By Dom Cioffi
My son had a group of friends over this past weekend and as expected with any large gathering of boys, several arguments inevitably broke out.
I spoke with the “dad voice” on a couple occasions to try to contain things, but it only worked for short periods of time. Eventually tempers would once again escalate.
At one point, my son came inside the house completely frustrated. “Dad,” he said with exasperation, “you need to do something about Evan. He just pummeled Justin in the head.”
“Here we go again,” I said to myself.
Evan is the younger brother of one of my son’s best friend’s. He’s old enough to hang around with the other boys, but young enough to always end up as the weakest link. He’s also hotheaded, spunky and emotionally explosive when things don’t go his way.
On this occasion (which involved a whiffle ball game in the yard), Evan was unhappy about being called out.
Apparently, everyone agreed that Evan was out, including his own teammates. But Evan was having none of it. First he refused to leave the base he was standing on. Then, out of frustration, he threw the actual base into the bushes. And finally, when one of the boys got close enough, he hauled off and punched him.
I’ve had to speak to Evan in the past about his temper and subsequent hitting, so this was not going to be anything new. I also know Evan’s parents very well and they’ve instructed me to throw the hammer down if he ever gets out of line.
When I walked into the yard (again with the “dad voice” and accompanying stern stare), all the boys stood quiet.
“Evan,” I said with a forceful tone, “are you hitting again?”
Evan then launched into the 65 reasons why the other boys were unfairly targeting him. I abruptly cut him off and repeated my question – this time with more severity in my voice.
Once again, Evan avoided a direct answer.
I then drew a line in the sand: “Evan,” I said, “I’m going to ask you one more time and the only word I want to come out of your mouth is a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’: Did you hit one of the boys?”
“No!” he screamed aggressively.
Suddenly the seven other boys chimed in, every one claiming that Evan was lying.
I calmed things down and then asked each boy individually, “On your honor, did Evan hit someone?” In each case the response was a direct “yes.” Even his brother answered “yes.”
Suddenly Evan dropped to the ground and started crying uncontrollably. “Why is everyone against me!” he wailed. “Why does everyone want me to die!”
I waited for a moment and then ushered Evan inside the house, telling the other boys to continue their game.
Once inside, I knelt in front of Evan and calmly explained to him that lying was unacceptable in our home, but truthfulness was always rewarded. I also explained that I too was the youngest in my neighborhood when I was growing up so I understood how hard it could be.
He listened politely and shook his head in agreement to everything I said. I then calmly looked him in the eye and said, “Now, Evan, tell me the truth. Did you hit one of the boys?”
Evan started squirming in his seat, his eyes darting around the room. He would start to say something and then stop. I could tell his little brain was frantically working on the correct response.
Finally, he stopped and stared me directly in the eye. “Mr. Cioffi,” he stated boldly, “those other boys all have magic powers.”
I was stunned.
“Uhhh, magic powers?” I questioned. “What do you mean they all have magic powers?”
Evan then went on to explain to me, quite matter-of-factly and in great detail, that he had never intentionally hit anyone in his life and when he did “accidentally” strike a child, it was because another kid made him do it through magic.”
“It’s like they turn my brain off and control my hands,” he stated.
I later relayed this story to Evan’s parent’s who confirmed that their son was not only an obsessive liar, but also highly delusional. We had a great laugh and agreed that there was a good chance that Evan would one day parlay his “talents” into a lucrative career – whether that career would be legal or not was another question.
This week’s feature, “An Honest Liar,” is a beautifully constructed documentary about a man who spent his life debunking professionally liars like Evan.
Featuring the world-renowned magician, escape artist and truth teller, James “The Amazing” Randi, “An Honest Liar” highlights one man’s lifelong fight at exposing some of the world’s most manipulative psychics, faith healers and con artists.
Whether you enjoy magic or not will have nothing to do with your appreciation for this film. At its core, it is a deep analysis of an incredibly interesting and daring man whose life plays out with immense irony.
An enchanting “A-” for “An Honest Liar.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.