Lately, my kids have been making me think a lot about truth. My two-year-old isn’t always very good at telling the truth. It’s always a little startling when your innocent baby figures out how to lie, but I’ve realized that it actually makes a lot of sense. She doesn’t tell the truth when she doesn’t want something to be true. For example, it’s a struggle getting her to admit to having a dirty diaper. She doesn’t want to be changed, so she pretends that her diaper is clean. Continuing to play is a far more pleasant prospect than having Mommy vigorously wipe smelly stuff off her bum. I don’t really blame her for reimagining reality in cases like this, but still, she has to learn to tell the truth, even when she doesn’t want to.
Just writing that out is a bit of an eye-opener: we have to tell the truth, even if we don’t want it to be true. It’s humbling to realize how often I have to relearn this same lesson. There are all sorts of untruths I tell myself because the reality doesn’t always seem terribly appealing. I bet you can relate to this too. Here are just a few things that come to mind for me:
I deserve a treat for all of my hard work today. “Deserve” is a pretty strong word. There is nothing wrong with rewarding oneself for a job well done, but for me at least, a “treat” usually means junk food. I might be rewarding my taste buds, but I’m punishing the rest of my body. That’s not much of a treat in the long run. On top of that, this kind of thinking typically omits honoring the Lord’s part in all of my successes. I’m not deserving. Not really. I just have the most amazing Heavenly Father helping me out. All the time. That in itself is actually a beautiful reality, but one I manage to ignore far too often.
I don’t have time to read the WORD. False. I do have time. I just choose to spend it doing other things. Things that I somehow deem more important than studying the WORD of the Lord, my God actually speaking to me. As embarrassed as I am to admit it, minister’s wife and all, this is something I really struggle with and continue to work on, and make excuses about.
Love is all we need. Something’s missing here. We absolutely need love and can never have too much, but without truth, love is empty and perverse. I love all sorts of things that I shouldn’t—take my affection for junk food for one. The truth is what guides our loves to be the best and healthiest loves that they can be. But truth can be hard to understand, so it can be awfully tempting to shove the truth in the corner and just focus on the warm and fuzzy feelings that love brings.
I need to buy this because it’s on sale. No, I don’t. I just want it and can’t stand the feeling of missing out on a bargain.
Everyone I love is going to live to a ripe old age and die peacefully in their sleep. The hard truth is that anyone can die at any time. It’s not healthy to fixate on this, we have to live in the present, but it’s also wise to not take our mortality for granted. Of course, life after death is a wonderful truth that can provide comfort in this regard, but we have to accept death and that it is beyond our control before we can accept the peace of believing that we will see our loved ones again in heaven.
If only I had X, then I would be happy. There isn’t one external thing out there that will magically make all of my problems disappear. I just wish it was that simple.
The list goes on. It’s a little shocking to admit how desperately I cling to these falsities in my daily life. It reminds me of the way my infant son clings to his favorite ball even though holding onto it makes it almost impossible for him to crawl. If he would just put the ball down, he would be free to move forward. But he doesn’t want to put it down, so he remains stuck where he is and fusses in frustration. He can’t have both.
And here we land on the truth underlying all of this. Truth and falsity don’t coexist in harmony. They create friction and dis-ease in our lives. We can’t have the lies and continue moving forward in our spiritual growth. Believing we can have both only leaves us feeling frustrated and stuck. Admitting things that aren’t pleasant is so hard, but when we do, we can move forward in our regeneration, which ultimately brings us the most joy and peace. We have to let go of the ball. We have to admit we need a change. And no matter how old we get, we have to keep learning to tell, and accept, what’s really true.
17 thoughts on “Tell The Truth”
So well stated! I can very much relate to what you wrote here. Thanks for making this so apparent.
I’m glad it’s relatable. I’m constantly astounded by how much my children have to teach me. And reteach me.
THANK YOU Justine. A reminder to help cut through all the nonsense in my life.
I need this reminder all the time. Haha.
These untruths may be on the mark for adults, but your children will need a few years before they can think this abstractly. It is a stretch to call it “lying”.
To offer a few thought s from my study of child development, this might help:
A child might say “no” to a question about his (or her) diapers, but he is not “lying”. The child is just avoiding something unpleasant for him … and probably for his mom. And a small child cannot voluntarily open his grip until 8-10 months. This is a protection, from when children had to hold on to their mother’s hair to be safely transported. They can reach for something else, but they can’t “let go”. Children also are immersed in reality and imagination when they are young, to where they often cannot tell the difference between the two.
We have to recognize the difference between the world we live in and the reality a child lives in to be fair to a child’s intentions. I would avoid labeling a child as a “liar.’
You are absolutely right that labeling a child a “liar” is neither accurate nor helpful. That’s not what I intended to do here, rather the article and my own self reflection were inspired by my daughter’s current (totally acceptable) state. My children are in a very different plane from me, but I am in constant awe of how often their more innocent, formative state reminds me of the things I need to work on as an adult. Thanks for your thoughts and clarification, Trish.
And, of course, I think it’s entirely appropriate to be helping children distinguish right from wrong from the earliest ages. It’s expecting adult-like levels of self-control and understanding that are problematic. We can guide our children to adulthood gently and with compassion, all the while honoring their beautiful imaginations and not expecting too much of them.
