Friday, March 15, 2013

When is it okay to lie?

I remember reading “Adventures of Huck Finn” at the beginning of my semester with American Literature and really enjoying it.  As I was completing my assignments and finishing up discussion questions, one question bothered me.  It read…
Huck lies or avoids telling the truth on several occasions.  Why does he lie?  How do you feel about his behavior?

This was a part of my answer…
I don’t like the fact that he lies, but it seems like it is his way of doing things.  He dodges the truth often to keep out of trouble.  He seems like he feels telling the truth would only make things worse in the long run.  This has worked for him well so far so he continues his pack of lies just to survive.

I am not a big fan of lying.  In fact I dislike it SO much that my husband and I have made it a point as parents to really emphasize the importance of always telling the truth with our boys.  Lying breaks trust and trust is hard to earn back once it is broken.

Because I don’t want to lie to my kids in any way we take a different approach with the holidays.  We have chosen to never “pretend” when it comes to Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy…
Our approach was simple as the kids were little.  We simply avoided the subject and waited until they were old enough to ask.  It didn’t take long.  When they asked we explained that other families liked to “pretend” with their kids.  It was their special tradition. 

We went out of our way to make sure we didn’t interfere with anyone else’s traditions.  This is just what we chose to do.  We emphasized that it wasn’t their place to “tell” any kid the truth.  When the time was right, their parents would tell them.  We NEVER had a problem with them telling anyone after all of these years (my boys are teens now).

Some people told us years ago that we might regret our decision to forfeit the game of “pretending” over the holidays, but we never have so far.  We have started some of our own creative traditions as a result which have made the holidays even more special.  We have shared with our boys the various historical accounts about Santa and traditions celebrated around the world, but he is not the focus of the season for our family.

Truth is important to us.  I will not lie for the sake of lying or because everyone else is doing it.  I want the words I speak to count for something.  I don’t ever want anyone to question or doubt whether I am speaking the truth or not.  I want them to know me as a person of truth.

We are endeavoring to teach our boys the value of truth as teenagers which has been interesting.  One thinks if you ask them something like… “Have you brushed your teeth?” that if he doesn’t answer, he hasn’t lied and there are no consequences for his actions.  The other thinks you can say whatever you want at times and say, “I’m just teasing” and it isn’t a lie.  These are interesting concepts.  What is the difference between teasing and lying?  Can not telling the whole truth be considered a lie?  Hmmm…. something to think about.

In reading Huck Finn it seemed like he only really lied when he was protecting someone else or trying to stay out of trouble.  So, when is it okay to lie?  As a Christian I tend to filter everything through the lens of the question, what would God think about this?

 I believe that if some situation would arise that would make it difficult to tell the truth that God would provide a “way of escape” out of the situation.  I can take it or stick with my opportunity to fudge the truth.  I can’t say I have always chosen the “way of escape” God has provided, but I have learned how to see that escape path easier now through experience.  I have learned over the years the value of honesty and the consequences of not sticking with the truth.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says…
“The only temptation that has come to you is that which everyone has. But you can trust God, who will not permit you to be tempted more than you can stand. But when you are tempted, he will also give you a way to escape so that you will be able to stand it.” (NCV)
The next time YOU are faced with the opportunity to lie, look for “a way of escape.”  Think about whether their might be a truthful alternative to using a lie to deal with a particular problem.  When it comes to lying we need to remember:
~ the truth ALWAYS comes out eventually
~ once you break trust it’s hard to earn back
~ word gets around pretty quickly who can and can’t be trusted
For Huck Finn lying was a way of life, what will it be for you?

Living to leave a legacy,


1 comment:

  1. This has to be one of my favorite blog posts ever. I was going to comment on it when I first read it, then decided to wait until I graded the Blogs. I still may focus on this in my own blog at some point.

    I grew up with a father who did not tolerate lying. My sister and I knew that if we lied, we would be caught, and we would pay for it. There was also the idea of breaking trust. Once a liar, always a liar. If we lied and were caught, why would anyone ever believe us? I never wanted to take that chance. I never wanted to disappoint my father either. Plus because of his emphasis on character and honesty, I knew that I could trust him to be honest with me as well.

    One of the things that attacted me to my husband was his nearly identical beliefs about honesty and trust. He doesn't tolerate lying...and he instilled that in our daughters. Trust is fragile. It can easily be broken, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to repair.

    I have to share this also. Just as I moved to this post to grade on this Saturday morning, the phone rang. It was my sister. We had a few concerns about our mother, and I called Mom and talked with her about those concerns on Thursday. When Mom called my sister this morning, the story she told her about my phone call was full of lies and twists of the truth. As my sister was sharing her conversation with me, I had to laugh because I was staring at your post titled "When is it okay to lie?" What Mom doesn't realize is that the more she lies about her health issues, her phone conversations, and what is happening in her life, the more we can't believe her. The trust is broken.

    Thanks for writing this. I enjoyed reading it, and I may copy it to save in Word format so I can re-visit it later. Good job, Julie!