Letting Go of Lies

Truth telling had become an emerging theme in my devotions and prayer time. I had even read that the word impeccability means “without sin.” So being impeccable with my words meant I would be without sin in what I said. The more I practiced this concept, the more I realized how very casual I was with my words.

I was especially struck by the next step in “The Work,” which was to go through all the statements and ask, “Is it true?” I had really gotten on a roll, so I had to cross out some of my statements, especially ones that included words like always and never. For example, statements like I was always there for Mary and Mary never offered to do anything for me were clearly not the whole truth. I crossed those out. Then some deeper questions emerged. I had to look at all the statements that included the word should. Whenever I found the words should or shouldn’t, I began to see that there was something wrong with my belief. For example, in that statement Mary shouldn’t have asked so much of me, I began to understand one of the roots of dysfunction in our relationship. Mary could ask whatever she wanted to ask, and I had the right to respond or refuse. The reality was that Mary asked me to help her many times. I was not only happy to do so, but I encouraged her to ask. Our relationship began to be built around her asking and my responding.

Another question from “The Work” is a principle I had already struggled with—one that is a basic tenet of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey. The principle, simply put, is this: ask yourself, “Is this my problem or not?” Katie says there are three types of business in the world: mine, yours, and God’s. We have to ask, “Whose business is it?” I went through what I had written, and I began to see another big trend. I had decided to make Mary’s business and God’s business my business. My control tendencies were often lurking beneath the surface.

After going through that round, I was beginning to realize that the statements left standing might be shaky. Katie urges readers to go through the list again, asking, “Can you absolutely know it’s true?” If the answer is yes, a helpful exercise is to follow the statement by saying, “Yes, and it means that ____________.” Suddenly I began to see how I was projecting my own meaning into what I believed to be objective statements. “Mary called me late at night without ever asking if she was bothering me, and it means that she wasn’t considerate of me.” Wait a minute. Mary was a night owl. Mary didn’t wear a watch. Mary was a free spirit who never thought about the time. I was the one who had to get up early. If it bothered me to be called after a certain hour, I should have said something. Or I could have taken the phone off the hook.

Another way to look at these statements is to ask what the proof is that the statement is true. If I were called to testify in a court of law, what evidence could I give for my beliefs about the situation? I know this sounds a bit silly, but I realized that some of my proof was that our friends agreed with me. But did I really ask for their honest opinion, or was I seeking help in soothing my hurt feelings? During the course of my inquiry, I called a mutual friend. “Remember when Mary just stopped talking to me?” I asked her. She hesitated. I pushed. “Don’t you remember how all of a sudden she turned on me?”

After a bit of prompting, my friend said, “Well, I don’t think it was actually so sudden. I remember she started pulling away, and it was hard for you. Remember how she stopped going to lunch with all of us? I think part of the reason was that she needed a little distance from you.”