Any father with a child old enough to communicate has said something along the lines of, “If I find out later that you lied it will be worse than if you just tell me the truth.” Kids lie. People lie. In fact, as someone who often talks about spiritual things with people, this is one sin people will almost universally admit to, with some justification of course.
As a father understanding why children lie to you is important. It reminds me of a skit from comedian Louis C.K. (Disclaimer: This embedded video is clean but be careful listening to him in other videos if you try to avoid vulgarities.)
While it is a funny commentary on parenting and children, it brings home the truth as to why people lie. Lying has the appearance of being easier, especially in the face of trouble. From the beginning when the first man and woman hid from God and tried to cover up their uncomfortable circumstances, lying has been a staple of humankind.
So as most people ask, what is wrong with a little white lie? Especially when it would hurt the feelings of another to be “totally honest?” That question is what encouraged me to write this post.
As a Christian and father, I have often wrestled with this myself. Lying comes natural to fallen men, including me, and must be guarded against because it often can make it easier. The issue at stake, however, is not the momentary relief from awkward or potentially punishing circumstances the issue is our testimony. When I as a parent, husband, or friend demonstrate the craft of lying as a tool in the tool chest it tarnishes the testimony I have before my family, God, and a world that is desperate for Truth.
When I tell my children, they have done a good job to make them “feel better” I am ultimately showing them that truth is less important than putting me in the uncomfortable position of dealing with how they are falling short and how they can improve, aka parenting. When I “lovingly” tell my wife she looks great in those three sizes too small jeans, who am I sparring? Her? No other people will surely notice that maybe that wasn’t the outfit to wear, so maybe I should have loved her enough to spare her the whispers behind her back, by being open with the truth? Am I willing to be truthful knowing I might be sleeping on the couch?
As with most things there is a balance, and sometimes it is better to say nothing at all, but I am convinced that to mishandle truth is a dangerous position as a leader in your family and with your witness before God.
Can I say I have a perfect track record? No. I fall short often. That is the reason though that I need to look to the one who is the Truth. (John 14:6) There is a famous dialogue between Pontius Pilate and the Son of God, in which Pontius spoke the infamous phrase “What is Truth?” All the while he was standing right in front of the embodiment of it. To acknowledge that, however, would have placed him in a very awkward situation before the Jews and Ceasar.
Many people in our culture and sadly the Church think lying for the right reason is justifiable. Most of those people would at the same time be angered when they find out their children, spouse, or boss has lied to them. We will, however, save hypocrisy for another occasion.
In closing, I would like to think back to the video and point out the situation that brought the child in the story to the point of lying. As a parent how we deal with sin in our children is so important. Truly they are responsible agents for their misdeeds, so I do not want to excuse them, but there is a big but.
When we as parents are desirous of training up our children then the anger, hurt, or betrayal we feel when our children lie to us is secondary to helping them see that lies are harmful to them, not us. I am guilty of the “If I find out you are lying the punishment will be worse,” but this makes it about me, not them. I need to help mitigate the fear that they have in telling the truth by dealing with them in gentle, Christlike way. We need to ask ourselves, are we making it easy to be approached with the truth by our children? Do they have a way to repent whenever they know they have done wrong, or is the lie “easier” for them?
I would point out that this applies to us who make up the church as well. So many sinners feel the need to put on a happy face and cover up the deceit in their hearts for fear of repercussions. I think it would be better in our homes and fellowships if people felt safe being honest with one another, instead of fear of being judged by others. We all already have a tall order standing “naked” before our Creator.
Finally fathers, husbands, men, I’ll leave you with this admonition from Scripture.
These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. (Proverbs 6:16-19)