As I have written about multiple times in the past, I wasn’t exactly the best kid in the sixth grade.
Among attending public school for the first time and the challenges of being shy, forging dad’s signature, and having my first attempt at spreading gossip fly back into my face, it could be aptly named my year in the school of hard knocks.
Well, here’s one more to add to the list.
Riding the bus to school one morning, my friend and I decided to play a game. Normally I would try to get some sleep on the bus because, with all the other kids to pick up from my stop to school, it was about a 30 to 40 minute drive after the driver picked us up to when I stepped foot off the bus and into class. This morning, however, I was awake and ready to play.
Upon my friend’s suggestion we played a game called “who could say the most cuss words in a minute?” Being a homeschooler in a Christian home, the only cuss words I thought I knew were “crap” and “dang.” Naturally, my friend won the game handily.
I knew I was going to lose but I played anyway because I wanted to fit in.
The cool kids in class cussed and didn’t bow to authority. I had been seen as the “innocent” homeschooler who didn’t fit in with other friends.
Now, I could go the route of bad company corrupts good morals, but that would mean being too gracious on my former self. Though mom and dad, along with my pastor and members of my church, taught me good morals, I was not yet a Christian and the morals were not yet instilled in my inner being.
Tired of being seen as the “good guy,” I was eager to rebel. My friend’s game was simply a means to do so.
But I lost that game. And even though I knew I would, I was still hurt and wanted to get back at him for winning. So, I started thinking of ways to win at some other sin. I looked around the bus, then outside at the green grass and abundant pine trees, houses, mailboxes, and other sites we passed, until, using my imagination, I knew the way to enact my revenge.
I saw a deer crossing sign. Excitedly, I called out to my friend, who sat across from me, “Look! There’s a deer!” He quickly hopped across the seat and peered out the window. Nothing. “Aw man, you missed it,” I said. Saddened, he returned to his seat and we both sat in silence.
There were no deer. Never was. I lied, and it felt sweet – for about a few seconds. Then I felt something else. “Why did you lie?” came a voice in my head. Why did I? I had lied to my friend in order to get revenge. What was there to gain in lying to him?
Why had I done that? There was no reason for it. I wasn’t the Hebrew midwives who lied to protect the Israelite boys from Pharaoh’s command to kill, or Rahab, who lied to protect the two Israelite spies, or even Corrie Ten Boom, who lied to Nazis to protect the Jews from their “final solution.”
There’s a discussion to be had about situational ethics when it comes to lying in order to protect someone or something from falling into evil hands, but that’s another topic for another column.
Like Saint Augustine who, in his book Confessions, confessed that he had stolen pears from a neighbor’s pear tree simply for the sake of stealing, I lied simply because I had wanted to.
After the few fleeting moments of pleasure I gained from one-upping my friend, I began to feel guilt over what I had done. I had betrayed my friend without him even knowing. That moment ruined the rest of the drive and my entire day at school.
Though I did not become a Christian until several years later, I did feel guilt over that – and not because I got caught. I didn’t. No one but me, and now whoever reads this, ever knew. But that moment showed me my heart, and it wasn’t good. But it was a formative moment, nonetheless. It began to show me I wasn’t innocent as my classmates – and even I – thought I was. And it showed me how a lie can infect a good friendship and turn it sour.
Now that I’ve been a Christian for around 15 years, I can look back on that with different eyes. I still feel that tiredness I felt back then – that feeling of being tired of being seen as someone who does things right.
Back then, I didn’t have anything to counter my disordered desire. Now I do. The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians, encouraging the weary brothers and sisters to “let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
That’s encouraging. There’s better fruit to be born among friends in speaking the truth than in telling lies.
I believe next week’s column is going to concern a recent (near) run-in I had with some deer. Don’t worry, you can believe this story. I learned my lesson about telling lies about deer.
Joseph Hamrick is a semi-professional writer and sometimes thinker. He lives in Commerce and serves as a deacon at Commerce Community Church (C3). He can be reached at email@example.com