Every Lent I ask God what I can give to Him during this season…something He knows I need to give up in order to receive what He knows I need. Often the answer comes in sharp and clear, but this year I struggled with the question. Through my pondering, Billy Joel’s song “Honesty” came to mind:
Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.
I first thought of the song earlier in the year with Lance Armstrong’s admission to lying about his doping. Not only did the seven-time Tour De France winner lie, he sued people for telling the truth. He lived the lie so long, and so well, that he believed it himself.
That’s a dangerous position to be in, but Lance didn’t know that, and apparently still doesn’t. According to a recent Washington Times article, Lance told an interviewer that “the public will soon forget about him being the biggest dope cheat in cycling’s history, just like they did former president Bill Clinton for his affair with an intern.” Armstrong went on in the interview to say Clinton is his hero.
How sad that the opinion of the public is the biggest problem Armstrong is concerned about. How tragic to be so awed by a man (Clinton) who was able to rise up from the ashes of his own self and public deception as to make him out to be a hero.
I don’t know whether Clinton was able to recover from his own lies and remake himself through honesty or a brilliant self-marketing campaign, and frankly it’s not my place to judge him. But it begs the question, who must we be honest with? Lest anyone think “no harm, no foul” when it comes to lying, let me make it clear that even when we succeed in keeping our lies secret, someone is always injured in our transgressions. There is no such thing as no harm.
Furthermore, let me suggest that the greatest harm we do, we do to ourselves, because believing our own lies hardens our hearts and pushes our psyches into remote regions of our being where we can no longer reach. In fact, the most dangerous part of lying is that it promotes the biggest lie of all—that we don’t need God.
Back to Billy Joel, while his song decries the fact that he can’t get honesty from others, he also acknowledges that he can’t give it, either:
But if you look for truthfulness
You might just as well be blind.
It always seems to be so hard to give.
So my Lenten journey led me to look at my own honesty, or lack thereof. What am I dishonest about? I am dishonest when I act as though I can live life without God. When I neglect time for personal worship because (I tell myself) other activities are more important. When I tell God I love Him for who He is, when in fact I love Him for the blessings He bestows on my life, which, if taken away, might lead to my desertion. When I say I love Him yet don’t always strive to follow Jesus’ example.
As Benedict of Nursia might say (or the neighborhood high schooler), “I am a worm.” But by this admission I know I am in a good place, because I am being honest and I believe God will meet me here, splayed as I am at the foot of the cross of Jesus.
Join me, won’t you?