Sure, our kids will tell a whopper and try to worm their way out of it, steal money or candy or cheat at school. As parents, it's up to us to explain why honesty is so important and why dishonesty causes unhappiness.
Political scandals, widespread cheating in schools and shoplifting are just some forms of dishonesty that have become the norm. So many people in the world just don’t care anymore about honesty. Getting ahead is the priority.
However, it seems that stories surface regularly about a good citizen turning in a wallet stuffed with cash or returning a purse left behind on a city bus. Such stories provide valuable conversation topics for families.
We can point out to our kids that it can be hard to do the right thing, but it makes a person feel really wonderful. And sometimes, we do the honest thing quietly. We aren’t always rewarded publicly, applauded or published in the newspaper. But our integrity and honor are strengthened. Our hearts are warmed because we know that God is pleased with us, and we feel good about ourselves.
“Being true to our beliefs — even when doing so isn’t popular, easy, or fun — keeps us safely on the path” to returning to live with God, says religious leader Ann Dibb.
Recently, I received a postcard in the mail regarding my high school-age son. It was from a teacher, and it said that my son “showed real integrity by being honest in a situation where he would have benefitted by doing otherwise.” The teacher added her belief that he is “an honorable young man.” My son’s pleasure at this complimentary note was surely worth more than any benefit he would have received from being dishonest.
We can teach our kids that honesty is a principle. We all have the power to choose to be honest or to lie, steal and cheat. This is called agency.
Why choose honesty?
To maintain trust
“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters,” Albert Einstein said.
We should remind our kids that schoolteachers, employers and others in the community notice their honest actions. In the long run, they will get ahead by making the right choices and showing that they are trustworthy.
It’s one of the Lord’s commandments
“Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” (KJV Exodus 20:15-16)
To bear false witness means to lie. When we catch our little ones telling a whopper, we can open our Bibles and teach them the Lord’s words. Stealing and lying typically lead to more trouble and can cause heartache and distress for everyone involved.
The story of Cain and Abel is a great example to teach children about the consequences of telling lies. Cain was jealous of his brother, Abel, and he murdered him. He then lied to God about it. Cain was punished for his lie because God knew what had really happened. His punishment was that he would wander the earth without a home. God always knows when we lie, and unless we repent, we’ll be punished for our dishonesty.
Lawyer and religious leader Howard W. Hunter said, “Each lie, each deception, each act of dishonesty combines to create a monster that can destroy your character and your life.”
Our lives really are ruined when our character is soiled. The powerful CEO who cheats his company, the student who fails because she is caught with cheat notes and the spouse who engages in adultery and breaks his family’s hearts are examples of lives ruined.
In some situations, being truthful and honest can be hard. But when we maintain our integrity, we gain others’ respect as well as our self-respect.
As we teach our kids to live honorably, keep the Lord’s commandments and maintain our trust, we’ll help them on their way to good citizenship and a more contented life.