FOLLOWING THE LAST ELECTION cycle (yikes!), one thing repeatedly hit me: These people must be pretty nervous.
I mean, if the accusations -- e.g., destroying evidence or doing horrible things to people long ago in far away corners -- are even remotely true, I am not sure how these people ever get a good night's sleep.
It all brought back the following lines from a novel: "And it flashed across his mind: 'What fools people are who leave the straight path. A clear conscience -- that's all one needs in life. With that you can face the world!' He felt suddenly very much alive -- very strong..." (2)
I once got some funny job-interview advice from a nerd: "Don't pretend you're interested in something just so the interviewer will like you." In his case, it was football. "They always ask follow-up questions," he lamented, "and then it gets awkward."
When you lie about who you are, you have to build up a false persona. You've got to remember an entire backstory. Who needs that? I think it's why Mark Twain (reportedly) said "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."(3)
Often what's called being "defensive" has its roots in being dishonest, or in having done something shady. "There is no greater illusion than fear," wrote Lao Tsu,"no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself." (4).
We're most at peace when we're most authentic and honest, when we're totally cool with others knowing what we're up to. Marcus Aurelius takes it a step further: "[Only] ...think about things which if suddenly asked, 'What are you thinking about right now?', with perfect openness you can immediately answer This or That...So that from your words it should be plain that everything in you is simple and benevolent. (5)
Seneca points out that, even when you get away with something, you really don't get away with it:
A good conscience wishes to come forth and be seen of men; wickedness fears the very shadows. That the guilty may haply remain hidden is possible, that he should be sure of remaining hidden is not possible...it is no advantage to wrong-doers to remain hidden since they have not the assurance of remaining so. ...[C]rimes can be well guarded; free from anxiety they cannot be.He continues,
[T]he first and worst penalty of sin is to have committed sin; and crime...can never go unpunished, since the punishment of crime lies in the crime itself: constant fear, constant terror, and distrust in one's own security...bad deeds are lashed by the whip of conscience, and that conscience is tortured to the greatest degree because unending anxiety drives and whips it on. Good luck frees many from punishment, but none from fear. (6)
Put another way: You can get away with something, but you can't really get away from it.
(1) 1 John 1:7.
(2) Christie, Agatha. The Labors of Hercules.
(3) Source Unknown.
(4) Tao Te Ching, par. 46.
(5) Meditations, Book 3.
(6) Letters to Lucilius, Letter 97, pars. 12-16.