My Christmas Thief and His Lesson in Truth

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December 20, 2018 by lucieromarin

So, three parcels were stolen from my front doorstep (which is inside a building, and not immediately facing the street.) I lost two dresses, five skeins of undyed yarn, and two decks of art therapy cards I’d designed and had printed for a friend.

After a good half-hour of guttedness, I decided that, as it’s Christmas, I would forgive the thief, and pray that the grace of my forgiveness would turn him into a Franciscan friar who spent the rest of his life renouncing possessions. Notwithstanding the second half of this prayer, I tried to sit with that forgiveness as a kind of bite-sized attempt at the virtue. If I can’t magnanimously sweep aside twenty years of wasted life, could I not, at least, kneel beside the Infant King, renounce a few possessions and ask Him to renew the soul of the thief, who, for all I knew, had mental and physical illnesses, abusive parents, addiction to drugs and alcohol, and an affliction with evil spirits?

Then, at an end-of-year lunch, someone shared a story of betrayed friendship. (No, it wasn’t me!) Another woman offered the story-teller the thought that this time of year, this time of transition, was a good time for letting go. She didn’t mean it in the faux-forgiveness way, where you pretend that the bad stuff wasn’t really that bad and you’re just not going to think about it anymore. Rather she meant that this is a time to embrace reality and to value yourself enough to shed the delusions about other people that you’ve clung to, because clinging seemed easier than facing the truth.

Thinking this over, I found myself, as with the thief, starting small, by clearing my cupboard of those items to which delusion clung. The shoes I loved but which would always be too painful for my broken knees? I let go of that hope and gave them away. As I did so, I asked myself about my friends. How did I really feel about that person who never replies to text messages or who forgets to let me know that she’s cancelled our catch-up? Could I release that friend without injury to her other friendships? And so on. Then…

Remember the glass-I-cannot-throw-away that I wrote about some posts ago? This morning, I picked it up and something became clear to me.

Liars don’t change. I’m not saying they can’t change. I’m saying they don’t change. It is a clear tenet of our faith that true contrition is accompanied by apology and restitution. Where there is no apology or restitution, there is no contrition. This is your clue.

Now, think about our own history of saints who converted from and conquered a dominant fault or addiction. You can think of characters who converted from chronic anger, thievery, alcoholism, fornication, attachment to wealth. Hell, Bartolo Longo was an ordained Satanist priest, and he changed. But can you think of one Catholic who started out as a chronic liar but who ended up as saint?

You can’t. The pathological liar doesn’t repent. He or she only becomes more adept, so that the façade can be taken for healing, where it suits them to be interpreted as healed. I imagine that my director has learned by now that if he says, “Father Bloggs says,” or “Such-and-such family member says,” it’s easy enough for the person he’s lying to to actually check with the relevant parties and discover that no such conversation ever took place. I imagine the same goes for the girl in question. If you say to me one year, “Father was going to ask you to be present at my deliverances, because I was getting violent,” and then two years later you say, “Oh, you would never have been allowed to see my deliverances. I used to wake up on the floor and find Father Jones staring down at me,” I’m not going to believe both stories. I’m also going to check this story with Father Jones. Seriously – “I’m not going to be in Sydney for Christmas this year” – even though your car is parked next to your flat, which is in my street? Your two-year-old child needed exorcisms? You have to cancel our coffee because your director’s nephew can’t visit his grandmother without you? You need to cancel our post-reveal catch-up because ‘you still have too much to do’ – even though you’re both unemployed and actually have nothing to do? A mysterious and unnameable priest in America secretly put our director under obedience to pay you secret visits and live a double life with his community? Get lost!

Yes, sinners need grace to convert, but the sick need other help to become well, so expecting a pathological liar to change because you say some prayers or offer some forgiveness will only ever enable that person to persist in that pathology. It is as the memes tell you – believe patterns, not promises. If you really must try to fix things, the only way to do so is to call it – to tear away the tissue of lies, over and over again, until the fragile, broken, delusional mess underneath it all takes him or herself off to a counsellor or a shrink. Prick that façade with the needle of truth. Do they shriek, accuse, punish you or cut you off when you challenge their ‘authority’ by calling the lie? There’s your clue. Honestly, I think you’re better off leaving them to it, but if you’re in a position to act, then all I can say is – please, don’t enable. Don’t make excuses for them. Don’t doubt your own judgement when their words seem a little bit weird or don’t seem to fit something they said or did a week ago. Challenge them. Call it. Shout reality.

Where there is no apology or restitution, there is no contrition. The glass is at Vinnies now. I let go of my hope, and I gave it away. I guess I owe something to the thief!

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