One of my favorite experiences while I was employed by the Hearst Corporation, was a tour of the Good Housekeeping Institute. It is still one of my favorite places in New York City. When an ad ran in Good Housekeeping magazine, every claim in the ad was tested by the Institute. I mean, if the ad claimed a garment could be washed fifty times without fading, those people would get the garment and wash it fifty times to see if it faded! I had one client whose ad they sent back for a re-write. They had evidently melted down a piece of jewelry and it contained a fraction of an ounce more or less of some component and the institute demanded a re-write! To this day, I respect the Good Housekeeping Seal more than virtually any other consumer campaign.
My trust in the Good Housekeeping Seal is there because I know they demand complete honesty in advertising. Not only that, they double check the claims to make sure people are being honest. I wish life had a Good Housekeeping Institute. When someone told us something, we could plug in the claim and it would be checked out. The “Truth Institute” would issue a report telling us how much, if any, of the truth we were being told.
Unfortunately, as we discussed last week, even the definition of truth is becoming hazy for most people. Anything that even slightly resembles the truth (or not) is sold as honesty. Not just in advertising, but in our personal relationships and sadly in the church. Nothing bothers me more than to hear a preacher tell a “preacher’s story” as if it were something that actually happened to him. Then when you go up and make a comment on the story, you are told, “Oh, that never really happened. It was just a preacher’s story.”
Even worse, just as the Bible warned us, there are also false teachers who lead people astray from the truths in the Bible every day. They seem sincere and some are even very popular. Yet, when you give the “Truth Institute” test to their teachings and compare them to scripture, they don’t hold up.
So how do we train our children to grab hold of truth and avoid the lies without making them paranoid and untrusting of everyone in the process? I will admit, it is tougher to pull off every day. We have to find a way though or our children will be easy prey for Satan’s lies.
1. After you have taught your child to value truth, the next step is teaching her to recognize the difference between truth and “not-so” truth. A fun way to do that is to examine advertising. Many ads sort of tell the truth while really not, by using either implied or real exaggeration or hype. Make a game of it and see who can spot the “lie” first. For many children a toy disappointment is their first experience with ads not delivering what is promised. Use the experience as a teaching tool to show how we need to be careful about believing everything we read.
2. As your child gets older, the Thinking Toolbox books are fun and teach your child all sorts of logical fallacies people use to make false arguments appear to be true. Politicians are another source of examining claims versus truth. It seems a lot of politicians are susceptible to a little less than truthful behavior on the campaign trail. Our paper even has a truth meter that examines political claims as true, mostly true, mostly false, etc.
3. To understand Biblical truths, your child has got to be very familiar with the scriptures. This means reading and discussing them. A lot. Constantly in fact. To the point where your child can quote a scripture for just about anything or at least knows where to look to find a scripture to confirm a teaching as truth or expose it as false.
4. Then take it a step farther. Don’t have preachers for lunch, but discuss points that are brought up. Can you think of scriptures or Biblical examples that support the point the preacher made? Are there other scriptures or stories in the Bible that would make the opposite point? The exercise is not to get your preacher fired, but to train your child how to examine everything he is taught by anyone by examining the scriptures themselves. Since God is Truth, the Bible is our ultimate “Truth Institute.”
Have fun with it, but after you have taught your child to tell the truth, help him learn to discern whether or not others are telling him the truth or lies. Unfortunately, his future spiritual health may depend upon his ability to discern the truth. The lies Satan uses to try and lead us astray are clever, that is why Satan so often succeeds. We need to teach our children to be able to outsmart Satan by equipping them with the Truth and the ability to discern it.