One of Our Greatest Myths
Several weeks ago, I took my two twin almost four-years-old grandchildren fishing. I thought how wonderful it would be for them to catch a fish, reel it in on on their own, release the fish back in the water and marvel together at the incredible world in which we live, the beauty of the wind on the water and the magic of life itself.
They could have cared less. What they did care about was studying the worms in the container which took up the entire fishing trip. The universe in which they were completely mesmerized was no bigger than a cottage-cheese container. But that was all they needed to experience the awe of life compared to adults who have to go to the Caribbean or France, buy a new car or house or vacation in Disney World to experience the same thing.
From 0-7 years old, the longer a child can hold onto the "original experience," the better off that child will be. The original experience is a total sensory experience that can be seen on hundreds of youtube videos of small children experiencing something for the first time without the interference of judgment, belief, opinion, prejudice, projection or position; the taste of ice cream, a snowflake, seeing the ocean, being licked by a dog, a leaf falling, the smell of roses and on and on and on. In other words, it's not a mental experience; it's an experience beyond words! Worms can put the Disney into a cottage cheese container.
However, it is not long before most children (about 8/10) will move away from the original experience at a very early age and into a mental experience of the event. The reason why is because 0-7 years of age is dominated by the mind's need to survive. The majority of children (about 8/10) face situations that activate very early in their life the need to survive, as they are born into negative parental and environmental circumstances that dominate their sensory experiences and activate their mind's need to survive. It doesn't take long before the "original experience" is replaced by the mind's version of the experience...which is something quite different. The "words of babes" is replaced by the cleaver, rebellious, manipulative child.
In addition, from 0-7 years of age, we are all given training around what is important, the values that make up living a good life and how we are to behave. Telling the truth is one of one of those values that is expressed in many cultures. Telling the truth is essential, we are told. You must be honest. You must tell the truth.
Children see accurately and learn quickly the hypocrisy behind this teaching. Children experience the downside of telling the truth: being punished. When they tell the truth at school, they are punished. When they tell their parents the truth, they are punished. When they tell the truth in court, they are sentenced. But I thought I was supposed to tell the truth, they say. They begin to see what adults do to avoid being punished: don't tell the truth because it's not worth it. So, children adopt the same strategy: lie. Why should I tell the truth when every time I do, I experience pain and suffering. It's absurd! The policeman says, "Tell me the truth so I can go ahead and put you in jail and save us both a lot of time. Make it easier on yourself." What do you expect is going to happen? Of course they are going to lie!
Lying is linked, as far as the mind is concerned, to survival and surviving is the #1 mandate of the young mind. The poster-child, grown-up version of the adaptive child is best personified by the politician. Being a politician and being a liar are synonymous. Truth and politics don't mix. They should. But they don't. In fact, we already know they are going to lie.
Years ago when I was still teaching in the classroom, we had an important field trip in which a major incident occurred. I was unaware of the incident until the following day when we were home from the field trip. I was on the telephone with a Principal from another district and I explained, "That would be impossible for it to have been any of my students because my students would never have done that." He described the main student precisely and once again, I stood my ground.
As I walked out of the office towards my classroom, the exact description of the 17 year old culprit that was just given to me on the telephone was coming towards me from the other direction. Oh no, I said to myself, this can't true. As we approached one another, we stopped to speak, "Gerald, I have to ask you something. Did you ____?"
He paused and said, "Yes, Sir, I did."
I suggested that we would get together later to figure out what to do, backtracked to the office, called the Principal and explained that I had spoken to the young man who, along with others, were the ones involved in the wrong-doing.
I deeply respected this young man for his immediate ability to tell the truth and it would be young people just like Gerald who would teach me time and time again that people do not need to be punished to be held accountable, that when treated with respect and dignity, eight out of ten people will rise to the occasion, meet their responsibilities and move forward. Gerald and many other young people would teach me that great leaders teach and lesser leaders punish. Great teachers teach and reveal. Lesser teachers abuse their power and punish. The least talented parents punish. The most talented parents teach. It takes no talent to punish. It takes great skill and patience to teach.
People lie because of the perceived, imminent threat to their survival. The mind invents an extraordinary number of irrational beliefs to justify the punishment that promotes the very lying they punish. "People get what they deserve, you made your bed, now, sleep in it, you should have thought about it before you did it, etc."
Telling the truth is one of the greatest myths we practice because of its predictable link to pain and suffering. Most people insist on others telling the truth so they can justify their own version of punishment, revenge and justice. But what if we could change this, particularly with children? We would change the world...theirs and ours.
So, very soon with someone close to you, circumstances will dictate the need for someone to tell the truth to you. Make your mistakes on the side of love, not punishment. Be remembered by your love, compassion and forgiveness. Help them change their world...and yours.