She stomped her foot and insisted she hadn’t gone in the house I had just watched her go into. Or was that me who stomped her foot out of complete frustration? (I can’t remember.) How could one lie so blatantly in the face of evidence clearly stating otherwise? They call it crazy lying and it’s probably the most common behavior SAFE (Step/Adoptive/Foster/Every other nonbiological) parents battle. I’m not sure I know a single SAFE mom who has reported differently.
SAFE children lie—a lot—like, every day. I’ve come to believe it’s not a moral issue for them; rather, it was a matter of survival that became a lifestyle. Think about it. In Russia not that long ago, Christians met in secret; the poor stole wood or coal to heat their shackish homes in the winter; and street kids told heart-wrenching stories in order to procure food. In impoverished environments, lying is simply a means for meeting basic needs.
Needless to say, once those needs are consistently being met in our homes, the habit of lying gets used for other purposes: avoid punishment, fulfill desires, or affirm a false sense of being in control (another practice necessary for survival).
But for us raised in an environment where basic needs were readily met and love cradled the needs of the heart, lying is taught as evil. To utilize it would result in uncomfortable consequences. Honesty, however, was a prized characteristic—a mark of respectability. Most SAFE parents were reared with this moral code deeply ingrained.
So when you have a mom raised where honesty is exalted, trying to parent a child who learned lying is a necessity, battles, confusion, and heartbreak result. When that mom spends years having trust eroded, her view of the world is tarnished. She has learned to evaluate people through the grid of distrust.
This is the place I landed after fifteen years of parenting habitual liars. A place where I kept a guard up that said, “Yeah, right! I’m not buying that story.” And I didn’t like it one bit. An innocent, basic trust in mankind had been destroyed and it felt icky. I didn’t mind being wiser and more discerning; but I missed the ability to watch for the good in others instead of the bad. My youngest child moved out for good the summer of 2012. Four-and-a-half years later, I think I’m learning to trust again.
So what do we do when we swim in a tank of devious sharks? How do we keep from being swallowed by cynicism? Well, I’m still learning this and God has been gracious with me. I think it’s simply taken time for the beauty of others to soak back in.
I remember making huge strides in this recovery when I visited my parents in Ukraine. I met all these people with Russian sounding accents that were honest and upright. Part of my brain was shocked that such godliness could accompany that accent. I mean my frontal cortex was saying, “Well, duh. Not everyone is a liar.” But a deeper part of my brain took some time to absorb that truth.
My kids, by the way, rarely lie to us anymore. I suppose they don’t always paint an accurate picture about what’s going on in their lives. But since I’m not responsible for their choices anymore, their decisions don’t carry the weight they used to. And frankly, I have a pretty good idea about their lives and I love them anyway. They are maturing by leaps and bounds and I know little by little the need to lie in order to live or to impress others is slowly diminishing. They’ll get there.
As for me, I’m learning to take my cynicism to the Lord. I think I’m learning to love people even if they aren’t telling the truth. The Lord alone knows what’s driving their need to lie and I can leave that brokenness with Him. If God wants to use me to reach them somehow, then I have to start by loving them right where they’re at.
Maybe the key lesson for me, is that it’s no longer my job to confront the liars of this world. My job is to love them anyway—fully aware of their tactics—pray for them, and let God fix them.
If you have kids who frequently crazy lie, I would say just expect them to. Don’t take it as a personal affront. Call it, communicate it’s wrong and no longer needed, and implement disciplinary action. Be consistent and don’t back down. But also know that love and safety will eventually erase their need to lie. I say eventually because mine were adults before they got to this point.
One more thing. We’ve all done our own fair share of lying. Only God can not lie.
I probably say it one way or another in everything I write—all needs are met in God alone. When you need to remember what Truth looks like, look to Jesus. Sink into His Word. Live there. It makes being a light in this dark world a whole lot easier.
Make me know Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day.
(Psalm 25:4-5, NASB)
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6, NASB)