Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.’ But the words of her elder son Esau were told to Rebekah; so she sent and called her younger son Jacob and said to him, ‘Your brother Esau is consoling himself by planning to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran, and stay with him for a while, until your brother’s fury turns away— until your brother’s anger against you turns away, and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send, and bring you back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?’
Planning a murder as soon as a parent dies is probably not on your to-do list, but there are plenty of anecdotes of things being put off until then. Things we feel we can’t be honest about, parts of our lives we keep hidden, or pretences we maintain. Many ways in which we seek to present a mask to those who know us the best.
Some disclosures may cause a shock, but many come as no surprise. The other person may have been waiting for you to mention it. They have known you all your life and couldn’t comprehend your silence, so presented a mask to mirror your own.
It is often the fear of how a loved one will react that persuades us to keep our silence and mask our true selves. We may do it to prevent harm to the relationship, but we are also causing harm by not being engaged completely in it. Being told something soon after it happens is upsetting, but finding out much later can cause irrevocable harm. As in political scandals, the cover-up is often worse.
Secrets and intrigue may fill our TV dramas, but isn’t honesty much simpler in real life? Telling the truth is much more straightforward than keeping track of a web of lies. White lies can smooth out our relationships and complete unfiltered honesty can cause harm, but being real about the big things of life is what we should expect of those closest to us.
Esau probably wouldn’t have taken it well being told his mum preferred his brother and thought Jacob would make a better clan chief, but that disappointment might not have boiled over into hatred by being repeatedly tricked. But what makes for a dramatic story, isn’t always the best way to live your life.
Living God, you know us completely and love us completely. Give us the courage to fully be who we are, and to accept others for who they are. Grant us the humility and empathy to walk the line of honesty and compassion in all of our relationships. We know we are not perfect, and give us mercy in acknowledging our imperfections, and grace in noticing those of others. Amen
The Rev’d David Coaker, serving Grays URC and a chaplain to the Moderators of General Assembly
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