- Karl Thunemann
A Culture—and Season—for Honesty
Updated: Dec 29, 2020
By Mimi Simmons
When our daughter was born, her father and I made a controversial decision. We chose to tell her the truth about Santa from the beginning. We wanted her to trust that we would always be honest with her, no matter what. We told her there’s a secret game people play at Christmas. They say a man named Santa sneaks into houses and leaves gifts and everyone likes to pretend it really happens. We told her we don’t want to ruin the fun so we’ll pretend too, when we talk to others but, here at home, she could always count on knowing the truth. She was more than happy to play along and never once spoiled it for others. Her grandparents, however, thought we had gone too far.
At the school where my husband taught, some tried to shield students from the pain they sometimes felt at not being as good at some things as other students were. In the name of preserving self esteem, there was no comparing, no contests, no grades. But kids are smart and aware. They know when some excel and some don’t. My husband remembers, when he was a boy, the day he realized he wasn’t the best at anything in school and came home crying. As an adult, he realized that being the best wasn’t the only measure of success and as a teacher, he helped his students set goals and levels of mastery to achieve. He helped them with the comparisons they inevitably made and supported them in working through their feelings, from bitter disappointment to boastful pride. He fostered an environment of support where they could see and accept their authentic selves, their levels of achievement and the success of others. They reliably became emotionally stronger and not as vulnerable or anxious.
What a world we’ve come to live in; a culture of lying is rampant and destructive. Dedication to the truth has become rarer and more important than ever. Only listening to things that reinforce your predetermined beliefs, when some of those beliefs are not accurate, only intensifies separation from the truth. Not facing the truth makes us weaker.
As an adult, our daughter continues expecting and insisting upon honesty. As a nation we could do more of that.