We haven’t had a truth-telling conversation in awhile, but our recent political events have reminded me of these perplexing situations.
We’ve had occasions when we were near certain that a child was lying to us. Something is missing or broken. Nobody ‘fesses up. Everyone claims ignorance.
Now what should we do? Discipline all three until someone confesses? Take away privileges or ground them until I learn the truth? Pile on Bible verses about Achan, and Ananias and Sapphira, and God’s Omniscience, until they crack? Go with our gut and tell them we know they are lying?
None of these choices feel right. Some feel bullying and manipulative, an abuse of authority and a usurpation of the work of the Holy Spirit. It is he who convicts of sin, not us. As well, unjustly accusing someone of lying (in error) often leads to bitterness, and we’ve discovered our children telling the truth enough to know we are not infallible experts at determining whether someone is lying. I’d rather leave the suspected lying child in God’s hands.
Sometimes one of our children has come to us, believing that a sibling is lying to them. It feels familiar. Did you ask him what happened? Yes, but he said he didn’t know what happened.
Now what? Our children don’t have authority over their peers. Can I care about justice when I know I’m being lied to but have no authority or reasonable way to force someone to tell me the truth? It’s hard to walk away and to leave it in God’s hands.
Here’s what we’ve grown to do as parents, and how we’ve encouraged our children:
- First, we ask for the truth, even if we suspect a person will not tell it.
- If evidence is available, we should look for it to confirm the truth. If I ask how late my child stayed up talking with her cousin, and she gives me an implausible time, it’s a simple matter for me to quietly check and verify if she is telling the truth.
- Sometimes we look for evidence but don’t find it, or the person has a reason for the behavior that is plausible. Maybe we suspect the motives are wrong, but have no way to prove it. What should we do, then?
- We pray, and ask God to reveal the truth. I’ve taken great comfort in Daniel 2:22, in remembering that God sees all of the hidden things. He is a revealer of secrets. “It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.”
- Psalm 139 discusses God’s omniscience, even into our thoughts and motives. Isaiah 40 is well worth hiding in our hearts as well.
- Finally, after we pray, then we must trust the righteous judge. God doesn’t always reveal the secrets we want, but he will always reveal them when the time is right.
Sometimes that means we show mercy to our children, even when we suspect they are lying to us. Kids, I don’t know who broke the lamp, but God does. Truth is precious. I am grieved that someone is lying. Now let’s get back to work.
We can pray with them. Heavenly Father, Please give me wisdom to act wisely in this situation. We know that you see in the darkness, and that you are a revealer of secrets. We pray that you will help my children love the truth, and give them the courage to speak up, even if they are afraid. Thank you for helping us.
Sometimes we have a private conversation with a child, explaining that their sibling has come to us, concerned that they are being lied to. I’ve noticed that it seems you sometimes have a hard time telling the truth. Is that so? The other day, it really bothered you when your sister/ brother accused you of lying. Would you like some help figuring out how to rebuild trust with your sister/ brother?
Back to politics.
It bothers us greatly when we know we are being lied to, and it is wise to seek out accurate information. We may spend a lot of time trying to discover the truth, but at some point, we realize we are not making progress in finding answers. Some answers are not given to us on earth, and in these times it is no longer a wise use of time to pursue them. We can become angry and distracted from our mission. Instead, we must rest in God’s ability to reveal truth when the time is right, and then move on. We can say, “I think someone is lying, but if we find no good evidence, we must leave it in God’s hands and go about our business. There is much to do.” We live in peace, knowing that God sees in the dark, and we just need to focus on the things he has revealed and act accordingly.
The secret things belong to the Lord our God,
but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever,
that we may do all the words of this law.
Linda J Phillips says
Michelle, thank you for this post. Indeed we need to leave these difficult things in God’s hands. He knows, He sees and He remembers and rewards or punishes accordingly. I am thankful that we can trust Him in these uncertain days. I’m also thankful that His Spirit convicts His children when we sin. He is so faithful.
So good to hear from you again.
Hi Linda! Good to hear from you! Your comment is a blessing to me today; thanks so much for reading and responding. I’m glad the post was encouraging.
I remember as a young child (with 2 older brothers) my mom telling us “oh, the Lord will let me know.”….. that always was the trick!
I agree– those words are powerful! I think so much of our ability to lie rests in the assumption that “nobody knows,” but realizing (and learning) that our lies are out in the bright open to God is sobering.
In my early twenties I worked as a federal background investigator. It was a challenging job that taught me much about human interactions, lying, and how best to deal with it.
I dealt with two types of lying. There are some lies that can be refuted by evidence. People may deny culpability, but the evidence shows otherwise, such as the case with a positive drug test, criminal record, poor credit history, or breathalyzer test. Still, some people will dig into “their story” over the evidence, claiming a special circumstance. Rarely did my interview skills “turn” a liar who was determined to dig in against evidence. At first, I thought it was my poor technique and inexperience, but as I grew in skills and training, I learned that it is very rare to “turn” a liar. When this happened to me on the job, I’d submit the evidence along with the individual’s sworn statement to the contrary. It was then up to a board of adjudication to decide on the issue.
Secondly, there is the lie without evidence of it. The kind that devolves into a “they said, I say” toddler fight, as well as unpunished crimes and misdemeanors. There is often no evidence, and in these cases, I’ve often thought that if one is a consistent liar, there’s nothing to be done.
At the end of the day, I feel blessed that I didn’t have to adjudicate any issues of lying. The weight is too heavy. I could end the day knowing I had done everything I could to gather evidence and find truth and be done with it. I appreciate that I had this experience. I’ve lightened up so much about being right and being lied to. Judgment has always been up to God, and God is good and does great things, even when people lie.
Lisa– Your observations are fascinating. It’s interesting to me that it’s humanly very difficult to admit to lying. As well, it’s hard to admit that our tribe is lying (still thinking about politics here). Perhaps our willingness to leave things with the righteous judge is what allows us to build friendships with people who are different from us. (Romans 14 delves into this theme– you would like it.)