The Good Lie

“Truth is such a rare thing, it is delighted to tell it.”
                                                                                                  -Emily Dickinson

I saw a movie a few months ago called The Good Lie. It was with Reese Witherspoon and is about a group of the “lost boys” from the Sudan. These young men made it through a purging of their villages, a trek to a camp in Nigeria, and a passage to America and their indoctrination and integration into American society. It is quite a moving picture. In this movie, one of the young men had to make a very difficult decision. A young leader of their surviving villagers did something during their trek to save his life, and it jeopardized the leaders own. He and his companions thought their friend had perished saving him and felt guilty for his life over the young leader. After a year or two in America, he heard that his friend was alive and in the camp in Nigeria hopefully awaiting passage to America. He decided to make the voyage back to the camp and find his friend and help him to America. When he arrived, he did everything he could to get his friend the documents he needed to leave. In the end, he wasn’t able to. He found his friend and took him to the airport. His friend thought they were both going to America, but he had to give his friend his own documents with his name on them. He stayed and helped others at the camp in Nigeria. This is where the movie gets the name, The Good Lie.

The more I thought about his actions, the more I felt uneasy about them. I don’t know that I think giving his friend his own documents at his own expense was a good lie. I do know doing that assuaged his conscience. But what he, in fact, did was give his friend his own life, and he is living his friend’s life. We all do things like this. We live other friends or family members fates; consciously and also unconsciously. An example of doing it unconsciously is when we become depressed or fail just like our mother or our father. When they live depressed lives, it is often from events that happened to them. When we live in a similar mental and spiritual state, we are not living our own, but we are living theirs. 

Over one of our many breakfasts my father tells of a story where he kept a secret and a good lie so that a patient’s child wouldn’t have to suffer from actions of hers and of her perpetrators. He had a female patient who had suffered at the hands of a group in St Louis my father refers to as cultists. This was a group at a psychoanalytic facility who engaged in sexual activities with their female patients and then blackmailed them into not telling anyone. A woman came to see dad for help thinking he could help her as he had seen her son much earlier and had helped him.  He saw her about four times and then went away for vacation. While he was gone, some of the therapists found out she was seeing him for help, and they were afraid he would make trouble for them, so they put fear in her. She came to him one more time and accused him of sexual activity with her and then bolted from the room. There ensued a lawsuit where his license was taken away. Dad had an opportunity to accuse the cultists and didn’t because he was afraid that if everything came out, her son who he had originally treated, would be hurt, and he couldn’t live with himself if that happened. 

Again, although his motives were good, not wanting to inflict any more pain on a prior patient, in fact, the truth is better in the long run. He cheated this young man from information that might temporarily hurt him, but has the opportunity to enrich his life and his mothers. 

How often do we do such things; keep secrets, live others fates, supposedly to prevent hurt? Does it really do so? Is it really a good lie? Where might you have done something like this in your life? Has it really helped you? Living a full life of wholeness, health and vitality involves being true to us and to our own lives and fate. Changing or withholding does not enrich us. Do you have a story to share along these lines to enrich us?

Recommended Resources:

I recommend seeing the movie, The Good Lie, and I believe it is rentable through all the DVD and blue ray sources. I also recommend seeing the movie, The Imitation Game, as it also poses many questions that are along these lines. 

Afterwards, sit down for a few minutes and ask yourself? What do I think is best in these types of situations? What is best for me, and what is best for all involved? Where have I done something like this in my life? 

In my work with facilitating Family Constellations and therapeutic settings, I find that secrets are almost always hurtful in the long run, and often in ways we are not able to imagine at the time. Let me know what you think on this subject, if you are so moved. You can read more about my work on my website.

Here is to a brighter and better self!

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