By Craig Funston
I am a parent (one of two), the son of a set of parents, the father of parent (or two), so I have some experience with family life—warts and all. One of the greatest parenting challenges (though they all seem to be tied for first place) is teaching kids character, guiding them in their moral development.
Children raised in homes where character, virtue, and principals—all components of moral development—are not taught, are deprived. Parents have a fundamental responsibility to train their own children. The neighbourhood doesn’t raise the kids, nor does the society at large—and that includes the school and the church.
These various communities can all help, to be sure, but the parents have the priority in this matter.
That, of course, is the ideal model, and in a fallen world of imploding families, multiple lovers, transient homes, cyber babysitters, my previous analysis now seems so archaic. I sadly agree, but it doesn’t stop me from stating my case, or even aiming for a goal.
And within the book of moral development, you might say, there is one chapter that really stands out, in my estimation, that of telling the truth. Re-packaged, we could call it being honest, having integrity, speaking straight, not lying, and so forth.
“Lie” is a very short word in your Oxford Canadian Dictionary, but it’s your Thesaurus that you want to consult at this point. Better still, read this county-famous writer who is intent on giving a vocabulary and moral lesson in the same breath (that would be me.)
If you want a synonym (not cinnamon, Cousin Reggie) for “lie,” I can assure you it’s going to get personal. You see, we (me, you, and us) lie frequently, without even thinking of it. It has become so prevalent in our confused and wasted culture that it is now normal and acceptable.
When I sign up on a credit card but refuse to pay the balance at the end of the month, that’s lying; and giving some wussy excuse to the bank about our financial extremities, when in fact we wasted our money on vices instead of essentials, that’s also lying. Or referring to that as an “oversight” by saying we “forgot,” that’s lying.
Fudging on our scheduling chaos, but explaining it away could be considered a very pretty lie. Feigning misunderstanding instruction when, in fact, we weren’t listening or didn’t want to do it, is a very clever lie. And messing up words (“you mean ‘me’ meant ‘me’?”) is a very winsome lie.
You might say it’s about repackaging the truth—and that’s not a good thing at any level.
We can even lie without moving our lips: Silence, they say, is golden; it can also be be misleading—another fancy word for lying. Ever heard of body language (with the emphasis on “language”)? We can say a lot about ourselves, what we want, who we’re teasing, by simple body language.
Misleading statements, gross exaggerations, padded facts, and any form of flattery, can all be summed up in one word: lies. You see, you can wash a pig, put a bow on its snout, and call it Patsy, but at the end of the day, it’s still a pig.
Parents can be guilty of lying when they make promises to kids they know they won’t keep; teachers can lie with threats of phone calls and punishment that they don’t intend to deliver; politicians, media, car salesmen…well, you get the picture.
Even in a retail context, we are surrounded with lies: hamburgers look bigger and better in pictures than they do in real life; things on sale are actually not always cheaper in the long run; and promises for tried and true results rarely come through.
We lie because we want to be polite and not offensive (good); we want to avoid conflict (good); we don’t want to disappoint people (good); or we fail to be open and honest with each other because we don’t want to be vulnerable and get hurt (makes sense to me).
But somehow we need to develop the art of honesty without compromising the truth—a fine line indeed—just like I’m trying to do with you right now.
Sugarcoating this column would be just another example of lying, one reason why I try to : “shoot straight”—and that’s the truth.