In a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong finally admitted to using banned substances to enhance his performance. He had not only been denying the truth all this time, he aggressively went after anybody who did tell the truth.
Perhaps I’m used to celebrities weeping copious tears on Winfrey’s couch, but Armstrong didn’t seem especially sorry to me. In fact he never said that he was sorry, just that he was going to apologize to people he had hurt in his confrontational denials. He even said he “deserved” to compete again.
It’s not just celebrities who deny what they are doing, and react with belligerence when anybody strays to closely to the truth. Many of us keep secrets. And many of us react just the way Armstrong did when exposed—becoming defiant and defensive.
It is possible to become so wedded to the false image one is showing the world and so convinced by the false story one is telling everyone, that the truth becomes a powerful and lethal threat. Being exposed feels like dying.
Sometimes the secret one is keeping is more of a denial—looking the other way. We may not have a cocaine habit or extramarital affair, but we keep hidden from ourselves the facts about our way of life ruining the planet, or our participation in inequitable social systems.
Our theme this month at First Parish is self-examination: how do we see what is really true about ourselves? How do we break down the false self? For a congregation that affirms that “the quest for truth is our sacrament,” we can remember that truth is not only “out there.”
Being secretive is corrosive to the soul. And living in denial is a burden to the spirit. How much more joy and freedom are to be found in living lives of integrity—with nothing to hide!
Admitting the truth can be painful. Acknowledging how our denial has hurt others is difficult. Yet it is the path to authenticity, happiness and being free.
Yours in truth,