So, a few weeks ago London said something about winning and losing and winners. I can’t remember what she said. But I remember it didn’t sit well with me, and I started explaining why it wasn’t true—what she’d said. What I said was hastily pulled together and a little too sharp.
Ten minutes later, she and I looking at fruit in the freezer aisle, I was still thinking about what I’d said, still unsure if I was right. Maybe she’d been right. I still don’t know.
Earlier that week I’d overhead a wonderful, wise adult talking to my daughter Eve about clothes and beauty. And what she said, well, it wasn’t true. And it’s funny, I could see her second guessing it as soon as it came out of her mouth. But even as she tried to clean up the spill, she tripped.
Why is the truth so hard to tell?
One of my primary jobs as mom is universe-explainer. It’s the job I was probably most excited to assume, back when the kids were babies and the universe was simple. Now though, things are shifting and the truth is sometimes harder to speak, harder to know. My kids are getting brighter, asking better questions, and finding themselves bombarded by voices, many of which are very, very stupid AND very, very clever. And for them, and for me, the truth gets muddy.
I’m trying to teach them true beauty in a world where beauty is body and bawdy, sequins on too-short skirts in size 4T, emaciated monster dolls marketed as beautiful. I find myself saying, “You look beautiful” and wondering “What do I mean?”
I’m trying to teach them humility in a world that tells them they’re terrific at everything—my kid complaining because she got a prize for, let’s be honest, very little effort, but it wasn’t the top prize. And I’m sad she didn’t win the top prize but trying not to act sad and I’m mad that I’m sad.
I’m trying to teach them generosity in a tight-fisted, get-all-you-can culture that says write your name on every pencil and never share your crackers at lunch. But I make boxes for the toys my girls don’t want to share because I feel guilty telling them to share everything.
I’m trying to teach them patience in the face of at-your-fingertips pleasure, My Little Pony on mom’s phone, while also trying to convince Eve to walk at a reasonable pace because all of life cannot wait on her.
Truth is truth, but sometimes it’s hard to nail down in a world built on a shifting foundation.
I think a lot of us are lying. I think probably we’re all lying a little bit. I’ve probably lied to you right here on the blog.
Okay, so maybe it’s not lying. Not exactly. I suppose you have to know you’re lying to lie. But we’ll call it lying for a second because it’s so much like lying, this blind false speaking we do.
In a darkness defined by deceit we will always strain our eyes to see, struggling to put words to what we know, sometimes struggling just to know.
Truth exists, no question. And we can know it—I believe that. But we don’t always.
And because of that…
We should talk less.
Because a lot of the time we have no idea what we’re talking about. God says through Solomon, “Many words mark the speech of a fool.”
I have too often been a fool.
We should think about what we’re saying.
Because we speak in cliches and memes, leaning on slogans and traditions, making judgments and proclamations in 140 characters, without truly weighing our words.
Paul writes, “Let no one deceive you with empty words.” I worry we’ve already been deceived, passing on platitudes like players in a game of telephone.
Solomon says, “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet.” James says the tongue is like a rudder. Remember, our words chart paths, ours and others’. Give careful thought to what you say.
We should pursue truth.
Because it’s available, accessible and (to some degree) attainable. Talk to wise people. Read God’s word. Read good stories. Memorize Proverbs. Gaze into a microscope. Take a trip. Encourage vulnerability.
Pray for wisdom..
"For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding… wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.” (Proverbs 2)
Oscar Wilde famously said, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”
I don’t know that he’s right, probably he’s wrong. But I think he’s inching toward something we’d all do well to remember: Truth is rarely simple and often mistaken.
In James 3, James says that not everybody should be a teacher because teachers carry an extra burden of judgement. He advises most of his readers not to take the job. He writes to a body of believing, Christ-following, Spirit-led people and says:
"We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect."
What I love about this verse (and I really do love it) is that James doesn’t give his readers a guilt trip. He doesn’t say you should all be teachers. He doesn’t say, “Get control over that tongue already, losers.” He looks at people, humans, and says “we all stumble in many ways.” When, later, he says the tongue can start a fire, when he says a tongue is like a rudder, he’s not just warning people, he’s commiserating. He’s looking around at people who’ve said some stupid stuff.
God knows you don’t always tell the truth. He knows you’re not perfect. That’s why He offers wisdom. It’s why He encourages discretion. And it’s why He suggests you shut up more often.