The other night we were watching the movie Liar Liar. In the film, Jim Carrey’s character Fletcher lies often to his family and co-workers, and his 5-year-old son Max made a birthday wish that for one day, his dad wouldn’t lie. The wish comes true, and when Fletcher learns this, he tries to convince Max to reverse the wish. Max is reluctant to do so because he doesn’t want his dad to lie to him again.
Here’s how Fletcher justifies occasional lying:
“You see, Max, sometimes grownups need to lie. It’s hard to explain, but… Look, here’s a good example. When your mommy was pregnant with you, she gained 40 pounds; there was nothing she wouldn’t eat. And Daddy was scared. But when she’d ask me, “How do I look?” I’d say, “Honey, you look great. You’re glowing. “ If I had told Mommy she looked like a cow, it would have hurt her feelings. Understand? …Max, no one can survive in the adult world if they have to stick to the truth.”
After this convo, you could see Max really struggling with his father’s words. He simply couldn’t fathom that lying is ever a good thing, because all it did was cause pain and heartache in his own life.
I had seen this movie a few times before but this time around, the scene above really struck a chord with me. Why DO adults lie? Why is it okay—encouraged, even—to lie at some times but not others? And how do we justify this to our children?
I suppose it all comes down to whether or not someone gets hurt. If lying hurts someone, you should tell the truth instead, and if telling the truth hurts someone, you should lie instead. But even that seems wrong. Sometimes the truth hurts but is necessary to help a person grow. Other times, the truth really does cause more destruction than it’s worth.
I don’t have an answer, only that I’m going to be much more aware of how I approach honesty from now on. I don’t want my daughter to ever view me as deceitful. And in return I hope I can adequately teach her the delicate balance between honesty and courtesy.