Thursday, March 26, 2009

Never lie to the dog

Some time ago, I read a novel by Dean Koontz in which the following piece of wisdom was key: Never lie to the dog. No matter what lies you have to tell yourself in the mirror, no matter how bad things get, never lie to the dog.
Everyone should have a safe place to tell the truth. A place where you can say what needs to be said without shame or fear, where you can sort of float the unpleasant truth out there and see how it feels, or be proud for some accomplishment when you think you should be modest. For some, the safe place might be the dog, or a therapist, or a journal.
But I think this kind of truth-telling can be a kind of prayer. It's an honest, soul-baring prayer, in which we admit that we don't always like ourselves or our actions, that we can be unpleasant way down deep, and that we need affirmation far more than we'd like. At least that's what it is for me sometimes.
And it's a kind of prayer I need, because I have discovered in myself an incredible capacity for fantasy, for denying reality, for believing stuff that's just not true. Not lying to the dog (or to God) lets me hear the lies in what I tell myself, and to know that I am loved, that I am smart and capable, that sometimes life is hard, but that I can survive, and even thrive, because I don't do it alone.
It's a new rule at our house, don't lie to the dog. Each of us is committed to finding a place to tell the whole truth when we need to, and it's not one another. I don't know that any marriage can survive that! But we need place where we can say the hard things: I hurt, I'm angry, I don't feel loved, I did a really great thing, whatever. And we need a place where the hard things are accepted and acceptable, where we get a sense that there is a love for us that truly exists without conditions, that celebrates our victories, even when we can't see them clearly, and lets us see that our grief, while real, is not all there is.
For me, that place is God. For the main character in that Koontz novel, it was the dog.
Who is it for you?

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