Want to hear something scary? A recent poll of 18-32 year olds revealed 80% of them felt it was perfectly fine to lie to get out of an awkward situation. Eighty percent of young adults think lying is perfectly acceptable!
I will admit lying will send me over the edge quicker than just about anything. I struggled with lying as a young child. That is until my parents decided to trot out every Bible verse about how much God absolutely detests lying. I am sure I have told an occasional lie since then, but I try to keep it to none. I am honestly still too frightened by the sheer number and emphatic nature of those Bible verses!
In today’s society, trotting out the Bible verses unfortunately, probably won’t stop your child from lying. Why? Because lying has been given such an extremely narrow definition by the world, your child will think she isn’t lying even when she is. In today’s world, a lie is a huge untruth told on purpose to hurt someone else. Partial truths, hidden truths, lies told to “spare” someone else, little “white” lies and more are considered acceptable and “not really lies” in the world.
Yet God commands us to not lie. Period. No exceptions. Christians are to live their lives in such a way they stand out from the world in a positive way and draw others to God. One of the best ways to stand out in today’s world is to be known as a truth teller. It always shocks me that even amongst Christians I have a reputation for “shooting straight”. Yet that is how rare it is in today’s world for someone to be consistently and totally honest with those around them.
So what do we teach our children about truth and lies? How can we train them to be truthful without destroying people? How can our children’s truth telling point others to God? There are a lot of ideas to consider, but here are some we used with our daughter:
- Teach your children God is absolute truth. God does not lie. He cannot be in the presence of lies. God’s truth includes His commands. God’s commands are not up for debate or a popularity vote. To love God is to obey His commands. Whether we like it or not.
- Help your children understand that truth telling is about the heart as much as it is about what you say (or don’t say). At the heart of lying is self-centeredness. Pride and other ungodly traits are the motivation for most of our lies. If your child is prone to telling a lot of lies, don’t just focus on the behavior. Seek to understand the heart that is so motivated to lie and address the issues you find there also.
- Make sure your children understand there are many ways to lie. Just because you told a partial truth or “only” withheld information that caused someone to believe something false does not mean you were not lying. There is no “good” lie as far as God is concerned. Teach your children all of the ways they can lie and that they are all wrong in the eyes of God.
- Teach your children the difference between opinion and truth. I once knew a guy who had been counseled to tell everyone the complete truth. He believed that meant he was obligated to tell everyone every thought that popped into his head. What he didn’t realize is that offering his unsolicited negative opinions was not telling the “truth”. It was being ugly and hurtful. Just because your child doesn’t like someone’s outfit, does not mean he has to share that information. It is his opinion and thousands of others may disagree.
- On the other hand, teach your children to offer solicited opinions with compassion. If the child with the outfit your child thinks is ugly asks his opinion, your child should not lie. He does not, however, have to blurt out “That’s the ugliest thing I have ever seen” either. There are tactful ways to deliver the truth about your opinions and still be truthful. The main thing to help your children understand is for them to communicate it is just that – their opinion and that they realize many others would have a different opinion.
- Be prepared for disillusioned children. Unfortunately, lies are so pervasive in our society that even church leaders can be seen lying on a regular basis. From preachers’ stories told as if they really happened to the preacher telling the story, to the “we love that person so much” while saying horrible things to them, your well-trained, anti-lie child will pick up on the lies told by people in church leadership. When they share their concerns, it is time to reinforce the ideas of every Christian struggling with sin and God’s grace. It’s also an opportunity to point out how Satan works to tempt even those we may view as the strongest Christians we know. Ironically, sharing the clay feet of leaders with your children can help strengthen their faith if handled properly.
- Set a great example for your children and ask everyone else surrounding your children to do likewise. One of the reasons lying is so pervasive is that very few people are confronted about their lying. This leads a lot of people to assume lying is an acceptable way of operating. They may even convince themselves they don’t lie even though they are lying constantly. Every situation is different and all should be handled with the most love and grace possible, but I encourage you to draw a line in the sand against lying.
Lying is one of those behaviors that is easier to prevent than it is to get rid of once it becomes a habit. Working hard now to keep your children from becoming accustomed to lying will make all of your lives easier in the future. Maybe if we all work at training our children to be truthful, those survey results can shift dramatically in a few years.