A framework for humanist parenting

Lying

Lying is the first of a series of Negative Principles that you might encourage your child to reject.

When I was growing up I was told I mustn’t lie because it’s ‘wrong’ and you will be punished at some point. I would be punished if caught out and I would be punished if I wasn’t caught out because god can hear your lie and therefore you will not get away with it. Small problem. I didn’t believe in god. So once I worked out, by testing a little lie and not dying, that lying was easy and ‘harmless’, I enjoyed lying when it suited me as I was immune or so I thought. It wasn’t until I matured a bit more that I realised that lying wasn’t free of pain. This pain was to other humans and to myself, not something I understood when younger.

With my children, I’ve taken a different approach. I tell our kids that it’s highly likely that they could lie about something and fool us, their parents, their friends, their family, their teachers and everybody else. However, there is one person they can’t fool. No, not god, but themselves. When they lie in bed or when they are alone, that lie will trouble their spirit. They know it’s not true. They know it’s wrong. It will trouble their spirit and become a very heavy thing they have to carry around, the bigger the lie, the bigger the weight. The more lies, the more little lies required to support the big lie. Mark Twain said that you don’t have to remember anything when you tell the truth. What a clear mind one can have when one doesn’t tell lies. So, encourage your kids to always tell the truth. But you have to be smart about it. Promote a culture of telling the truth.

In our family, our kids know they can never get in trouble for telling the truth, they only get in trouble for lying to avoid getting into trouble. So, we make telling the truth the easier option. It’s important for them to understand that telling a lie is a crime against their own spirit, against themselves, not against a god or you, or the local priest or imam or anyone else.

When the lie is found out, and in most cases it is, then they discover they have damaged their circles of Family, Friends and Strangers (particularly if the lie has consequences publicly at school, at work, in a sports team or a club), but most importantly it damages their Spirit.

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