I realized after I posted my response, that whether a child is lying or not was not the focus of your article. It was about us lying to ourselves. Sorry for redirecting it … I’m just sensitive to adults overestimating what a child is capable of doing or understanding, and punishing them or scolding them for for their failure.
Your article reflected a lovely willingness to share your self examination, in light of what you have noticed in your children. I call it a “dual process”, where what we do with our children causes us to reflect on our own spiritual well being. Do you think, perhaps, that this was the Divine plan … to give us children to raise with such love an intention that we benefit from the process as well? I think so!
I love this Justine! And I respect the truth in it too 🙂
Now you’ve got me thinking about all the untruths I tell myself–but I’m not brave enough to put them out there as you have. Well done.
One thing I notice about mine is that untrue ideas seem to especially slip into areas of my life where I haven’t stopped and intentionally thought about what I should be doing. I guess those spots are easier inlets for the hells to influence me than areas where I actively and purposely let the Lord in… curious that.
Intentionality is such a huge part of it! Thanks for that insight.
About the Lying.
My boys come in two styles (in this case) the ones that are generally honest like their father and the ones that have their mother’s tendency to exaggerate and manipulate as needed.
All of them lie at times but the first batch you can see the uncertainty in their eyes (even the 3yr old) when they speak and when you say “is that really what happened?” you get an immediate sheepish “no” and usually a fall-on-the-floor-weepy-outburst that they broke a commandment.
The second group are much more work, because it is really hard to tell when they are intentionally stretching the truth–and I know from my own experience as a child that the more I repeated my bogus story the more I believed it until it evolved into the “truth” in my mind. If we call them on their story early enough they can still admit they were wrong but if I don’t get to the truth of it fast enough then sometimes I just have to shift to “how can we make this situation better” rather than “what really happened.” As the one has gotten older, he has a larger window in which he can seperate what happened from what he wants to have happened.
But i think it is all lying and so it is accurate to call it that– otherwise we are missing early opportunities to help our children fight their evil tendencies–it is hard to fight something unnamed.
The Innocence of Ignorance protects our children from their evils spiritually damning them– it doesn’t stop them from committing those evils. It gives those kids, and their parents, the space to say “that was wrong don’t do that” and “this is right–do this” and the time to develop honest habits.
I have seen the two types of non-truths in my older child and in others as well as in myself. I tend to exaggerate and start to believe my inventions–I struggled with this as a child and continue to do so as an adult. I’m thankful that I had guidance identifying truth from falsity as a child–if I’m still struggling with it now, just think how bad it would be if I hadn’t had support from my parents and teachers in my youth.
I totally relate to your comment Eden. I see it in my children too. Although they know lying is breaking one of the Lord’s commandments, there’s that look of uncertainty. I am unable to lie – because I like to be honest (Sometimes too honest for my husband I think) – and because everyone can tell I’m lying. Please don’t mistake this as I want to lie – I don’t. But there were times as a child when I definitely wanted to because I felt that life would be easier if I did, and I wouldn’t get into trouble.
I watched a TEDx talk recently by a child psychologist friend of mine and she was talking about children and their feelings of security in themselves. She said that she will ask a situational question to children to find out how secure they feel in expressing themselves in their home environment. So I asked my children “if you broke a glass or something belonging to someone else, what would you do?” The answers from each one was interesting. The two girls said that they would hesitate to tell me or my husband, but would tell us even if it meant that we were cross. My son said he wouldn’t tell anyone and hope we didn’t notice. Then if we did, he might eventually own up. He felt that would be easier than feeling the pain originally even though it would be lying.
We explained that it’s okay for us to feel angry or annoyed when something of ours gets broken or damaged. We ask how they would feel if I broke something of theirs. I asked how they would want me to react. They all said the would prefer that I told them straight away.
They understand that lying is against the Lord’s commandments, yet the tendancy to avoid blame or shame is strong… I don’t think their intentions are evil, however. It will just take a while for them to understand that they are in a safe place always to tell the truth, no matter the consequences.
Oh yes, Justine!! This hits the nail so perfectly. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on this vein recently (and even started writing a future NCW artlicke along a similar line!) Thanks for reinforcing and shining more light on the uncomfortable reality of self-deception.
Also, I love your honesty in laying these personal truths out, I think it really is beneficial for us readers to see such concrete examples.
Thank you, Tania! It didn’t feel too hard to share my personal untruths because, honestly, I’ve admitted them to myself and others many times. The hard part is the next step–really halting the telling of them and believing in them in the first place. Admitting it is only the first step. 🙂
Thank you, Justine. This is a great reminder and is fresh and strong because you don’t pull your punches. But it also feels merciful. Thank you for making me laugh over and shake my head over myself and the human condition. Thank you for your honesty.
Even though it is often hard to comfortably find time to read the Lord’s Word, especially when babies and young children consume so much time and energy. Yet, you obviously were looking for His enlightenment when you wrote this article. Years ago, I used to wonder if that wasn’t why women tend to live longer than men – because we needed a few more years to get some quiet reading and reflection in. There sure wasn’t much in those days.
Glad Trish added what she did about the reality of wee children. It is fascinating! Yet important to remember. Seems to last into 5 for many, but then the Lord always leads us gently – especially the littlest ones.
And as for your children teaching you to look at things with a new perspective, I think your dear mom (and many other moms) will agree, that they will continue to do that all of their lives. And the grandchildren are yet another refresher course!
All the best!
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