As I’m writing this, the hearings on the newest Supreme Court judge have just finished. I purposely did not watch them… it was too much for me. Lately, I have been overwhelmed with the feeling that I’m waiting for a dream sequence to end; that I’ll wake up to a world where leaders don’t mock abuse victims, where honesty and integrity are still valuable, where character and courtesy mean something. Yet here we are: there’s a new judge on the Court and I wonder whether what is right and true is falling by the wayside.
This made me think about my own past and my relationship with truth.
When I was a kid, I was a chronic liar. I don’t exactly know WHY I would lie. Oftentimes, they would be small silly lies, about things that didn’t matter too much… like whether I had a pet, or where I got a picture, or if I had any Easter chocolate left. I am sure there are plenty of psychological reasons we can explore to explain it all. (Including, but not limited to, the standard family dysfunctions or me being a hyper-creative kid.) Looking back, I can classify the lies into a few specific categories:
– Anne of Green Gables Lies: When the world as it is isn’t as beautiful or interesting as you wish it were, so you make up a story instead of the truth. Just to make it better or easier to bear.
– Lies of Independence: These lies were my way of making my own path, showing defiance and independence in a way that was mostly harmless and unnoticeable. Learning my boundaries.
– Lies of Protection: I was hiding something (like a shirt I took from my brother or Halloween candy) and didn’t want anyone to know.
Whatever the reason, I lied more often than I care to admit. As I grew up, friends would periodically try to show me other ways to work through my issues. They tried to teach me that disagreements weren’t personal attacks, or that actual friendship requires honesty. Then one day, I was called out on an Anne-of-Green-Gables-type lie in the middle of a large group of friends. It may have been the first time I was truly “caught in the act,” and it was awful. The stomach-dropping shock of guilt and an inability to explain myself was the last straw. This awful experience helped me to reevaluate my own stance on the concept of integrity and honesty.
A few years later, I had a friend get upset with me for being honest about whether I thought her boyfriend had been “mean” to her. I told her that I felt she was overreacting and prompted her to see the situation from his perspective. Now, in her defense, in my infant stage of being truthful, it is highly probable that my tact in delivering my opinion was lacking a huge slice of grace. Through her tears, she looked at me and said, “How come you can’t just be someone who tells me what I WANT to hear?”
Learning the value of truth is a journey. It took me years to reset as it relates to honesty, and now I am striving to educate my daughters on its importance. Many a car ride to school has been spent discussing the differences between facts and opinions. These are important distinctions, like the differences between laws and rules, between requirements and expectations.
My own journey has now taken me to the opposite tip of the scale. It’s not uncommon for someone who I don’t know that well to come to me saying, “I was hoping to ask you something because I know you’ll give me an honest answer….” It always strikes me as odd to be seen as honest, knowing where I came from on my own path to integrity.
Through my process, I have noticed that a key element is the partnership of honesty with freedom from judgement. It’s the fear of the outcome that often keeps true answers hidden. No one responds to a survey with 100 percent honesty if they know their names will be on it. I could write an entire blog on the terrifying freedom that internet anonymity has provided for hateful rhetoric, but that’s not what this post is about.
I often tell my 6-year-old that if she tells me the truth, she won’t get in trouble. I want her to learn that telling me whatever it is, even if it’s bad, will always be the right choice. Lying turns one bad thing into two; being brave about owning your own faults and poor choices builds character. Hopefully this will also help her should something happen that she is ashamed of or afraid to tell someone. In the reality of our #metoo world, I want her to always know that she can tell me. If she is drunk at a party, I want her first phone call to be to me to come and get her, knowing that I will be there right away, without judgement.
I’m glad that I had people willing to put me on the spot, to hold me accountable, and to expect better of me. My life would probably have been much different without them. I hope to pay forward the lessons they taught me about honor, honesty, and friendship. I hope to raise two daughters who know that I will love them no matter what. I hope for a culture that sees truth as the virtue it once was, a culture that has the integrity to willingly identify its own flaws, and that has the bravery to publicly denounce them.
I honestly hope.
This post reflects the views and experiences of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on integrity from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.