Monday, November 15, 2010

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire

I have made a strong commitment not to lie to my children. Not even in the little things.

Lying hurts. I remember so many times being lied to as a child. And, if you ask me, it made the sting of any given situation twice as bad. Not only are you dealing with the hurt of whatever reality it is that caused the hurt in the first place, but now it’s multiplied. You are hurt over the situation and now also hurt by the fact that you were lied to about it by someone you were supposed to trust.

Like the day I learned there wasn’t a tooth fairy. It’s one of my earliest, clearest memories. I’m pretty sure I was only 5. I was first hurt by the fact the tooth fairy didn’t come. Then hurt by the fact my parents told me there was a tooth fairy when there wasn’t. I remember where I was standing, and what decorations were on the wall for cryin’ out loud!

I learned early on in life that disappointment is part of reality. I have been let down time and time again by people that have lied to me, or simply given me a really shady version of the truth.

Honestly, I never understood it. Life is hard enough to deal with. It becomes really hard to deal with when you can’t even trust those around you to tell you the truth.

And in the end, the truth will find its way to the surface nearly every time. The longer the truth has been buried, the deeper the hurt. I feel like I could write volumes on this fact alone. It’s not my intention to slander those in my life so I’ll refrain from illustrating this fact with stories. I don’t think I need to illustrate it for you though, because I’m sure you’ve been hurt deeply by this fact as well.

I have tough skin. I had some pretty tumultuous growing up years and I’ve seen a lot in my short life. I’ve come to appreciate and except people from all walks of life, with all sorts of issues, problems, troubles and backgrounds. I feel like I could work my way through almost any situation. I can deal with almost any person, and love them regardless of where they’re at or what they’re going through.

But when I’m lied to, I am wounded to the core. There is no single issue in this world that hurts me as quickly, and as deeply as being lied to. I think my exposure to deceit has caused me to be super sensitive in this area. I feel like I’m the kind of woman who will give those around me unbridled trust. I don’t make you earn it; I bestow it upon you because I assume the best in you as a human being. Then, if I find I can’t trust you because you make bad choices, I slowly take that trust away.

If I find I can’t trust you because you lied to me, I begin to question everything you’ve ever said to me, and it’s hard as heck to get me to trust you ever again. I take it personally. I feel like it’s the equivalent of you spitting in my face. I begin to question your character, your integrity, your motives, and your intentions. It makes me sick to my stomach. There’s nothing that makes me more emotional (sad, mad, angry, fearful, etc. all at once), more quickly than finding out I’ve been lied to.

I know this seems harsh. I know this seems overly sensitive. I know this is taken to the extreme. But it’s the sheer reality of how I feel.

I feel like I’m on emotional overload right now. I ran into several situations today where I’ve been lied to. Petty, silly, stupid, little white lies. Totally unnecessary, totally out of left field, totally ridiculous ones. The kinds that make you wonder why someone would even use their emotional energy to think of lies so stupid? What does it gain for you? What does it profit? What’s the point?

I also spent much of the morning thinking through and praying about a fresh wound inflicted by a dear friend over this very issue (well, it’s more complicated than that, but my deep hurt is more or less caused by this… as I’ve written, I’m quite sensitive in this area). I feel emotionally drained. I like to write to process my feelings, so now you have been blessed with empowering knowledge: how to wound me at the core of my being. Please don’t use that newfound knowledge to be destructive. Thank you in advance!

Now that I’ve given 3 hours worth of background on my ‘issue’, let me tell you how that’s worked its way into my parenting plan.

I want my kids to trust me. I want my kids to be able to count on me. I want them to know me as a woman of great character and integrity. I want them to believe me when I tell them something.
Of course, it has meant that I’ve had to be honest with them at times when I would have rather given them an easy, untrue answer.

Like the time they asked me why my parents weren’t married to each other. Then they asked me if their daddy and I would stay married forever. Then I had to tell them that sometimes people choose not to stay married. God wants marriages to be forever, that’s his best for us, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen that way. I assured them that their daddy and I love each other very much and that we’re committed to each other and will do everything we can to have a good, healthy marriage that will last until one of us dies!

But, I couldn’t look my kids in the eye and tell them that we’ll be married forever. Nobody plans to not stay married. I pray with everything in me that I’ll never be at a place where one of us would choose to end our marriage. But I can’t see the future. And as much as they were looking for assurance that we’d be happily married for the rest of our lives, I couldn’t guarantee that. So I didn’t try. 

Then there was the time Leeann asked me through tears if I was going to die before she grew up. I told her that it was very unlikely, but only God knows the number of our days here on Earth. I told her that eventually, everybody dies. And I assured her that if I were to die that she would still have lots of people around her that would love her and take care of her. But I couldn’t tell her it would never happen. Because I just don’t know what God has planned for me.

There have also been times Leeann has asked about her birth dad, and how exactly all that ‘works’. Luckily for us, we clarified with her what she was asking before we gave our answer or we’d have given her way more information than she was looking for!

I truly believe that we should give our children honest, age-appropriate answers for whatever questions they have. Chances are, if they’re old enough to be asking a specific question, they’re old enough to hear the answer. I say this because if they don’t hear the honest answer from you, they’re going to ask that same question to someone else who is more than happy to answer their questions for them. And there’s a good chance that if they’re asking those questions of their peers they’re going to get an answer that isn’t truthful. The answer won’t be truthful because that kid probably got the answer from a parent who was shading reality, or from an older sibling who had been fed misinformation somewhere down the line.

Granted, there are times where I tell my kids that I will explain the answer more fully when they’re older. Or when I tell them that I’ll have to think about how to best respond to their question and then get back to them later. I am not advocating tactless, reckless transparency. I am advocating age-appropriate honesty.

