Who do you lie to when you lie to yourself? Who do you deceive in the process of self-deception?

The older I get the more apparent my lies have become. I barely believe myself anymore, especially when I make grand statements like, "I'll never do or say that again" or "In the future I'll be different. I promise." Only in the future, when I assess the effect of my words in action, do I know whether to believe myself or not. Too often the future robs me of my honesty.

I wasn't always this way. In bygone days, in the folly of my youth, I used to pride myself on being a man of my word. If I said it, I believed I'd do it. But then I found that with time my actions dissipated or retreated and revealed themselves more as brief, temporary demonstrations of bravado than expressions of real change. As long as I could exercise my will, the action lasted. But finally, whether because I became tired or bored or simply distracted, the effort of my will relaxed and I returned to the person I was. This was not a road to personal transformation nor to truth.

Who I wish to be is no mystery. I need only to open the Torah, the Tanya, or to read Pirkei Avot to know the who I wish to be. But, there is a large gap between who I wish to be and who I am. And my self-deception is the attempt to hide this gap between me and others, me and myself, me and G‑d. It reveals the lack of courage necessary to face the stark reality of how I behave, rather than wallow in the fantasy of who Id like to be, how I'd like to be seen by others.

There is no real privacy in life. There is no escape from G‑d's awareness, and no escape from our own awareness of the truth of who we are. The existence of multiple selves within us, including the deepest self called our soul, provides witnesses to the lies and deceptions we attempt. When one self attempts to lie to the others, the other selves know and eventually find a way to reveal the deception, no matter how deep or unconscious this process may be.

If I express forgiveness when I haven't truly forgiven, eventually my resentment finds a voice. When I will myself to diet without dealing with the underlying causes of my overeating, eventually the cravings and weight returns. When I am angry and defensive, cruel or insensitive, my guilt and remorse plague and weaken me until my loneliness and isolation from those I love become the painful marker of my true emotions.

In a heated discussion with my wife, in an all too familiar cycle of anger and defensiveness, I hurt and felt hurt. It was not the first time. Had I spoken words of apology and regret, made grand pronouncements and resolutions to never say these words again, they would, after all these years, appear old and trite and barely believable. In spite of my apologies, we would both know that sometime in the future something similar would happen again. It seemed as inevitable as the caring we have for each other.

And so, unspokenly, we allowed ourselves and each other the space in which to be distant, trusting that our commitment to each other and our family would yield an eventual return.

Two days later, when the distance was more painful than the hurt of the argument, I did my wife a favor. It was a small gesture, taking no more than fifteen or twenty minutes of my time; a genuine favor, though I also knew she would recognize it as my desire for reconciliation.

When I entered the house, she had just returned from the grocery store. As she unpacked the bags, I noticed she had bought two of my favorite foods, a small bag of almonds, another of raisins. Amidst the clutter of groceries on our kitchen table sat two small bags of forgiveness and reconciliation.

I never mentioned the nuts and raisins; neither did she speak of the favor. Yet this silent moment and the acts they contained expressed the strength of our bonds, our acceptance of who we were, who we wished to be, and, yes, who, in spite of our best hopes and efforts, we may always remain.

There was no room for lies or deception in the kitchen that day. No room for anything but the best intentions of our married life.

The simplicity of the moment left no opening through which the future could rob it of its truth. Each and every one of my many selves stood up in unison and cheered.