My son told a little lie a few days ago. I asked him if he had brushed his teeth and he told me that he had. Mother's intuition pricked up my ears. "Well then," I said, "you won't mind if I go and check your toothbrush." Of course, he hadn't brushed his teeth. This is not the first lie my son has told. This is not the worst lie my son has told. He was punished... losing 2 days of video games this weekend (the only time he is allowed to play). But I was left wondering, why? Why was not brushing his teeth worth lying to him? Why? The more I thought about it, I realized, we never explain why we don't lie. Perhaps we talk of trust, others will talk of a god, but one only feels the effect of that lie if they are caught. Lying was making his life easier. If he told me he had brushed his teeth, then he didn't have to do it. If he didn't admit that he had knocked over the proverbial vase then he didn't need to suffer the consequences. It was easier.
And that was his why.
I know this is wrong. But why? I thought about those little white lies. I thought about those who hide important truths in lies to preserve the greater good... such as those German families that risked their own lives to save Jewish families from the horrific injustice of the Nazi regime. Such as the Quakers and others that risked themselves and their families along the Underground Railroad to help lead men and women to a life of freedom, not because it was easy, but because it was right. Surely, at those moments, it was not only right, but good to lie in the face of evil?
Then I thought of what my son would become if I allowed him to believe that lying for no reason was acceptable. I could imagine his heart growing dark, his soul troubled and lonely, the selfish gleam to his eye... and my heart broke. Trust is important, but it is not for the regard of others that we should not lie. It is to preserve our human soul - that part of us that loves selflessly, that gives without discrimination, the part that cares for not just our fellow human beings, but the world around us. It is not lying that is bad, it is why we lie that determines whether the action was good or bad. To believe that lying has no consequences, whatever the reason, is foolish. But lying for selfish reasons leads to a selfish person. A sad and angry person who does not understand why the world is against them. A person who never sees that it is because he has been against himself. And I do not want this for my son.
So, now I know my why, at least in this instance. And strangely, that makes it easier to do not only what I should, but what I must for my son. I have never really understood how some people can think that anyone wouldn't need to know why. It seems to me that is the most important thing they could ever know.