Sunday, November 04, 2007

Truth be told

Why? why do parents ruin their kids' life, or try, by teaching them things they can't use in life. For example, how many parents try to teach their children to "Always tell the truth!" It's good to always tell the truth, and it's bad to tell a lie - just like that, in black and white.

Why? Why do we do it? When we know perfectly well, that we don't tell the truth all the time ourselves. Do we? If you say you do, that's just another lie.

There is a character named Yudhishthir in Indian (Hindu) mythology, who is reported to be always truthful. Always. But even he, in the mega-war of Mahabharatha had to lie once to gain a strategic advantage. Then there is Lord Krishna who had no such reputation and used anything he could to his advantage. Truth, half-truths, white lies, a blend of truth and lie, he used what he could, based on the situation. But he advocated to his followers, "Do as I say, not as I do!". Fair enough!

There is a book called the Bhagvadgita that is Lord Krishna's discourse in the battleground and provides a kind of code of conduct for the perfect man. It's an excellent book, has been quoted extensively, the principles and ideas are so great that they form a path to enlightenment. Yet, this book, leaves room for 6 occasions to lie. Yes, there are 6 occasions when you may lie without committing a sin.

Still, we want our kids to supersede all of the legendary characters throughout history and be a saint to end all saints. And do they? No! Almost all children learn to lie by the time they learn to speak, if not before.

So what is it that we are gaining by trying to teach them to do something that we ourselves have not been able to do, nobody ever has been able to do, and is not a really prudent course of action in today's society anyway.

So, to recap, parents teach their children something that is impossible and at the same time not useful.

Will it not be more useful, maybe not idealistic but useful, to teach them the difference between truth and different kind of lies? Actually, I wouldn't mind teaching my kids (if and when...) how to lie successfully! It's a skill like other skills and comes in handy. There are a few professions that require good liars (I bet you can name a few), but in today's society, almost all professions need that as an auxilary skill.

Indiscriminate, unnecessary, constant lying will of course be impractical and stupid but the same goes for trying to tell the truth all the time.

In conclusion: There are sooktis (two-liners) in Sanskrit on such topics, one of them says, "If you have to choose between true words and kind words, be kind!"

On my blog, I welcome comments, discussion, debate, even healthy criticism. For this post though, I'd put the same restriction that Christ used, "He who has never told a lie in his life, be the first to say that I am talking through my hat!".

Cheers! :-)

1 comment:

Kitten said...

Good post, and I agree for the most part. I think part of why we teach our children to always be truthful is the fact children, especially small ones, deal badly with "if.. then..else" constructions. They need clarity first and foremost, so we teach them lies are bad, rather than good. And well, they are, in many situations. Then when they grow older we teach them the difference between always being truthful and being tactful, and under which circumstances telling a lie is acceptable.
At least, that's how it works here, with our son. Our daughter is autistic and communicates in a very different way. She is unable to distinguish between different sets of circumstances and will almost always tell the truth. And so it has happened she cried out in the middle of the supermarket; "Mom! Look! That lady there is FAT!!" which was the truth, and luckily the lady had a sense of humor and replied "Yes I am girl, but I'm a great person nevertheless." But yes, it's not always appreciated by people.

One final thought.. sometimes telling a white lie because you don't want to hurt someone's feelings isn't in their best interest. Have you ever seen those talent shows on TV where people audition because allll their friends and family say they have the voice of an angel? Then when they start singing it sounds like a cat getting hit by a train? If only their loved ones had been honest with them, it would have saved them the embarrassment of, in front of thousands of people watching, being told by the judges they can't sing at all and what on earth made them think they could?

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