From behind the nearly closed pantry door, I could hear plastic crumpling. Little feet could be seen on the floor, with the rest of the suspect hidden behind the door, almost fully in the pantry.
"You can't see me" a sweet little voice said, when I came into the kitchen.
I took a quick moment to hold back a chuckle and sternly opened the pantry door. Cracker crumbs and an opened package were in the hands of the cute little culprit.
"Are you stealing crackers?" I questioned in a gravely serious voice.
A big pouty lip came out and in all seriousness, my adorable 3 year old said "No!"
Uh-Oh... time for some discipline!
I find it remarkable the development of dishonesty in the life of a child. There have been times where I've caught a child red-handed and they lack the ability to be devious, so they either bold-faced lie or the truth comes out immediately.
With one of my middle children, (I will not mention names to protect the identity of the innocent!) we can catch her in a lie because her face gets an obvious smirk - she can't keep a straight face! I think in this case, her heart is telling her that what she's doing is wrong and her head is saying "protect yourself from punishment!"
As kids get older, they can become far more devious and intelligent in their dishonesty. I've had far too many times where I honestly believe that something is amiss, but I can't pin down the details and therefore, I can't discipline and correct the situation. (Don't get me wrong, I have good, obedient kids - but my kids are not perfect, and I'm not a perfect parent either!)
So what I've noticed with the older child, is that it becomes less about an outright lie, and more about dishonest actions and behavior. They might counter your chastisement by saying "You never said I couldn't ride my bike in the house!" And that statement may be true, but then I've learned to say "Did you know that you probably shouldn't do that?"
I am realizing that I would like to see more of the character traits of honesty and truthfulness in my home. I guess in a way, this means my focus is more on the positive action than the negative one of lying.
I have also realized that if I would like to see my children emulate a certain characteristic, it is vital that I exude that characteristic in my own life. I should not require something from my children, that I don't display in my own life. That would be hypocritical, and even if you can produce results by saying one thing (whilst doing another), I believe the results would be quite temporary.
This got me thinking to truthfulness and honesty in my own life. Are there areas in my life that I lie to myself? Perhaps it is not as obvious as a clearly definable lie, but more of a general level of dishonesty. Do I act one way at home, and totally different when I'm out among my peers? Am I trying to be someone or something I'm not? I feel that it is worthwhile to be concerned about seeing overall truthfulness in my life and that I am real and honest. If these characteristics are obvious, then it is proof of the genuine person inside.
It is important to remember the One who sees the heart and not just the outward actions... (1 Samuel 16:7) God doesn't just desire us to be truthful, but He will give us the strength to live our lives honestly.
Psalm 51:6 says: Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
When I was in my late teens, I became rather jaded in light of the many "fake" Christians I perceived in the church. I felt like I had been a fake myself for so many years - standing up in front of the crowd, singing, being one of the "leaders", and inside I felt so broken and weary. My heart craved what was real - and if that meant sitting in the back of the church and not being involved for a time, then that's what I would do. At least it was what I really felt like doing, and not just what people expected me to do. When your actions and behavior are being held up by the expectations of others, this is a form of dishonesty. I want to be true, the same person in public as I am in private.
I might not be hiding any major sins, but I don't want to pretend to be what I'm not. If I'm feeling weak, I hope you'll see it and not condemn me (because I'm "supposed to be strong"). We live in a society where appearance is of utmost importance. Everyone wants to look good all the time, have the best cars, house and clothes - and really they are lying about themselves because they bought everything on credit! Ouch... I guess that is another symptom of our dishonest society.
I want to be REAL. I want my behavior to line up with what is in my heart. I have a long way to go, but instead of pretending, I'm ready to lay down my pride and admit that I can only do this with God's help.
It's time to take an good, hard look at our lives. It's vulnerable to be real. The words of Psalm 139: 23,24 have been my prayer and heart's cry many times over the years: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
When you are willing to take ownership and be responsible for what's going on inside your heart; when you are willing to be real and take an honest look at your life, then you are in a place conducive to positive change.
I'm committed to truth. I'm willing to see reality for what it is, even if it is uncomfortable or hurts. I think what is ironic, is how convinced we are that we can hide our faults. Yet to God, you're just like that little toddler with cracker crumbs all over his mouth - caught red-handed. He sees all and knows all. Despite this, He doesn't look down on us with disgust. He is ready to lovingly direct you on a path of change and growth.
I think the words of Psalm 139 bear repeating, this time in the Message translation:
Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about; See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong - then guide me on the road to eternal life.