Self Study

Self Study

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Proverbs 23:23

Buy the truth, and sell it not, also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.


I came to a disturbing non-revelation while reading Sonia Sotomayor’s biography, My Beloved World. She’s talking about her college days at Princeton working on her senior thesis about Puerto Rico’s first elected governor, and says, “Of course I knew better than to let such emotion surface in the language and logic of my thesis; that’s not what historians do.”chains

A number of years ago I walked out of an adult Sunday School class when my pastor (a former history teacher) called all historians liars. It hit close to home, even though he meant it in a generic, non-personal way; a way that most basically, historians, as well as everyone on the planet, choose how to interpret circumstances, and then report those circumstances filtered through whatever lens makes the most sense—or splash. It’s obviously been a statement I’ve chewed on all this while.

I am a liar, and I know it. Not in the generic way, but specifically. I have lied in circumstances almost out of habit; I lied automatically; I lied selfishly, knowingly; I lied while contemplating how to get away with what I wanted; I lied to myself after doing or saying something hurtful and trying to justify my actions.

The chief justice’s comment gave me more food for thought as I wandered our farm, thinking about some of the past circumstances of my lies, and I realized something about my behavior.  Editing all these self-help books have come in handy, after all. Or maybe I’m finally growing up, well into my fifties and a grandmother; yes, I have also been considering my legacy and what I can teach my grandchildren, hoping to avoid those mistakes I made with my children—a sort of a glorious do-over. 

I’m not justifying my actions. I have worked on the problem over the past decade, have learned to not always let the lie out, and can apologize, but wanting to fib is still disturbingly often my first reaction to something I want to hide, and not just when I’m afraid. That’s a behavior I don’t want to pass on. It might help me with writing fiction, but it not’s a useful activity for real life.

If I don’t want anyone to know what I’ve done, I ought not to do it.

How will I react when faced with the first creative story from grandchildren about “what happened?” My plan of action is to avoid those accusatory statements to begin with. “Did you” has become, “Oh, look what happened.” Working hard not to instill fear is something I can do. Compassion works in many ways, in many situations. That’s not something that can be taught; it must be experienced. Maybe something…not good, but important…has come from my life experience. Something worthy to pass on.

Lisa Lickel About Lisa Lickel

Lisa Lickel enjoys the Wisconsin good life, where she ponders and writes. The author of inspirational novels, she is also the editor of Creative Wisconsin Magazine for the Wisconsin Writers Association.

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