Forty-eight years have passed and the memory still makes me cringe.
I’m still not sure why I told the lie or why I continued it for so long. Perhaps it was because I was annoyed that he, the boy who had an unreciprocated crush on me, called persistently. Perhaps I was bored with my young 8th-grade self. Or perhaps it was because I secretly longed to be like two of my friends, who are identical twins. Maybe it was a little of all the above, but whatever my reasoning may have been, I spontaneously lied when I answered the phone.
“Um no, Sharon isn’t here. This is her twin sister, Karen. I’ll tell her you called.”
I heard stammering on the other end.
“You mean she has never told you about me? I’m not surprised; we don’t always get along. I’ve been living with my grandparents in Virginia and came home for the summer.”
From there the lie took on a life of its own. Since he had moved and no longer attended my school, and we didn’t share many mutual friends, it was easy to let the story grow undetected. Long before caller ID or answering machines, the phone was always answered when it rang. Depending on my mood, when I heard his voice on the other end, sometimes I would talk with him as me; other times, I pretended to be my twin. I vaguely remember on one occasion where he even talked to both of us, as “we” passed the phone back and forth.
I did feel some guilt at my deception, but I was mostly amused that I could so easily fool him. The story-telling lasted the entire summer. Shortly after school started, he happened to mention “Karen” to a girl who had just transferred to his school. I had known her since elementary school, and she blew the lid off my tall tale. He confronted me during a phone call.
My heart pounded and I wiped my sweaty hands on my pants. For a moment, I considered defending my lie but chose to confess and tell the truth. I expected him to slam the phone down and never call me again. Instead, he laughed at the prank…and kept calling. Occasionally, he would laughingly ask if he could talk to Karen; however, I never laughed with him. I was no longer amused by my actions. When I moved to Hawaii a few months later, he continued to call and write long letters. Gradually, as time passed, the phone calls and letters became less frequent, until they stopped altogether.
While I had made things right, I learned life-changing lessons from the weight of my deception. The experience defined the truth boundaries for me: I realized that lying is the quickest way to lose my witness, compromise my integrity and assassinate my character. There is no such thing as a “little white lie;” if it’s not 100-percent truth, it is a lie. I became vigilant about speaking the whole truth — and nothing but the truth. If a hastily spoken word leaves my lip that hints of untruth, I am quick to correct it…even if it is awkward. While the truth may not be as exciting as an embellished story, ultimately the truth will come out.
I’m not sure if our paths will ever cross again, but if they do, I will apologize again — as an adult — for my lies. He may have forgotten about Karen, but I sure haven’t.
For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. ~ Mark 4:22