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Results of Telling the Truth: Part 2

Last week we pointed out several negative aspects of lying. Students need to know what happens when someone tells a lie; they also need to know the truth’s positive results.

Consider a situation that took place during one of our State basketball championships. The school had arranged to use activity buses to take students to the event on the game day. Unknown to the school were a dozen students who decided to go the night before, rent some hotel rooms, and stay overnight. On Monday morning, a disgruntled parent made a call to the school. The parent had heard about a group of students who “were partying at the State Championship game and violated the school’s honor code in drug and alcohol use.” Moreover, they wanted to know “what the school would do about the students’ actions.”

It took about three weeks to interview all the students and parents involved in getting at “Who Done It.” We were approaching the end of the investigation process and had identified the instigator of the party. The school asked the student and his parents to attend a meeting to review the incident.

We asked the student to tell what happened and be truthful about the incident during the interview. Before the student was able to respond, the father said, “What good will it do to tell the truth; those involved will still be suspended and not allowed to graduate?”

The father’s response was typical when they realized that their child has done wrong and must suffer the consequences of wrong choices, some of which may be very difficult. It is not unusual for parents to question why consequences still must be given when a student involved in an incident tells the truth. Telling the truth, regardless of the consequences, is essential.

Experience has shown that when parents take the approach that telling the truth makes no difference in administering consequences in front of their child, they reinforce the telling of a lie, a seed of dishonesty. They also teach their children to tell the truth only if it benefits "you." How could parents ever trust what their children tell them in the future, primarily if what they did results in negative consequences?

Given the father’s comment in the case above, there was no incentive for his son to tell the truth. Still, we needed to hear from the student. We encouraged the son to tell his side of the story if he wanted to graduate.

He already knew that we had talked to all the students involved and that there was no way that he could escape the consequences of his wrong choices. He could have refused to tell the truth, as suggested by his father. However, he was willing to be truthful about his involvement in the incident; he truly repented of his actions and asked the school to forgive him. As a result, he did receive mercy—he was suspended from school but allowed to graduate.

We might pause for a moment to make a general comment about academic zero-tolerance policies. School officials have delegated authority to determine when a student has completed the required curriculum, entitling them to a diploma by most state laws. Moreover, withholding promotion or graduation is considered by courts to be “a most severe punishment.” When a student has met the necessary academic requirements, the school must award the diploma. When schools have withheld promotion for reasons other than academics, such as cheating and failure to pay fees, the courts have held this misbehavior insufficient to warrant the punishment of not being promoted or graduating from high school.

However, participation in graduation ceremonies is a separate issue. If there are substantive reasons, a student may be denied participation. There is no problem denying participation if the student receives the diploma they have earned; the diploma cannot be withheld for disciplinary reasons.

The answer to the father’s question of the consequences of telling the truth was his son being allowed to graduate. In the days that followed, we continued to look for other reasons for telling the truth. As a result of this search, we came up with the following list:

1. It is a biblical mandate. Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbor; neither rob him–Lev. 19:13; The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again–Psalm 37:21; A false witness shall not be unpunished and he that speaketh lies shall not escape–Prov.19:15; This is the will of God that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter; because the Lord is the avenger of all such–1 Thes. 4:3, 6.; All liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone–Rev. 21:8; (See also, Lev. 19:11; 1 Kings 22:16; 2 Chron. 18:15; Ps. 15:1, 24:4, 52:2–3, 63:11,102:2–4, 140:11; Prov. 6:17, 12:22, 19:5, 14–25, 30:8; Mk 7:22; John 8:44; 2 Cor. 6:7; Col. 3:9–10; Eph. 4:15, 21–25).

2. It does not remove the wrong that was committed.

3. It does not eliminate consequences for wrong decisions or actions.

4. It provides cleansing of the heart.

5. It speeds up the healing process.

6. It strengthens relationships.

7. It helps to avoid misunderstandings and builds relationships.

8. It adds motivation to find a solution to the problem.

9. It acknowledges that a wrong was done. Remember, lying shows that a student is aware that he has done something wrong. Telling a lie is a way to: a) protect oneself from disappointment and disapproval, b) minimize embarrassment, c) protect self-esteem, or d) not wanting to get others in trouble or hurt them.

10. It strengthens the conscience and the voice of the Spirit of God. The primary factor that prevents young people from lying is the fear of consequences. There are few ramifications for many lies students tell because of the nature of lying. The more lies they tell, the better they get at telling them, and the better they get at that, the slimmer the chances they will get caught; they do not have to worry about the consequences of their lies if they are never found out.

11. It strengthens integrity. Lack of truth sets up an atmosphere of doubt and constant questioning.

12. It works against the spirit of the age in which we live that says there is no absolute truth; the truth is relative, subjective, and variable. TV and movies are training our young people in this direction. Parents are reinforcing non-truth telling because of the lack of consequences.

13. It fosters trust. Whereas lies break trust, and it takes a long time to reestablish trust.

14. It promotes confidence. The result of telling the truth is building trust in future situations.

15. It destroys the foundation for deception. A lie builds deception. Leaving out vital pieces of information to make one look better is deception and not the whole truth.

16. It strengthens the person. The lie hurts the liar more than the one to whom he lies. When one lies, he is working in direct partnership with Satan himself. One lie becomes another, which becomes a bigger one until finally, the people who began lying in childhood now fill our prisons.

17. It sets a person free. Secrets and falsehoods imprison a person. The more secrets one has, the harder one must work to protect them. The more a person lies to protect self-image, the more lies they must tell.

Regardless of the type of lie—barefaced, bald-faced, a big lie, a white lie, a cover-up, a fib, a half-truth, deceit, deception, or puffery, none of these should be in the life of any person if they want to walk in blessings and trust.

In our next post, we will present four methods for training students to tell the truth.

If you know of other school staff who could benefit from these posts, please feel free to share this post and suggest they subscribe to receive future posts.

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