When my son Brian became a junior, he had a tough time at his high school. He lost some friends and was cut from the soccer team. These things really blew his confidence. Feeling low, he started to make some poor choices in regard to friends and exhibited some risky behaviors. To deal with it at home, he started lying about where he was going and what he was doing.
After some time we sought help. Brian’s behaviors improved – but the lying continued. Now, he would lie about little things.
“Brian, did you finish cleaning your room?”
“Yes, Mom!” He replied.
I would, of course, find out that he had lied and then confront him on it.
“What’s the big deal, Mom?” He would say, or even continue lying.
“I did clean it! I don’t know who messed it up!” He would cry.
So why was this happening? They say the “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” but I felt that his dad and I were good honest people. It did not make sense!
Then I looked deeper. There were times when I would not be fully honest with my family members. I remembered conversations, such as:
“Mom, what’s wrong? You seem upset!”
“No, no, everything is fine!” (When it was not – I was angry about something.)
Or “Mom, why were you late picking me up?”
“I’m sorry but I couldn’t help it!” (Which wasn’t true – I just did not leave home on time.)
I realized, if I expected him to be honest, I needed to be honest – 100%. No more white lies, no more acting like everything was okay when it was not. I needed to model being a TOTALLY honest person.
After that realization, I had a long talk with Brian. I made a commitment to being truthful about everything from then on. I apologized for teaching him to be untruthful and that it was okay to lie if it made things easier – or if I didn’t want to admit to something. It was not! I asked him to think about making this same commitment.
Next, we talked about honesty with the whole family. We adopted “truth” as one of the guiding principles of our family. It was okay to make mistakes, but we need to tell the truth. It was okay to be upset or feel sad, but not okay to lie about those feelings.
After some time, the level of honesty in our family changed. Brian saw his dad and me put truth as one of the most important principles between us. Eventually, Brian adopted honesty as one of the most important goals in his life.
Even today, many years later, I see the importance Brian places on the truth in his life. I see this in his relationships, at work and with his family. Brian learned – as did our whole family – that once you have a taste of living an honest life, you can’t go back. Nothing else feels right.