The voice of a child carries such honesty. Even when lying, they somehow ring true. There is no better truth in this world than one spoken by a child. We all know that, yet we never seem to really listen. Children say so much more than what comes out of their mouths.
This is because complete honesty exists outside of words. It lies in emotions, expressions, and actions. Most children have trouble with lying successfully because what they have not yet learned is how to lie to themselves. Isn’t the key to telling a convincing lie to believe it—just a little bit—yourself? So they say. A kid who is bad at lying has not yet learned this emotional dishonesty.
Kids often aren’t aware of the silent societal law which decrees that we suffer in silence and smile through agony. When I was a kid, way back in the day, I always spoke truly when asked if I was okay. Then somewhere along the line, I lost this ability. It took me a long time to understand what had caused it, and I narrowed it down to a single, simple worry:
This thought is what taught me how to lie, both to myself and others. It is the cage in which I sealed myself for many years while growing up. I am still on a path to reclaim that pure, unfiltered truth of my childhood self. I am proud to say I feel very, very close.
The truth is not foolish or weak, but the pressure to be lesser, “normal,” or more comfortable for others is so pervasive that lies—both internal and external—become a defense mechanism, a shield against backlash. Why do people dislike the truth enough to strike out against it? They say it’s because the truth hurts, but I think it’s something else.
The pain of a hard truth is fleeting and forgettable, but the discomfort of someone’s pure honesty brings a ponderous, lasting sensation that people will do many a malicious thing to avoid. We’ve all been told to shut up before. Some of us have been demonized and even physically attacked, just for being honest.
Children make us uncomfortable, even jealous, with their honesty. We pass it off as annoyance that they won’t stop talking, but really we’re just ashamed. We miss being able to be so open, back before we were hurt. We want to tell them how to be safe, to seal themselves away inside, but how can we ruin such beauty?
We know, on some level, that we shouldn’t have had to suffer for our honesty. We never should have had to shrink and silence ourselves. And so… we grumble and glare at these little humans, out there being open and unafraid. We both envy and fear for them.
Sometimes in life, we are the students. The next time you feel annoyed by the chattering child sitting next to you, remember that they likely have not yet felt the sting of someone telling them to shut up. Don’t be the first instance of that pain for them. Listen to what they are saying. You might just learn something.
Sometimes in life, we are the teachers. The next time you see a child fall silent and scared when they started talking about something they love, ask them to continue. They’ve been hurt and need help. They need to know it’s okay to be honest about themselves. Be the person you needed when you were a kid, and let them tell their stories.