~~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
As a part-time "literary junkie" I have had the privilege over the years as a "non-traditional" college student to read several of the books written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. This seems to be an underlying theme in many of his short stories and novels, and the clarity with which he writes of the consequences of this "duplicity" is stunning. It would be nice if we could relegate this type of observation to those "old classics," where a preacher commits adultery and his accomplice must wear a symbol of her sin for all to see . . . . but sadly, this kind of "two-faced" approach to living is alive and well in the 21st century. And the genius of Hawthorne's storytelling is that the "good guys" are even worse than the "sinners" in many of his stories.
In "polite society" we tend to downplay the seriousness of this reality - much to our destruction. The chaos and confusion that results from even one person in a family, community, or church who chooses to live this type of "double life," break hearts, and destroy relationships. Ultimately it completely devours the person who is so self-deceived to think that he or she can continue to maintain the pretense, even in the face of mounting evidence. But, the bigger story and the greater "sin" is that, because we cannot "talk about it," the destruction becomes a "monster," consuming everyone who is taken in by the deception. There is only one way to overcome this self-deception and it is very simple: just do the right thing and tell the truth.
If you have never experienced the brokenness that comes from attempting to have a relationship with a person who wears "two faces," you may not truly understand the depth of despair and complete tradedy that it causes. Tragedy is actually a very accurate word to use in this context: another little journey I've taken as a "literary junkie" is into the world of Greek drama and tragedy. The notion of "two faces" is clearly a perfect word picture for much of the storytelling in the Greek tradition. In the real world, truth is truth . . . wherever we find it. And scripture validates this reality in so many places, but one that I have found to be particularly relevant is found in Isaiah 59. The writer addresses a situation in which God's people need to be reminded that He is surely able to "save" them from their current calamity, but their "iniquities" have brought about their own dilemma:
"Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." (vs. 1) Never again can we "blame" God for our difficulties in life. Even Job clearly teaches us that life is full of tradedy, even when we are doing our best to walk with God and honor Him with our lives. But we bring even more heartache into our lives when we deliberately choose a life of deception: "For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things." (vs. 2-3)
And what do we do in response to this evidence: "No one calls for justice; no one pleads his case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments and speak lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil." (vs. 4)
The result: "So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes." (vs. 9-10) Chaos and confusion, darkness and destruction, are the sure consequences of living a lie. And for those of us who have witnessed this destruction, and experienced the heartache, the even greater tragedy is not to watch the ever-growing self-destruction of a person who wears "two faces," but it is even more agonizing to watch, helplessly, while that pretense destroys those you love. Nathaniel Hawthorne read human nature accurately: when you can't figure out who you are, over time that "mask" of hypocrisy will become the prison that entombs you. Just do the right thing . . . . tell the truth.
Too many years she wandered
through the scattered shards of shattered dreams,
while drops of her life-blood fell silently
from her wounded, bleeding heart upon the Frozen Souls of her children -
while You, the Phantom Father,
gave them stones instead of bread.
And fed their hardened hearts with lies instead of truth . . . .
Now, they walk in darkness, confusion, pain - and You,
the Phantom Father - never noticed.
Please visit Tami at her blog, The Next Step, to find links to the other IOW participants this week, and then leave your link so that we can visit you!