Time to start lying
I am a Hemminger.
I love being a Hemminger. I am proud to be a Hemminger. I had the best parents, Elma and Julius Hemminger.
The Hemminger family adopted me. I came to them when I was about three months old.
Elma (my Mom) had two rules. (Well, actually, she had three). If you did not break the two rules, there is no way you could fall out of favour, or be in trouble. This was no matter how big or dumb your mistake was.
The two rules I heard expressed by Elma Hemminger, probably thousands of times, were as follows:
I don’t like liars; and
I don’t like stealers.
Then there was rule number three, less-often stated but still very accurate. People should NEVER, and I mean NEVER, wear hats indoors.
The Hemmingers raised me in a household where, no matter what your bad was, you would not get into trouble as long as you fessed up and told the truth.
My most glaring example was when I drove my Mom and Dad’s car into my boyfriend’s car, totalling the front end because I was mad at him. I told them the truth. I told them the whole truth about the incident. I told them that we were having a fight and because I had completely lost my temper, I was doing a (kinda) high-speed car chase in their car after him. My Mom and Dad had a little compact car. He had a 1969 Camaro. The roads were wet and I braked too late, causing their new vehicle to crash into the rear of his Camaro. The front end of their car was crumpled up; the Camaro barely dented.
I came home sobbing and very upset. I had smashed my parents’ car. We lived on my Dad’s very limited pension income by then as he was retired. All I could feel was deep shame.
The first thing out of Elma’s mouth was, “Nobody was hurt were they?” She was great that way. Although she loved that little car, and would never have the funds to replace it or ever buy another new car, there was nothing more important to her than making sure everyone was okay. Upon me assuring her that nobody was hurt or injured, the second thing out of her mouth was, “Thank you for telling me the truth.”
Although it was not the end of it as far as the guilt and shame I felt, it was the end of it as far as my parents were concerned. They got the little car repaired as best they could and life went on.
As a teenager I lived with my parents in a small town. I mean a really small town, the town of 100 Mile House, British Columbia, Canada.
I had a HUGE party when my parents were away. Well, it was a HUGE party, at least in terms of 100 Mile House’s standards. From the date of the party to my moving away, about two years passed. It was not uncommon that I would run into someone I did not know, and they would say, “Hey, aren’t you that girl that had that HUGE party?!”
It started with a few friends on a Friday night and expanded from there. Ultimately the police broke it up.
So, what did I do when my parents got home? Yes, exactly. I told them. I told them I had a huge party. I was sure the neighbours would tell them anyway, so I better confess. The neighbours did not tell them. So, it turns out that I fessed up for no reason. Yet, when I told my parents about my huge party, they said, “We are so glad you told us. We are proud of you for telling the truth.”
So, that was the kind of expectation I had when I told my Law Society about my substance use and historical substance abuse. I believed that if I was absolutely truthful no harm could come my way.
Makes sense right?!
See, someone had reported me for sharing MDMA at a private Halloween party in 2019. Yes, it was the person who asked me for some and took it.
I get why the Law Society cannot have lawyers breaking the law, not to mention doing so openly.
At the same time, when they asked me about it, I believed it was the right thing to do to be purely open, and honest about everything in terms of my past and my transgressions. In fact, I not only shared about absolutely all my substance misuse and use history, I overshared.
Yeah, so I got a two-week suspension from practising law for over-sharing about the fact that I had shared.
That two-week suspension has had enormous personal, emotional, and financial consequences for me and my business. It has impacted my relationships with clients, and with other lawyers. It has impacted my now 17 year-old daughter’s trust in me. She worried that I was going to go jail and then wondered if I would be able to continue subeing able to support her through her final year of high school.
As it turns out, the Discipline Committee of the Law Society of British Columbia does not have the same approach to truth telling as the Hemminger family. Apparently, if you tell the whole truth and it is not in your best interest to do so, you can end up getting yourself in to trouble, real trouble.
As it turns out that my oversharing of information has caused me other challenges. Because I used one substance on approximately four occasions over a 10-year period, the Law Society now believes I am a regular user of an illegal substance and wish to have me monitored (yes, pee in a cup etc. at huge expense and yes, humiliation).
Ew. I know.
As I approached my mid-fifties, I believed that as long as I told the whole truth, there could be no other punishment or repercussions of any mistake I have made. I believed that if I acted with poor judgment, that, as long as I told the truth, all would be well.
Yeah, I am blown away by my own naivete also.
Then a very good friend of mine, also a lawyer, said to me, “Val, your openness and honesty is a TERRIBLE strategy when dealing with the Law Society of British Columbia!” You must learn the skill of “Judicious sharing of information.” This friend said I should always err on the side of caution, rather than disclosure.
Had I learned the skill of “Judicious sharing of information” a long time ago, my life would be a whole lot easier. The Law Society of British Columbia would probably start leaving me alone.
So, this is a note to my Mom and Dad, Elma and Julius.
Dear Mom and Dad,
I miss you both so very much. Thank you for being the best most kick ass parents I could hope for. Thank you for teaching me about openness and honesty. Thank you for teaching me the value of telling the truth.
I am in my mid-ffties as I write this note to you. I have to let you know, Mom and Dad, that I am having to start going against one of my deepest held values. I gotta follow the advice of my lawyer friend. It is time for me to learn the skill of JUDICIOUS SHARING of INFORMATION. Mom and Dad, in Hemminger terms, it means that it is time for me to start LYING my A** off! I know you both understand.
Your learning to lie (oops,I mean, share judiciously of information) daughter,
Valorie Frances Hemminger
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