I remember as if it were yesterday; the day I told Mum The Big Lie. It was outrageous and obvious--I am not a good liar, which probably saved me from going down that road very far.
I was about 12 years old; a time when school was not my favourite place in the world to be and I went through a phase of playing truant, either alone or with a friend.
On one occasion I read the journals of Queen Victoria, while safely hidden in the branches of a yew tree in our village church yard, with the clock in the bell tower chiming away the day in 15 minute increments.
On the day of The Big Lie, I left for school as usual, walked down the hill into the village where I met the friend I usually rode the school bus with. We hid out in the church yard until my mum left for work, and then we let ourselves into the house.
We had fun watching TV, closing the curtains in the living room to block out the sunlight. At some point during the day, I have no idea why, we decided to melt some baking chocolate in a saucepan. We didn't know that this should be done in a double boiler, over water, or at the very least over a very low light, and the chocolate scorched and burned onto Mum's saucepan. No amount of scrubbing could get the blackened utensil back to its original state.
When it was nearing time to "return from school," we went back into hiding and Mum came home. Mum was looking puzzled when I arrived a little later. "Darling," she said, "The curtains were drawn when I got home, and the saucepan was burned. Do you know why?"
"Oh," I said, "I wasn't feeling well, so I came home. But then I felt better, so I went back to school."
Yeah, right! Who ever heard of a kid coming home from school and going back?
If Mum knew I was lying, she didn't say so, and that was worse by far than if she had. Trust given when it was so undeserved, had a profound effect on me. I felt awful and determined never to betray her trust in me again if I could help it.
I've thought lately about the importance of giving someone a vote of confidence. In a recent crisis situation I found myself doing that, against all of my natural impulses; shifting to an attitude of faith in the person and making the choice to assume that they had already done their best to solve the problem at hand.
I think that this changed the person's experience of the situation significantly. Trust was given as a gift, not based on apparent facts.
I learned that withholding a toxic injection of paralyzing guilt and shame, and instead choosing to believe the best of someone, is a powerful thing. Grace is a powerful thing.
But of course, Mum knew that.