A Near Truth is Really a Lie

Give the Gift of Honesty (and a Helping Hand)

nearGoing to Church, but Avoiding the Members

The exhaust from our 4Runner billowed like clouds in the sub-zero temperatures. Snow squeaked under my feet as I went outside to check the temperature in the vehicle. I felt chagrinned that we would drive less than a block before parking. Church was so near, but Pedro couldn’t risk a fall on the ice, nor prolonged contact with the cold. He wanted to go to church, but didn’t want to see church members.


Pedro and the girls in front of the tree that transplant Christmas.

“Don’t want to see anyone,” he had told me. “Tired of everyone telling me how good I look. I don’t.”

And he didn’t. When people he knew saw him, I could see the quickly veiled shock and the scarcely masked struggle for a response. They usually blurted out, “You look great!” A near lie, if by that they meant he looked good. A near truth if they meant he looked like an extra for a movie about the Holocaust.

After assuring myself that Pedro wouldn’t freeze, I went back inside to help him bundle up for the short drive. I could give him the gift of church without people.

“Drive up the sidewalk,” Pedro instructed.

I blanched. Pedro must have noticed, because he assured me, “They drive a pickup on it all the time to clear the snow. It won’t hurt anything.”

“Ok,” I breathed, before backing out of the drive way and heading to the sidewalk. I needed to let go of my compulsive rule-following and concern over what others thought of me. I pulled up near the front steps and helped Pedro inside before dashing outside to get the car off the sidewalk.

When I ran inside, Pedro had made it across the lobby and up one of the steps leading to the mother’s room.

Nothing but the Truth

He looked so frail—more like a 90-year-old than a 34-year-old. After battling cancer for eight months, he looked like he’d walked off the set of Schindler’s List—emaciated, expressionless, and practically immobile.

Many church friends hadn’t seen him since the summer, when he looked near-healthy; just a young man dealing with a bout of cancer. The battle had turned ugly in late July, and he had experienced several near-death experiences in the interim. No wonder he wanted to avoid them.

We labored up the stairs together, and sank into a comfortable couch in the darkened room. The annual Christmas program came through the speakers, filled with songs and readings of hope. After the program, I went back down to the 4Runner to get it warming, and then went back inside to visit with a few people and wait for the crowds to clear.

The lobby emptied out, so I went upstairs to help Pedro. As we neared the bottom of the stairs, a voice called out, “Pedro! It’s good to see you!”

Pedro and I both looked up and saw one of our friends rushing across the lobby to greet us. As he neared, I saw the shock and horror. I braced myself for the usual near lie. I had worked so hard to give Pedro the gift of a morning at church without having to hear the hated sentence.

Instead, our friend blurted out, “Man, you look awful!” He clapped his hand over his mouth and froze, stunned by what he had said.

Pedro burst out laughing—but considering his weakened vocal chords and his frozen face, our friend couldn’t read Pedro’s reaction.

When Pedro finally caught his breath, he held out his hand, “Thanks! I needed to hear that today. The truth.”

How to Avoid Near Lies

Give the gift of truth this Christmas. If someone looks haggard and worn out, don’t lie and say they look great. Go deeper and ask them how they are doing. Invite them out for a cup of coffee. If they say they can’t get out because they can’t get away, offer to bring the coffee to them. Caregivers don’t have a lot of spare time, but they always appreciate help!

Those who struggle with illness, whether physical or mental, don’t feel better when we, the healthy, tell them near truths (lies). They would prefer the truth. Or, if you fear offending, an honest offer of help.

To say that someone looks great when they obviously don’t, diminishes their struggle. #mentalhealth #Christmas #caregivers Click To Tweet

In this busiest of seasons, make a vow to spend less time on decorations and fleeting gifts of things, and more time looking for friends in need. To this day, Pedro has fond memories of our friend’s blurted truth—the perfect gift in a season of darkness.

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Very timely and gracious reminder!

    • Thank you, Michele!

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Boy, do I relate to this! But I have to admit that I play into it; when people ask how I’m doing, my stock answer of “Good to go!” when I’m clearly NOT is something they find off-putting.

    I don’t want to be a whiny little wuss, but going too far in the other direction is, I fear, a slap in the face to those who are sincerely concerned when they see me looking like death dug up and warmed over.


    • You might tell people irl “good to go” but in the blogging world you’re at least a bit honest with us my friend.

  • I’m not sure I’m a fan of the blurted “you look awful” but it is nice to not listen to someone pretending to see what isn’t there!. I like this story, and the reminder to keep it real!

    • Thanks, Carol. I don’t know if I would have appreciated it either–but Pedro did!

  • A wonderful reminder to offer the gift of help this Christmas. It makes for the perfect gift and one size fits all!

    • Yes! Help is definintely a one-size-fits-all gift!

  • Pingback: “Managing” Christmas | Stray Thoughts()

  • One of the first times I had a friend battling cancer, and saw her for the first time in ages (we lived in another state and had come for a visit), I’m afraid I did blurt out, “You look so good!” But I was sincere – I don’t know what I was expecting, but, though I could tell she had a wig on, she looked like she always had to me. But I could tell that made her uncomfortable, so I’ve been careful about not saying since then. It’s refreshing to have someone feel free to be honest rather than pretending everything is all right when it isn’t.

    • I’ve learned that the best thing to do is bite my tongue until I have time to pray!

  • You are so good at sharing the truths we need to hear! Thank you for your heart! Blessings to you, Anita! xo

    • Thank you, Gayl :).

  • This is actually so encouraging, Anita. Too often we try to avoid the unpleasant things but instead it just makes everything seem fake. Even when the truth hurts, it often still needs to be talked about. Thanks for sharing this story. What a hard season you all went through.

    • Thanks, Lisa! Speaking honestly to each other is difficult, isn’t it? We want to say the truth, but it’s difficult to say it lovingly or from a place of love.

  • Susan

    Anita, your family has endured so much. I am so glad you’re on the “other side” of all the pain. xo

    • Thanks, Susan :). Me, too!

  • Anita, thank you for sharing this beautiful story. Your care of Pedro and the honest response of a friend reminds me that God values us and provides our needs, even in the most difficult times.

    • Amen! Not only physical needs, but emotional needs, too!

  • I hadn’t heard this story of your family’s before, Anita. What a testimony. Thank you for sharing your and Pedro’s personal perspective. Hope y’all are having a blessed season. ((hug))

    • Ooh, Anita, it just occurred to me that I linked up a linkup post. I normally don’t link up ones that are just linkups without a post on them. My apologies. Feel free to remove if you need to, no worries. ((graces))

  • Laura Melchor

    I’ve always loved this story. Good to see it on a post! 🙂