When I was a kid (probably around 5 years old?) I remember my neighbors were going somewhere to get ice cream. (I always thought it was much cooler like seeing horses…but it was just ice cream…) I don’t remember most of the evening, but what I remember is that I really wanted to go with them. They told me I had to ask my parents. When I did, they said “no.” I think I remember they had to go somewhere that evening and we had a sitter coming over. But I really really wanted to go. So I ran back to my neighbor’s house and said, “They said yes!” We hopped into the car and all left!
Now, this was before cell phones so it isn’t like my parents could call up and ask Brenda if I was with them. I imagine they were reeling praying that I was with them and not with some crazy person who somehow nabbed be in the 20 feet between our two homes. When I got home I was in SO MUCH TROUBLE. I had completely ruined my parents’ plans for the evening and they had been worried sick. I’m sure I also lost the trust of my neighbors.
Like most children, I had a tendency to lie about stupid stuff. Never about anything that was really important or consequential, but silly things. I told all my friends in 3rd grade that I had “Michael Jackson Disease” and that I was really black and related to Michael Jordan. For some reason I always wanted to be black. That was my way of making it true for myself. Silly and inconsequential, but a lie nonetheless.
As I got older and had others lie to me about things I realized how much it stinks to be lied to and I felt like I really wanted to be honest with people. But the pull to lie about silly things was so difficult. If someone asked me why I didn’t call the night before I’d feel compelled to say, “oh I got really busy and didn’t have a chance,” instead of just being honest and saying, “I was too tired,” or “I completely forgot.” If I arrived to work a few minutes late it was easier to say, “I hit every red light” than it was to say, “I’m sorry. I lost track of time.”
But why do we even lie about those things in the first place? Lying disconnects us from the responsibility of our actions, or so we like to think. Instead of admitting truth and taking ownership for our thoughts, feelings, actions, and how they impact others, we would rather bend the truth or explain away what we’ve done to make ourselves look better.
At some point I decided that I was tired of being lied to and lied about and if I wanted to be in the right, I needed to not lie to others. It was so difficult. So I asked God to do what He had to do to make me not lie. Let me be caught. Make me feel convicted to the point of admitting my wrongdoing and rectifying the situation. I don’t want to lie anymore.
That. Was. Hard.
My junior year in high school I went to hang out with some friends on New Years Eve and got totally trashed. I was so angry with myself. I had completely destroyed my witness as a Christian to people I cared deeply about. I made myself look totally foolish and let my emotions get the best of me. I had been so saddened by people around me for years who were wasting their lives in a drunken stupor and felt like I had been such a hypocrite. I felt so convicted that I finally went to my dad and step mom and told them I had something to confess. I told them what I had done and they forgave me completely. I wasn’t in trouble. They knew I had punished myself enough over the situation. That was just one of several times I had to go to them and confess something I had done. They almost always knew the truth already and they always forgave me.
Shortly after Josh and I were married we became pregnant with our first child. It was a whirlwind. I was still a full-time student, working two jobs, and Josh didn’t have a job. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I felt sick all the time. I had to go to classes. I was almost done. This was my final semester before student teaching. One day I realized I had forgotten to do an online assignment for a History class. It was due the day before and I thought I’d go online to see if the discussion was still open so I could post. It had closed. For whatever stupid reason I decided to email the professor and tell him that the site had not been working for me and that’s why I didn’t do the assignment. Guess what. I got caught. He had his assistant turn the discussion back on and check my account and lo and behold, it was working just fine. He called me out on it. He said he had to come to the conclusion that I “was lying.” Those words cut me like a knife. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Why had I even said anything in the first place?! Why didn’t I just leave it alone. Students forget assignments all the time. Now my character was tarnished with this professor, whom I actually really liked. I felt totally and completely convicted…just like I had asked for.
Did you know that going back to a superior and admitting you’ve lied and asking for their forgiveness sucks? I emailed that professor back and apologized for lying. I explained that we had been going through so many things and I don’t know why I did it. I explained that I guess the pressure had just gotten to me. I told him I was wrong and I felt horrible and asked him to please forgive me. I never heard back from him. It was so hard. And going back into the classroom to see him face to face was even harder. I never knew whether or not he had forgiven me for what I had done or not…and still don’t. He has probably long since forgotten me, but I haven’t forgotten him.
Over the years I’ve had similar things happen when I have said something ridiculous to get out of responsibility for something and had to call back and apologize. But the older I get the more sensitive I’ve become to lies. I find myself being brutally honest with my kids. When they ask me excitedly, “What would happen if I jumped into the water!?” I respond, “you would die.” I don’t say, “you might get hurt,” or “that would make me so sad” because the reality is that they would drown and die if they jumped off the pier into the ocean. They can’t swim and I’m not so good at it myself. I find myself sensitive when people lie to my kids about silly things or ask me to do the same. If I lie or others lie to my children and it seems OK, then why is it NOT OK for them to lie?
This doesn’t mean that I have to speak my mind about everything. I don’t go out of my way to tell someone what I think just for the sake of being honest. It isn’t like The Invention of Lying. Being truthful does not mean you always have to say anything at all. It’s often OK to say nothing. In this day and age of Facebook posts and comments, I feel we go out of our way to comment our opinions just for the sake of doing it rather than just scrolling past and ignoring something we don’t want to see. So there is a balance.
As a parent I’ve prayed over and over and over again that my boys would grow to be men of conviction. They would know right from wrong and have the urge to act upon it. I have prayed that they would have strong character and values. I’ve prayed that when they do something wrong, that they would get CAUGHT! Why? Because they may tell little, inconsequential white lies today. But in the future lying may be so second nature that they can’t even discern the truth from the lie anymore. They may lie so much that they’ve convinced themselves they’re being honest. I want them to learn to be honest, take responsibility for their actions, and accept the consequences. I want them to WANT to tell the truth.
The day one of my boys comes to me, admits he did something wrong, and asks for forgiveness will be a proud day for me because I know just how difficult that is.