I remember a lot of lies I believed as a kid. When I found out they weren’t true I was mortified. I felt stupid for believing the lie (as if I should have known better), I felt shameful for spreading the lie (which I didn’t even know was a lie), and I felt angry for having been lied to. Again, I ask… what’s the point?

People lie because they think it’ll shield someone they love from being hurt. I promise you, a lie hurts so much worse than any other hurt. Because once the lie has been exposed the truth still hurts.

I want my kids to grow up knowing that life hurts. When Leeann went off to a new school worried about whether or not the kids were going to be mean, I assured her, “Some kids make mean choices. And sometimes they’ll even say mean things to you or about you.” Then I went on to equip her with how to deal with mean kids instead of shielding her from that hurtful reality. But it is reality. It would have seemed easier to shield her from that reality, but it’s far better for her sake, to know that fact ahead of time. And (hopefully) her reactions to hurtful situations will be healthier because she believes me, and believes that she can trust how I’ve instructed her to respond. I know that the reality is it’s not ‘if’ kids are going to be mean to her, but ‘when’.

Sometimes I do catch myself lying to my kids. It usually comes in the form of my ‘auto-pilot’ response, where I respond to a question without really thinking it through because my mind is somewhere else (darn facebook!).

There has been no shortage of times where I’ve had to eat my words and make good on my word, or to come back and humbly apologize to my kiddos for lying to them. I am daily reminded just how far from perfect I am.

But, mark my words: I will not intentionally lie to my children. I refuse to take ‘the easy way out’. I refuse to paint a less than honest picture of reality. My kids deserve so much more from me. They are too precious to have their minds warped by the person who is supposed to be their first line of protection.

Our children deserve honest parents. Especially in a world that is happily feeding them lies around every corner. Give them a place they can feel safe. Be someone they can trust!

Will you commit with me, to be honest to your kids. All the time. Everytime? Will you commit with me to apologize to your kids when you have lied to them? Will you commit to being a man or woman of honesty, integrity and character?

I promise that your children will be blessed beyond measure if you strive daily to keep this commitment. I am committed to never lie to my kids. Will you make this commitment too?


Kralik said...

Excellent post! I totally feel the same way about lying. Fewer things hurt me more. We try to go out of our way not to make promises we can't fulfill either.

tbierly said...

Robyn, I'm right there with you. Nothing worse than being lied to! It even bothers me when people dance around the truth, or are less than forthcoming. I can deal with what someone says just fine, even if it hurts I can deal with it, but I cannot deal with the uncertainty of not knowing whether someone has hidden stuff from me or lied to me about something. I'm exactly like you. I will trust someone until they give me a reason not to. Then they have to earn trust back by demonstrating openness and honesty or I will not respect them, even if I am still pleasant and treat them nicely.

I'm also with you on telling the kids the truth, even if that truth is I will explain it later when you will understand it better. I still remember my mom reading me a book about Corrie ten Boom when I was a kid, and there was a part where she asked her father a birds and bees type question. I can't remember the details of the question, but I remember her father's answer. They were traveling at the time and he had a heavy suitcase. He just told her to pick up the suitcase. She tried and of course it was too heavy for her. Then he explained that just like the suitcase, some information was too "heavy" for her to carry around.

I'm interested though, Robyn, what you do about things like Santa Claus. I of course have tried to spoil the kids fun and tell them there is no Santa Claus (sorry to any kids reading this if I have just spoiled it for you!), but they don't believe me. After all, we (and by we, I mean Eroica) put out cookies and milk for Santa and Santa magically eats them and leaves presents for the kids. Of course we are also talking about a kid like Kajsa who I have been trying to convince for months that there is no such thing as ghosts and monsters living in her closet, and that not everything on tv is real -- I think maybe I'm finally making a little headway on this.

But you are exactly right. It is far better to tell them the truth and prepare them for reality. You don't tell them they are such a perfect princess and everyone will love them just like you do. You tell them that there are mean girls, and how to respond. You arm them with the tools they will need. That is the job of a parent.

Nice post!

Brandi said...

Great post! I feel the exact same way about lying. It is the most hideous, disgusting act that is so hurtful that anyone can do to someone else. I recently had my old pastor's wife lie to me about things and I began wondering what else she told me that wasn't true. In that situation once one lie came out they all came out at once like a snowball effect. I no longer associate with her or the church because as you said their integrity, morals, character all is in question and a woman who claims to be a child of God and is someone people are supposed to look up to I could not in good conscious continue our friendship.
I too have taken the stand not to lie to my child. Many people ask me what I am going to tell him about his dad when he asks. I simply say the truth.
Thank you for posting that!

April Klingler said...

I think I clicked on your family blog via a friend's blog awhile back and have followed for a little bit....this post just struck a chord with me. I have a 9 1/2 month old son and I know that the true, hard parenting is only just beginning because I'll have to deal with issues like lying. Christ teaches that lying is wrong, but I don't think I'd really stopped to think about the impact those silly white lies (tooth fairy, etc) would have on my child. I will commit to not intentionally lying to my son or future children, and commit to instead let them find trust and comfort in both me as a mother and in the God who will give me the strength and wisdom to do these things!
Great post :-)

SaraJane G Campbell said...

Robyn, it is so crazy. I was just talking to someone today about how much I respect your way of parenting and how it is such an example to me. Then I read this post and man am I right there with you. Lying is something we learn as a way of life...just the simple white lye who will it hurt. But in the end it hurts ourselves and if they find out, the ones we lye to. I want to be a woman of honesty and integrity in a world that does not honor that. I want to speak the way God would have me speak. I pray you and i can be this woman in a world where woman do whatever it takes to get ahead. I love you friend and love all that I learn from you!!!!!