Jesus said, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (1) For much of my life I was not truthful. This is not to say that I was a liar as such. Sometimes stretching the truth, avoiding the truth or simply not telling the truth to avoid a situation is just what we do. Let’s face it, we all lie occasionally.
My greatest lies, and my most hurtful lies were to myself. As I was suffering the effects of PTSD I found it very easy to make excuses for my behavior. I told myself I suffered from PTSD and therefore whenever I acted out it wasn’t me it was the PTSD. The symptoms of PTSD pushed me inward, I became self-centered. Because of my self-centeredness I became very depressed. I often thought that the world, my family, and everyone would be better off if I was no longer here. From the late 70s through the 80s and into the early 90s I suffered fits of depression, rage and I sometimes hated my life.
Because of the Medal of Honor, I was protected. As long as I worked for the VA and later the Illinois Attorney General’s office I had made. After all who would fire a Medal of Honor recipient? Yet, because of the Medal and the fact that many people were looking up to me I could not, would not share what was going inside with anyone, big mistake. I put on the “face.” Outside I was confident, controlled and I tried to set a good example. I often failed but I always tried. Inside I was a mess. I drank way too much though it never stopped me from going to work or performing my duties as a recipient.
Then in the early 90s things got a little out of hand and even I knew I needed some help. I went to a local vet center and started seeing someone once a week. It was the hardest work I ever did. I refused medication. I decided if I couldn’t get fixed without medication I just wouldn’t get fixed. Thankfully, my therapist was amazing though she wasn’t a veteran she was very insightful and helped me negotiate the path through my problems.
But the best thing she taught me was to tell myself the truth and to accept responsibility for my actions. I had to accept responsibility for everything. I was responsible for my drinking, my attitude and for being extremely selfish and self-centered. Somewhere along the way I picked up the Rotary Fourway Test as my moral compass: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? Being truthful with myself was the first step in the long road home.
(1) John 8:32 English Standard Version
Sgt. Allen Lynch
Allen Lynch is a former United States Army soldier and a recipient of the United States military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in the Vietnam War.