Monday, October 29, 2012

Not to fiddle around with the truth

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Early in our homeschooling career, I was expecting a visit from the home education officer and had to fill out loads of paperwork. By then, we'd been living our dream long enough to have acquired a laid-back, interest-driven, passion-led approach which suited us. However, I thought it very dissimilar to the education mode I was used to and brought up in. Our former education officer had recently retired. This lady would be new and I was nervous to think that we might come across flaky and scatter-brained. I didn't want to be rebuked and the possibility of the kids being sent back to school was enough to give me cold chills. Logan had just shed his anxious persona and seemed content while Emma had the space to pursue her varied interests. All the while, the new baby, Blake, had the benefit of having his siblings always around, bonding with him at all hours of the day. I didn't want this threatened.

I resorted to a dishonest tactic I'd sometimes used at school or uni when I had a tedious assignment to work on. I call it "Give 'em what they want to hear." In other words, I fudged some of what I wrote. Shame on me. I preferred to call it exaggerating. I assumed she'd probably want to think that we did lots of bookwork and formal lessons. This is what I wrote spades of in the report. My intention was to mislead her to think we did far more than we actually did.

When she came, she sipped her cup of tea, read the report and said something I never saw coming. She rebuked me for working them too hard! Yeah, me! "This is all very commendable, but don't go down the track of taking all the fun and joy out of learning. In my opinion, that takes the gloss off what homeschooling should be all about. You seem to be taking it all far too seriously."

I was mortified. By then, I'd written the report. I was committed to the truth-stretching I'd told. I couldn't retreat and tell her that, in fact, I was as big an advocate of the natural learning approach as she could hope to find. I wished I'd been honest and open in my true feelings. It was a major backfiring of what I'd thought were good intentions. That was a good lesson that being true to ourselves is the only path we should take, no matter what benefits the less-than-honest approach may seem to bring.

At least I wasn't punished as severely as that poor young messenger who ran to report the battle deaths of King Saul and his sons to David. His story is found at the very start of the Book of 2Samuel. David pressed him for details, asking, "How do you know for sure that Saul and Jonathan are dead?" On the spur of the moment, this young soldier decided that a bit of opportunistic embellishing of the truth might be to his own advantage. "I just happened by Mt Gilboa and came on Saul, badly wounded... 'Come here' he said, 'and put me out of my misery'... So I did what he asked and killed him. Here's his royal headband and bracelet for my master."

Anybody who's read the real story will blink at this point, and think, "Hey, what? He did no such thing! Saul fell on his own sword when his armor bearer refused to kill him. What's this fellow going on about?"

I understood his thinking. He'd hoped to gain. Telling David that he'd driven a sword through his nemesis was intended to be a sound move earning him respect and promotion, however undeserved. He'd probably intended to use it as a harmless stepping stone. Little did he know how horribly this would backfire on him. He had no idea of David's history with Saul and his family and his true feelings about them, much less what was in his heart. Horrified, David demanded, "Do you mean to say that you weren't afraid to kill God's anointed king?" He ordered one of his soldiers, "Strike him dead! You asked for it. You sealed your death sentence when you said you killed God's anointed king." So he never had the chance to regret his mistake.

Much better to be straightforward at all times, showing the world the same person who we are in our own homes and deep inside our own hearts. Second guessing people is a risky game, because only God and they themselves know for certain how they are going to react. When we show our true faces, we may earn the unpopularity and rebukes we are hoping to avoid. This has happened to me, but I've decided it's preferable to living lies. I got sick of knowing deep inside that the person who is being smiled upon is not the real me but a mask I'm wearing. It's much more peaceful to know that when we being approved of, it is for the truth. I prefer saving my inventions for my fiction these days. I think embellishments are a bit like egg yolk when you're making pavlova or macarons. Only a tiny bit can ruin the whole thing.


  1. Great post Paula! Oh yeah, stretching the truth...enlarge ...embellish...adding a bit of icing on top - ultimately it never works. A dear pastor I know (he's 80 and still preaching) says, "Always tell the complete truth, and leave the consequences to God."

  2. Well said, Paula. It's never okay to be less than honest, even when those little voices inside present a solid case for truth-stretching, which they so often do! And the thought of grieving God's Holy Spirit makes it a hundred times worse, as well. Thanks also for your insightful remarks on the Saul/David story - I really liked that.

  3. Hi Lyn and Penelope,
    Thanks for visiting the blog. As writers of fiction, used to using our imaginations, I'm sure you both relate to this as I do.

  4. Hi Paula, you're so right. Best not to go down the path of stretching the truth ... too hard to keep our stories straight, especially now I'm getting older and the ol' grey matter isn't as sharp as it used to be!

  5. Yes, you got it right there, Janet. Perhaps in those youthful, pre-children ages it's easier to keep all your stories properly sorted out in your head :) Sounds far too tiring now.


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