Lying, Sneaking, and Obstruction of Justice: Children and Politicians

I have some really great children that I love a lot. But they make mistakes. They are old enough to know when they haven’t done the right thing. But they are still learning, so their instinct is to hide.

They don’t like to tell me when something goes wrong. (I can tell by the screaming sometimes.) They sometimes give me the right answer instead of the one that is actually true. (“Did you brush your teeth?” “Yes.” “Your toothbrush is dry. Go brush your teeth.”)

Kids like to hide things like gum and candy wrappers. They will lie about what happened and say they didn’t do it when they really did. They don’t ask permission and they sneak and they hide. I think this is pretty normal for every kid out there. I know I did it.

But this behavior, while it seems childish, can continue on and on. We all are guilty of lying, sometimes more often than we think. We hide and sneak. We try to save face and appear better than we are.

I was thinking about how when politicians and powerful people get into trouble, I often hear the words “obstruction of justice.”  They are doing the same things as my children: hiding candy wrappers, telling falsehoods, and trying to appear like they are doing the right thing when they are not.

It’s hard to tell the truth. It’s really hard to admit when you make a mistake. It’s hard to always ask for permission. It’s hard to live with integrity, where you don’t have anything to hide.

I once broke a computer at work years ago. It was a huge mistake. And I had to tell them about it. So I did, even though I was a bit scared. But it turned out just fine. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s when you don’t admit the mistake that it really becomes a problem.

I know my husband, as a manager, would much rather his employees talk to him about the mistakes they make instead of just hoping it goes away. He’s had multiple employees damage vehicles without admitting any fault. They all get found out, and it would have been so much easier for them if they would have admitted what they did when they did it.

When we tell the truth and admit our mistakes, frankly and honestly, we feel better and we are able to move forward. We usually can’t hide things very well. They resurface and they come up. But if we just admit what we did was wrong, we apologize, and we work to make it right, we find ourselves happier, in control of our life, and more able to develop good relationships and help others.

People actually think higher of those who admit they are wrong. We try to hide our shame sometimes so people will like us, but in reality, the effects are the opposite. Vulnerability is a positive thing, not negative, and we would all do well to be more forthcoming about fixing our mistakes instead of hiding them.

Sometimes the most powerful people haven’t learned this lesson. I’m trying to teach my kids: telling the truth is so important. I am often much more supportive and gentle when my kids admit a mistake than when I find out on my own. When we want an increase of love, we do that by seeking help in confessing and fixing, not in hiding.

Pain can be good

In the city finals course during an episode of American Ninja Warriors last year, Jessie Graff was trying to finish the course but was exhausted and didn’t have the strength to finish. She fell, knowing she had reached her limit. But throughout it all, she was smiling. When asked about it during the interview after the run, she said that she was smiling because she knew she was getting stronger.

I have remembered that for a while. I tend to avoid pain–a lot of us do. But lots of good things in life cause us pain, whether it’s the physical pain of exercise, the anxiety of talking to new people, or the frustration of trying a new skill. Often, the things we value cause us a a lot of pain too: I value my children and love them a lot, so when they are crying or struggling, it makes me hurt too because I want them to be happy.

There are two lessons in all of this:

  1. Often, we have pain because we are doing something difficult. And since we aren’t as strong as we want to be, it hurts. But if we persist and hang in there, we will become stronger. Pain can be good because it means we are stretching ourselves to do better. Instead of getting frustrated and just always doing what we are already good at, it’s better to push ourselves–it will hurt, but it’s worth it.
  2. The things that we value can cause us a lot of pain because we value them so much. This pain can cause us to do a lot of stupid stuff when we try to avoid it–like getting angry at our children when they are crying. We really want them to be happy–that’s why their crying is bothering us in the first place. But when we misinterpret our pain and forget what we actually value, we end up hurting the things that we love the most. A better way is knowing that the pain is okay and that avoiding the pain isn’t the answer–remembering what we love and value is.

Avoiding pain can be incredibly damaging. Now, sometimes we have pain that tells us we need to change our actions–like when we are injured, or we feel guilt. But it’s not like good choices lead to comfort and bad choices lead to pain. Sometimes, really good choices result in a lot of pain. But they are still good choices. The easy choice can often be a very negative thing.

We should remember what we value and push ourselves to become better and better at living those values. While that can be painful, it can also bring us a great amount of joy.