You know how there are those facts that you hear from time to time but that you never want to believe? I had one brought to my attention Friday afternoon while chatting with some co-workers about relationships. They mentioned that there are actually women out there who change their behavior to impress men. I suppose my brain has always understood that there are people capable of being insincere, but it is so far from any skill I have that my gut has never quite believed it possible.
Tell us how you really feel…, yes, I get that a lot, and you can trust that I always will tell you how I really feel, and if you didn’t want to know why did you ask in the first place? From what I can remember I have always been like that, blasting my environment with all of who I am. I’ve started to believe that there are some people who make good children and some people who make good adults, and my unthinking honesty made me not a very charming young person.
I spent most of my late teens and early twenties draped in agony: desperately wanting to be anyone other than who I was while also knowing that my personality was far too strong to subjugate. I wanted to be meek and quiet, I wanted to not frighten people. But every time I opened my mouth it would be with a brash comment or a loud laugh, and every time I tried to keep my mouth shut I failed. It wasn’t just sharing opinions that I felt was so shameful, but the very act of being me, because my ‘me’ was constantly written all over my face, broadcast to a world that probably wasn’t interested.
Today’s Gospel is, as they say, a real humdinger. Sometimes the Scripture consoles, and sometimes it challenges, and today’s list of potential errors had me planning a ritual dismemberment in order to remove all of the things that lead me to sin. Buried at the end, though, I found some consolation. At the conclusion of an explanation of oath-taking and honesty, Jesus says “let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’”
If there is nothing else I have done right in this life, I have done that. My yes has always meant yes, and my no has always meant no. When faced with the choice between life and death presented in the First Reading I have always said yes to life – to my life, to the messy reality of who I am and how I was made. Maybe things would be better or easier if I had a different combination of traits, but this is all I got. Masking it or hating it would be a recipe for a wasted life.