“How was your weekend with your dad?” Fair question—unless your parents are divorced. Then the question’s safety rating matches, “Honey, have I put on weight?” Answering the “weekend” question is easy if you had a lousy weekend. But if it went well, or worse, you had a good time, you can learn at a young age that truth is not always a virtue.
Maintaining the status quo in different parental orbits often requires one “truth” at your house and another “truth” at your other parent’s place. Half-truths, distorted truths—lies by any other name—become a reinforced peace-maintaining tool. So we answer Mom’s question with:
“The weekend was a drag, Mom. Shelly is so annoying.”
“Oh I’m sorry to hear that,” your mother says. However, the polygraph needle would break off at this point. But peace has triumphed over truth…or has it?
Years later the pattern continues in your marriage.
“Is it okay if my girlfriend, Tammy, comes over this weekend?”
“NO! NO! NO! NO! And again NO! She is a bad influence, rude, and puts me down all the time!!!!”…you think. But “sure” flows from your lips. But why?
Fear is usually the culprit. Early on, fear that Mom would be upset if she knew the truth about your fantastic weekend Dad. Then, fear that your friends would reject you if you didn’t agree with them. Later, fear you’d fail your class if you didn’t adjust to your Prof’s quirky requirements. And soon, fear you’d lose your job if your real feelings came out. Fear your girlfriend or boyfriend would abandon you unless you agreed with everything followed. Finally, you’ve come full circle and fear your spouse will split if you don’t keep the peace. So Tammy stays…and you’re dying inside.
Fear is a cruel taskmaster, and lies have a habit of hurting the receiver and the giver. But is it really lying when you’re just trying to keep the peace? Jesus said, “Let your Yes be yes and your ‘No,’ ‘No’.”1 However, adult children of divorce often say “yes” when we want to say “no” and vice versa. Fear drives this, but lying over time becomes habitual.
Answer these questions:
- When was the last time I said “yes” to something when I really wanted to say “no”? (or vice versa)
- What is the real reason I responded that way?
- Was that situation typical of how I respond? At home, at work, at play?
- Is how I felt when I wasn’t truthful reminiscent of a situation in my childhood?
If lying is in your toolbox you’re not alone. But Proverbs 6:16-17 tells us God hates a lying tongue.
“So what am I supposed to do?” We’ll look at that in Is it Okay to Lie – Part 2.
Mirror image: “Me” by Agron Istrefi