I want the truth. Just the truth — whole and nothing else — you don’t even have to swear it to any diety. I am sick and tired and sad and disappointed and generally fed up with people telling me lies. What’s the point? If you lie, you’ll be found out eventually and then what? Will you have to just tell more lies to cover the first one? If His Dis-Honor the Mayor of this what-used-to-be the great city of Toronto, is any indicator of this trend, then, of course, you just tell more lies. Even the people who run my community-center pool, are telling fibs. No, they said, they’re not going to change the hour of our aquafit class, no way. But then we hear that it’s a done deal as of January 1. Were they crossing their fingers behind their backs as they smiled their way through that lie? Are all their noses getting longer by the second? Why not just be up-front and straight with us?
When I first came to Canada, the murmuring-ex-husband used to say to me, “Annie, you’re so harsh!” Harsh? Me? I wasn’t harsh! Well, yeah, I was a smidgen outspoken about certain things. But, in my heart, I wasn’t doing it to be mean or rude or hurtful — I was just telling it like I saw it, that’s all. It was the Truth According to Annie. His advice to me was to sugar-coat that honesty with a bit of window dressing, i.e., lying. “Honesty” he’d quote someone or the other, “is a Very Overrated Virtue”. (I should have left him then.) But I didn’t want to lie about things — except maybe how unhappy I was those early years but, honestly, I was only hurting myself with that lie wasn’t I?
But, what really gets me, is how these fibbers think that just by saying those two little words, “I’m sorry” all is forgiven and they can go on like they didn’t do anything bad. Don’t get me wrong, I whole-heartedly believe in offering apologies for any hurt that I impose on anyone. But, the problem here in Canada (or at least Toronto), is that it’s been so watered down by overuse. People are sorry for everything. There was a guy behind me at the community center who said, “Sorry”. I asked him what he was sorry about and he said that I was standing in front of the sign-in sheet and he needed to use it. “Why are you sorry?” I asked him. “Shouldn’t I be the one who is sorry? Are you really, really sorry?” “No, I’m Not,” he said. At least we all laughed about it.
But, when a sentiment like “I’m sorry” is so overused it’s hard to believe the truthfulness behind the words anymore. When someone like His Dis-Honor the Mayor claims to be sincerely, Sincerely sorry about the lies and deceit he has heaped on his family and this city, my only reaction can be a cynical, “Yeah, sure, I bet”. There has to be more contrition. When I was a kid and told my little lies, never really humongous ones, it was never enough just to say, “I’m sorry” and make amends to the injured party (usually my mother). I also had to take my blue-uniformed-beanie-hatted skinny self to confession. There I’d be every Friday afternoon, standing in line behind Virginia Suttener who was the only kid shorter than me. There we’d wait our turn to slip behind the red velvet curtain and face our fate. I was always a little afraid of confession. Not that I had any grievous, MORTAL sins to confess but it was that dark little closet I had to go into. There was no lying here, that was for sure. Once inside, I’d kneel down and with hands in prayer position I’d wait for the little sound-proof screen to slip back. I’d begin: “Bless me father for I have sinned. I lied to my mother three times, I fought with my brother once.” Inevitably, he’d answer: “Three Our Fathers and Three Hail Marys and an Act of Contrition. Go in Peace My Child.” I always always said all of the prayers given to me as penance. It proved to me and hopefully God that I was truly sorry for my lies.
His Dis-Honor the Mayor should try confession. But now it’s out front, no hiding in little boxes. Still, if his contrition was sincere and he did all of his “penance” — say, clean public toilets or anonymously give away all his wealth to the needy — it might just restore a sense of trust and honesty to our city.