Truth, Lies, and Story-Telling

While I focused on navigating the SUV into our driveway, my older son commented, “Hey, Mom, there’s a chicken nugget in the road.”

“Ummm….what?” My mind was focused on parking the car, heading inside, and closing the door on the workday – it most certainly was not on chicken nuggets decorating the asphalt.

“There’s a chicken nugget in the road,” he reiterated for my benefit.

“Is there really?” I needed details. Immediately, though, I began conjuring plausible reasons for a chicken nugget to have made it to the middle of the road.  Maybe the boys dropped one when they took their lunch outside earlier? Or did one fall out of the Happy Meal box as I threw it in the garbage can? Better yet, the newest weeds to pop up on our two-acre property are chicken-nugget-producing plants that will provide an endless supply of this childhood food staple?

Maybe someday, but today I just hear, one more time, “Seriously, there’s a nugget in the road.”

Then, from the other little one trying to hold in the giggles, “Mom. There isn’t a nugget. He’s LYING!” And so we begin the most recent discussion on “Truth, Lies, and Story-Telling.”

My oldest is a story-teller. He re-imagines his favorite television shows with added subplots and character twists. Storing words and dialogue are a special hobby of his, and he stores them all in his imagination. He is 8, and he knows the difference between a story, a lie, and the truth. Not so for my 5-year-old. He is still in the state of “tell-them-what-they-want-to-hear-so-you-get- what-you-want.”

This stage has posed many challenges. Do I make him eat more dinner, or is he really full? Did he truly wash his hands, or do I send him into the restroom again and listen for the water hitting his palms? I don’t want to make him overeat or give him a complex about hand-washing, but really, three bites of pasta and you’re full? You were in the bathroom for exactly 1 minute, 43 seconds, and you washed your hands? I’ve resorted to smelling his hands when he comes out of the restroom, just to be sure he used soap. These may seem like petty little untruths voiced by a kindergartner who wants to play more than he wants to gobble peas, but he is developing a pattern that we have to break. Now.

With this most recent story, the little one clearly does not understand why his brother can get away with “lying” while he receives consequences for the same behavior. I tried explaining the difference between stories and lies, but he still looked at me in disbelief. After all, in his eyes, I was being completely unfair. Then it hit me, the monumental difference between a lie and story is the intent – not how the listener hears it, but what the speaker intends to occur with the telling. Older brother knows I won’t believe there is a chicken nugget in the road for more than a minute, and he is just attempting to draw a laugh from his audience. He doesn’t intend for me to believe him, nor does he intend to “get away with something” in the telling. A true lie is intended to mislead, misrepresent, or take advantage of a person or situation. When we lie, we intend to let our selfish desires rule our words at the expense of someone else.

So often in today’s world, we see lies and misrepresentation get others ahead. They become successful, wealthy, and honored for their achievements. They “get away with” so many things, and it makes those of us who value our integrity over everything else want to stomp our feet and yell, “That’s so unfair!” And it is.

But we have to remember that our character is not meant to reflect the world; in fact, more often than not, choosing truth will make us feel like salmon swimming upstream against the flow of the river. God’s Word reminds us that “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1) We should seek to develop a good name and guard our esteem through our thoughts, intentions, and actions.

Many years ago, as a teenager still attempting to make my faith my own, a friend and I discussed making choices in high school –  the usual ones involving drinking, relationships, and such – and he commented, “You’re just afraid of compromising your morals.” At the time, he was right. I didn’t know enough about my God and His desires for me to defend myself. That statement hurt – to this day, I wish I could go back and tell him the Truth I now know: It is not fear of violating some random ethical code that limits me; it is the true desire to walk the path set before me. I’m not worried about compromising my morals; I am concerned with compromising my God.

So I will teach my two little boys what it means to establish a good name. I will show them, in words and deeds, how our standing before the Lord is paramount and our esteem in His presence must be what propels us to be Truth-seekers and Truth-speakers. Even from a young age, even when it simply involves choosing to finish the peas before running off to play when you could just say “I’m full,” or it requires telling the truth when you forget to wash your hands, I will do my best (with God’s guidance, of course) to point them in the way they should go. And I will teach teach them that stories about chicken nuggets in the road will always be a little bit funny.

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