw, shocking trauma-porn stories, but brave enough to simply be. To risk that our ordinary, everyday selves are worthy of love by showing up as our true selves, naked and undisguised. Not under the illusions presented by Snapchat filters or highlight reels, but in sweats with unwashed hair. We share the raw and ugly, the plain, and the beautiful and thrilling that all make up the kaleidoscope of our human experience, and in so doing and being, we find one another.

To be loved requires that we first love ourselves, if even just a little.

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