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HONORABLE RESIGNATIONS
January 29, 2004
 
A dark day yesterday -- the head of the BBC resigned in disgrace over the reporting scandal surrounding the suicide of Dr. David Kelly and the network's unfounded report that the government exaggerated reports about weapons of mass destruction in pre-invasion Iraq. It was a case rather like that at the New York Times last year, when a reporter was revealed to have fabricated almost everything he submitted for several months running. His superiors eventually resigned, too, although it took them longer -- an American's sense of honor has an extra layer or two of lawyers through which it must pass first.

It's had to say you're sorry, and it's harder here than it is almost anywhere else. We are grimly familiar with the tap dance that follows any important person's indictment: righteously indignant denials on television, with a lawyer constantly at the elbow of the accused. Attempted identification with well-known innocent victims from Jesus Christ on down -- they often use the word "crucifixion" to describe what's happening to them. If it's an accusation of marital infidelity, the wife is trotted out to stand loyally beside her wronged husband; the grim set of her mouth always seems to me to be as much for her spouse as it is for his accusers. Wait until she gets him home.

When it's time for the trial, he enters the courtroom smiling, as if it were a victory rally. He tells reporters he's confident of being completely cleared. His lawyer reports the plea bargain later on. In no way is his client is guilty, he assures us. This is just a way to save everybody else a lot of pain. That's the kind of wonderful guy he is. Always thinking of others.

In the end, regardless of the spin, he must admit guilt and pay a price. Why it seems better to string this inevitability out for months or even years and spend millions of dollars doing it had never been clear to me. Why not just confess now? It's going to be revealed anyhow.

I suppose that's the thing: they never think it's going to be revealed. People always think they're going to get away with what they do. Why doesn't punishment deter crime? Because criminals never think they'll be caught.

Lesser folk like us are like that, too. Long lists of reasons why everything is someone else's fault. We didn't do it. We even try to have secrets from God, as if God didn't know what we'd done. Avoid confession, sometimes for years, beaus we can't bear to say out loud what we know in our hearts. Afraid that, if we say it, God will hear it and know the truth. As if God didn't already know.

The good news is that God knows already. Knows what we did and knows why. Knows all about our anxious self-justification, and even knows if certain portions of it are actually true. It's not a secret. And it doesn't interrupt the steady flow of the divine love.

If our actions have consequences that frighten us, God is with us as we face them. If there are lessons to be learned there, God gives us grace to learn them, even if it's painful. The sooner you can get to the place of honesty, the sooner God can comfort and sustain you.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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