I’ve been thinking lately about the concept of lying. It seems to be acceptable in the world we live in to lie about things that don’t matter. What you had for lunch. Your plans Friday night. Where you bought your shirt. White lies, people call them, as if labeling them a certain color washes them clean and sanitizes all the dirty out of them. But sometimes lying is just lying, regardless of the color. Have you ever said your child is sick or you can’t attend an event because you had company? Your kid is sitting there playing scrabble and your company is really just your neighbor who came over to tell you your gate’s open.
When we lie, the truth is distorted. The strings of words coming from our mouth are all tangled and knotted.
I’m one to talk. I’ve said a shirt costs forty bucks when it was really $49.99 plus tax, or claimed I read a book that I only just started, or told a friend I had plans when I was just really lazy and tired and didn’t want to change out of my pajamas. After all, you can usually justify it. You had plans that night to watch trashy television, now didn’t you? Doesn’t that count?
Yesterday in the car, my son was screaming for iced tea. A shrill, piercing scream that made me want to pull the car over. I almost just gave in and handed over the dang cup. “Want tea mamaaaaaa!” he wailed. He tries to wear me down, that kid. He’s a persistent one.
“Let’s just call it water so he won’t want any,” my daughter said. I could see her rolling her eyes and covering her ears. Just make it stop. It makes sense, really. He’s only two years old. It might generate a moment of peace, and he wouldn’t know the difference.
It’s technically a lie. But it’s a stupid, white lie that doesn’t matter. No one gets hurt, and there are more important things to stress about than calling tea water, for heaven’s sake. The light changed to green as I pondered a response.
“But it’s tea,” I said as I dreamed of Advil and a quiet room where no one was screaming. “Let’s not call it something it’s not.”
It’s tough to teach children the value of words. It’s all we have, really, to showcase our faith. Our value. Our honor. Others might not notice if we tell them we ate a hamburger when we really had a fish sandwich. But we are allowing our mouth to mold into knots. We allow our mind to bend the truth like hot metal, and those habits are so very hard to break. It becomes easier. Lies come out faster. Evil can always find a weak place to enter in.
You control your own mouth, even if it’s full of twisted, dirty lies. It’s your job to untangle them. Correct yourself. Apologize. After all, speaking the truth is pure. It is sparkling and buoyant. The words we use should mirror our very character – full of strength and freedom and beauty.
As it turns out, you didn’t go to the dry cleaners. You haven’t started those edits. And tea is just tea, my sweet baby girl.
Lies are never white, after all.