Telling the Truth: A Foundation of Integrity
Teaching our Children the Importance of Telling the Truth
by Mary Armand
Telling the truth is not always easy and it is sometimes tempting to lie or be slightly dishonest; not the ‘big lies’ but ‘little white lies’. Lies that make things a little easier for us or lies told to not hurt someone’s feelings or help us take a slight shortcut. Do these ‘little white lies’ compromise integrity?
I would be naïve to believe in a world where lying is completely extinct, but it is important to teach our children the importance of telling the truth. In our home we have had many opportunities to practice and test the importance of honesty, a foundation of integrity.
A Thief in the House
As we prepared to head back home, after a wonderful vacation on the beaches of Florida, I began to notice a strange pattern. Among the beach towels, sunscreen and flip flops were a wide variety of candy wrappers. Following the wrapper trail, I was led to my six-year-old son’s suitcase. As I looked through the clothes, among his shorts and bathing suits were used wrappers from Mars, M&M’s, and Mike & Ike. I began to turn his pockets inside out and suddenly realized he must have been stealing from the local store’s candy bins.
I turned to my sweet son and asked if he had stolen from the store to which he immediately replied, “no”, and then denied that the candy ever existed!
My first reaction was I couldn’t believe we were raising a small thief who could easily lie, and my second was where did we go wrong. We place a high value on telling the truth in our home and had repeatedly discussed the problem with lying.
We realized we had more work to do if the foundation of integrity was going to be a core value for our family.
Related: The Weight & the Reward of Integrity
Telling the Truth vs. Deceit
Telling the truth is the foundation of integrity because we choose to turn from deceit, the practice of misleading others, to a life of freedom and sincerity. The problem with deceit begins when we are very young. We are born seeking what we want for ourselves and these feelings only escalate until the day we realize we need to be saved from our own self-focused existence. I thought this was a harsh way of thinking when I first gazed at my precious newborn babies, but the day came in every one of my children’s lives where “mine” was one of their favorite words.
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:23 NLT
Jesus provides a way out of the ‘me-oriented’ perspective. Teaching this concept to my children has been a long journey of repetition and example.
The Path of Integrity
If I don’t model and teach my children the “road less traveled” of moral character and integrity they typically won’t pick it up by themselves. I sometimes wish they could.
Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; being whole. This distinction of being whole is an important one when teaching integrity. It seems that stealing and appealing to our need for instant gratification would make us whole but it is actually an empty promise.
“He who walks in integrity and with moral character walks securely.” Proverbs 10:9
When we run from telling the truth, our integrity and character are compromised and our relationships will crumble over time.
Living with integrity is the ultimate win because we are able to live freely and be true to ourselves, others and God.
Related: Loving & Serving with Integrity
Guilt is a terrible consequence of dishonest living and although it is impossible to completely eliminate remorse, guilt doesn’t have to rule our lives. It is possible to not be plagued by a guilty conscience.
Teaching my children this and how it is associated with repeated lying has been an important tool in promoting honesty. I often use examples of Biblical characters who were imperfect but repentant and used by God.
It seems that King David struggled with guilt chasing after him. He was guilty as charged for taking another man’s wife and for then overseeing his death. However, David was able to overcome his character flaws and do historic things for the kingdom of God including writing many of the Psalms.
“When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all the day long.
For day and night Your hand [of displeasure] was heavy upon me;
My energy (vitality, strength) was drained away as with the burning heat of summer.” Psalm 32:3-4
God can’t remove the consequences of our choices but is always available to sprinkle us with righteousness, remove our dark conscious and remind us of the freedom found in an upright life.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence” Psalm 51:10-11 NIV
“Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:22
Teaching My Children to Tell the Truth
- High Reward
If possible, in our family, the consequence of lying is more severe than the act. In my story, if my son had been repentant and told us the truth, there may have been fewer consequences. Since he did not, he had consequences for lying (loss of a privilege) and for stealing (he humbly, returned to the store to pay for the stolen candy).
“What joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!” Psalm 32:2
- Model Truth Telling
When I model honesty, the hope is our children will eventually learn to copy it. It is tempting to cut corners at times, but I must realize eyes are watching and they usually start mimicking my actions.
“He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.” Proverbs 2:7
- Engage and Communicate
When I notice deception forming in one of my children, we try to call it out and discuss what is driving the desire to lie. It is easy to let things slide especially when children are young and seem so innocent, but lying can prompt an opportunity to engage in honest, helpful conversation.
“Teach them (the commandments) to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” Deuteronomy 11:19
After a long, drawn-out line of questioning my son finally confessed. He was too young at the time to understand why his confession was important to us and how it released him from a guilt he did not yet recognize. The lessons did not stop with this one encounter, but continue as we pursue and teach Godly character to our children.
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Writer, teacher and mission-worker, Mary Rooney Armand has been on a life-long journey to discover her identity in Christ and help others do the same, especially women and children. She believes we were all created to live freely and thrive in our relationships and purpose.
Mary writes stories, devotions and Bible Studies and developed the blog Butterflyliving.org. She also has a book titled “Identity” available on Amazon. She directs a mentoring program for children, Kids Hope USA, at one of the schools in her community, and has led multiple mission trips to Honduras. She has a Bachelor and Masters degree and worked in sales and marketing for many years before shifting her focus to help others grow in their walk with Christ.
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