When I was a kid living in Minneapolis, if my mom needed something while she was cooking or baking, I’d take her cash and walk or bike the three blocks to the 7/11. Upon my return I handed over the groceries and some of the change. “This is all the change?” she’d ask, looking confused. “Yep,” I’d say, feigning innocence or ignorance. And of course, I was lying. I kept little bits of change and assumed she had no idea.
That is, until I started giving our girls money and asking for change, and they did the same thing to me.
We all grow up being told to tell the truth and not to lie. Part of growing into ourselves includes playing with lying and, eventually (hopefully), we figure out that truth and honesty get us so much further than lying ever could. We figure out that one feels so much better than the other. It becomes clear that living a lie, telling lies, being a liar is a lot more work than just telling the truth – even when it feels ugly. It’s a lesson that some learn early-on, and others discover only after decades of lying, but at some point most self-aware and well-adjusted humans figure it out.
Truth used to be an easy concept. And, at its base, I think it still is. But…it’s shifted. We’re now bombarded with images that appear to one thing, but in fact are not. After George Floyd was murdered and there were protests in Minneapolis, my youngest daughter and I were driving somewhere. “Oh my gosh, someone let the animals out of the Como Zoo,” she said, putting her phone up so I could see. Sure enough, there was a picture of a giraffe standing amongst traffic. At our next stop, I did a little research. As in – I checked the local papers and our NPR station’s page. Literally not one piece of news mentioned the animals being let out of the zoo. When I found nothing, I said “nope, didn’t happen.” She was surprised – we’d seen a picture after all – but, photoshop.
With technology, there are so many opportunities for images to be created that show something completely removed from reality – but have them appear true. The same goes for platforms. Anyone that wants one can have a platform (for example – this blog – welcome!). If you say something enough times, people will believe you and start repeating it and passing it on. Simply share some links, add in a couple of photoshopped pictures, and you’ve got yourself a legit looking story.
Four years ago, it may have been tricky to spot a lie, or know when something was fabricated, but the election of President Trump offered something new. Lying in public about things that were easily proven incorrect. We all started realizing that he was just making sh-t up. But unlike what we were all taught growing up, there were no consequences. It became part of the deal. I found it despicable, some thought it was funny, and many others actually believed him.
It’s put us all in a rather precarious spot as humans, parents, and as a community. How do we teach our children that honesty really is the best policy when that isn’t necessarily what they’re seeing? How do we have stern conversations with our kids about lies they’ve told when the most powerful people in the world can lie so freely? And if any of us are liars ourselves, where do we get off punishing our kids for just following our leads?
Honestly, it makes me tired. When I see or hear people taking responsibility for something, genuinely apologizing and saying they were wrong, it’s like the most refreshing thing in the world. We’ve come to this place where you can confront a lie, and the liar says “well I’m sorry YOU feel that way, but…” I want truth and lies to be black and white – they should be. I want truth to be rewarded and lies to be punishable. I want our kids to see truth as the option that will pay off better in the end. And while my husband and I can be that example for our children – there are so many others who beg to differ right at their fingertips on their phones.
As a community it seems like we’re constantly wondering what is actually true – and it’s MADDENING. It shouldn’t be this hard. It shouldn’t be a mystery. Truth should be one of those things that we all strive for and what we want our kids to see.
It should be – but it’s clearly not.
The world feels like a dumpster fire right now and I don’t know how to tackle this on a global scale – I wish I did. What I do know is that in my little world, it’s more important to me than ever to have honesty. To talk to our kids about the importance of truth and integrity. To accept responsibility, out loud, when I’ve done something wrong. All we can hope is that when our kids leave us, when they’re out in the world, they will start to recognize how much better truth is than making sh-t up and creating/finding fake evidence to back it up. How much better it feels to know the life they’re living and the relationships they’re having are based on truth and honesty.
Man…it feels like a low bar, doesn’t it? But if we do this with our kids, and you do this with your kids, maybe truth will prevail and we’ll raise a generation that knows how very important it is.