Helping students know right from wrong is a vital piece of their spiritual growth. But if we dig a bit deeper, we will see that helping them determine such things on their own is foundational to discipleship and a God honoring life. Students today are constantly capable of making their own reality by lying time and time again. In fact, many students don’t even know they are doing it, and if they know they are, they have no idea why. On a recent episode of the new Tim Allen sitcom, Last Man Standing, the father and daughter are in a discussion on this frustrating truth. Mike, the father asks, “Why did you lie to me?” Eve—who appears to be about 14 responds, “ I don’t know.” He then says, “Does anyone your age know why they do anything?” She replies, “You’re not going to like my answer…I don’t know”.
This portrayal is all too true. Many students lie, and have no idea why they do. I am not the first person to realize our students need help in this area. There are many studies that show this truth. In a study, done by the Jopheson Institute, researchers found that “more than two in five said they sometimes lie to save money (48 percent of males and 35 percent of females). While 92 percent of students believe their parents want them to do the right thing, more than eight in 10 confessed they lied to a parent about something significant.” In his book When Kids Hurt, Chap Clark has found similar data with ideas that “only 5 percent of adolescents say they haven’t lied to parents” and students saying, “Everybody lies, and everybody knows that everybody lies” (153).
We may be able to help students to know right from wrong by trying to help them be honest. I don’t think this is possible by policing our students or children, but maybe it is possible if we take advantage of opportunities presented to us. We can help students by allowing them to notice when they are being dishonest, telling lies, or cheating. This can be done through conversation rather than direct discipline (although that may play a part). When a lie is present, just say, “It’s okay to admit you lied; are you telling the truth?”
We can also help students with the honesty issued by being an example for them to follow. Are you being honest with them? With your spouse? With outside companies? On your taxes? Are you okay with always being honest? Students want to follow a great example of godliness and honesty in their life.
Will you be that example of honesty and integrity for them to follow?