We all do stupid things sometimes. When I was in high school I, of course, wanted to be liked by everyone which I have since learned is virtually impossible. But one of the most common currencies in high school is gossip and if you have gossip on someone and you share it, it tends to make you more popular. I was not immune to this.
One time I was hanging out with a group of girls at lunch, (I went to an all-girls high school, so saying it was a group of girls is somewhat redundant, anyways, I digress) and we were sitting by the lockers gossiping. There was one girl in our class whose mother had dated my father some thirty years prior (obviously my Daddy was still in the closet) and if I’m being perfectly honest, I didn’t like her very much. She was very blunt and sometimes not so nice to me (she once asked me whether I was worth the money it cost my parents to have me), which gave me what I felt like was the license to make up a story about her. I didn’t have much to offer to the group so I told everyone that this girl could not stop talking about how our parents dated and how annoying she was and how she was so desperate to be friends with me. The girls sitting around me were all giggling and eating up every word I said when all of the sudden I heard a voice from around the corner that said, “you know I’m sitting right here, right?” I knew from the sound of her voice it was the girl I was talking about immediately. I was horrified. This was so unlike me. I wasn’t the gossipy type and I didn’t know what had gotten into me.
In that moment I knew I had two options, I could run away and pretend that nothing happened or I could walk around that corner and apologize. I waited just long enough for the shock and horror to subside and then I walked around the corner and up to the girl and I said, “I am so sorry. That was horrible of me. I should have never said those things and I know they aren’t true. I am really, really sorry. Can I give you a hug?” Much to my surprise she actually let me give her a hug and she told me it was okay. I promised to make it right and to tell the other girls that what I had said wasn’t true and I vowed to myself to remember the horror of that moment any time I thought about making up lies about someone else in order to gain favor with other people. I still felt awful. I knew I had to talk to my Dad about it and I was terrified.
My Dad was pretty darn strict and I knew that this was not something that would fly. I thought he would be pissed and worse, disappointed, in me. In fact, I was sure of it. I ran to the bathroom, with a pit in my stomach, to call my Dad because I knew I wouldn’t be able to wait until the end of the day to tell him what happened. I thought the guilt might actually eat me alive. I sat in a bathroom stall and started sobbing while I dialed. This may have been the only time I broke a school rule, using my phone during school hours, but the urgency of the situation, in my mind, seemed to usurp any kind of school policy. It was such a stupid thing for me to do, so mean and small minded. I knew I was in for it. My Dad picked up the phone, confused by my call in the middle of the day and I told him what happened. I told him the awful things I’d said and the fact that I immediately apologized to her. Much to my surprise he didn’t yell. He told me it was okay and I could hear that he actually meant it, not the kind of “it’s okay,” yet I knew I’d be screwed later. He said we all make mistakes like this and I did the right thing by immediately apologizing and setting the record straight for this poor girl. He told me I learned a valuable lesson and that he was pretty dang sure I’d never do the same thing again once I realized how horrible it felt when you’re caught in the act. He told me that being caught doing it should stop be from doing it even when I know I can’t be caught because he said, “the truth will always out.” You can’t hide anything forever, so better to just deal with the consequences immediately when you do something wrong rather than bury it because you’ll never get away with it anyway.
He’s right. No matter how tiny a lie you might tell, someone will figure out that your lying and your cover will be blown. When a lie is going to affect someone else’s life, think twice before you tell it. I may have an overactive conscience, but the way I felt that day will always sit in the back of my head as a reminder of what it feels like to hurt someone else and how it’s better to fix it right away than to bury it and run. But once you’ve owned it and apologized don’t let it burden you. You did the right thing by correcting your wrong. Don’t let the guilt haunt you forever or let anyone make you feel bad for doing a bad thing. You’ve owned it, you’ve apologized and if everyone can’t move on then maybe you just need to move on without them.