Not long ago I was listening to a parenting podcast about why kids lie and what parents ought to do when it happens. The podcasters jumped through all sorts of verbal hoops in talking about this issue. How we need to value imagination and fantasy play. How important it is to understand why a child might be tempted to lie. How we ought to listen well, honor the inner life of our kids, and not jump straight to punishing. How we need to be the kind of people who can hear uncomfortable things. All good stuff.
But then the podcaster got into talking about differing points of view, and how every story can have multiple perspectives. Two kids can share a mutual experience and have different things to share about it. But in encouraging kids to share these differing viewpoints, the podcaster said she will ask one of her kids to share “your truth” and then she’ll turn to the other and say, “Okay now, what’s your truth?”
And it got me thinking.
Because the truth about truth is, it does not change depending on who is telling the story. Truth is not malleable and bendable like a child’s story about what happened on the playground. Perspectives can differ. Experiences can vary widely. Opinions, assumptions, feelings, even memories run the gamut. But truth does not change according to the teller.
This is a common misconception in our culture, and a trap that parents can easily fall into when it comes to encouraging honesty in our children. If we go around asking our children what their truth is, we dilute the meaning of the word truth and ultimately make it harder for our kids to ever share objectively.
Mom: “Did you push your sister?”
Child: “Well that depends. Do you want her truth or mine?”
We can quickly see where teaching our kids that truth is subjective becomes a slippery slope where no one can get a firm footing.
As parents it’s important that we value truth in its objective form, because without it we run the risk of teaching our kids (and believing ourselves) that our experience and our feelings are the ultimate standard by which the world measures reality. If I push my enemy into a rose bush and then deny it because in my heart I don’t want to be the kind of person that pushes people into thorny flower bushes, my shame or regret or embarrassment don’t change the reality of what I did. I need to acknowledge the truth that I hurt someone, and then I can get to the process of repenting of my sin and healing (and helping others heal) from its effects.
We live in a world that has turned feelings, personal experience, point of view, and subjective experience into an idol. We do that by calling all these things truth, when what they really are are our reactions to truth. I want my kids to know that their feelings, experiences, and viewpoints are valuable to me. But I also want them to know they don’t determine truth. Far be it from me to lay such a responsibility at their feet. So I will continue to teach them honesty, even in the face of uncomfortable opposition, for the greater good of their character and the honor of Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life incarnate.