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Truthfulness (or as the kids say, “Straight up”, “No B.S.”, “The Real Deal”, “Word up”)

April 29, 2012

“April Fool’s Day,” is a fun day—a day that recognizes the human capacity for humor and trickery. I played a few tricks, and had a few played on me… But since trickery and lies on the other 364 days of the year can cause lots on hurt feelings, I thought it would be good for The “V” Channel to feature the virtue of Truthfulness, or as the kids say: “Straight up”, “No B.S.”, “The Real Deal”, “Word up”.

I asked my son if he would give me feedback on this post “Sure”, he mumbled. He was on his PS3, of course, thumbs working furiously, blasting away at some giant space intruder, intent on getting to the game’s next level. I continued…

TRUTHFULNESS IS:

Knowing the difference between truth and fantasy. It’s okay to indulge in fantasies, like the strange world in my son’s PS3 game, “Mass Effect 3”, or a young girl kicking a soccer ball into an empty net, pretending to win the Women’s World Cup, both healthy examples of imagination. But kids (and adults) need to know the difference between fact and fiction. Ever since Nicolas was four or five years old, I would sit at his side while he watched TV, asking him if what he was watching was “fact?” or “fiction?” Nine times out of ten he would answer “fiction!” (He was sooooo cute!). I didn’t spoil his fun while watching Teletubbies or Ninja Turtles… just at certain times, like when a commercial promised a rainbow every time a package of candy was opened, or when a movie depicted war and violence as macho or cool. Now that he’s older, whether he’s watching a comedy, drama or a “reality” show, he simply replies, “That’s B.S.!” (gotta give Nicolas credit for the name of this post.)

TRUTHFULNESS IS NOT:

A reality show that does multiple takes to capture “reality”, with scripts exaggerating behavioral problems for the sole purpose to scintillate and titillate the viewers base instincts to witness “real people” (bad actors paid lots of money) to fight, argue and suffer, all for the bottom-line of increasing ratings for commercial sponsors.

Reality shows, tabloid news, bloggers, CGI movies, politicians… these days it is tough to tell the what is fact or fiction, reality or fantasy.

TRUTHFULNESS IS:

Investigating the truth for yourself. If someone, or the media, tries to tell you something about another person and you have not seen it with your own eyes, don’t accept it as truth. Talk to your children. Help them become aware of marketing tactics that drive ratings and clicks—here is just one recent example: Yahoo used the sensational subject line: CLASS PHOTO CALLED ‘OFFENSIVE’ AND ‘DEGRADING’, but no where in the article are the words ‘offensive’ and ‘degrading’ used. An example of “key words” marketing that is, as my son would say, B.S.!

Having achieved his goal of reaching the next level, Nicolas put down his controller and said, “It makes sense to know the difference between truth and fantasy and to be aware of advertising tricks… but why bother? Most of the kids I know make stuff up and totally exaggerate about themselves. You wouldn’t believe some of the B.S. I see on Facebook.” “Good point!” I replied.

Society seems to condone, even encourage mashing-up reality, spreading gossip, inventing wild exaggerations.

TRUTHFULNESS, WHY THE “BLEEP” BOTHER?

If you’re like me, you teach your children to tell the truth. But when society seems to condone, even encourage mashing-up reality, spreading gossip, inventing wild exaggerations to get Facebook likes, Twitter followers, YouTube views, and let’s not forget “old media” higher television ratings, then it’s no wonder our kids’ may want to give up on truthfulness and say “Why the BLEEP bother?!”

It seems like honesty is not the best policy these days. Along with the Bernie Madoffs of the world (I think there are many “Bernies” out there that will never be busted) there are political ad campaigns without an ounce of truth, blogger journalists making up the “facts”, Medicare fraud, offshore banking scams, government bribes and corruption, there are sports legends accused of lying to Congress about steroid use—one Baseball Hall of Fame wannabe reportly has spent $5,000,000 dollars on legal fees to defend himself against such accusations—five million bucks because of one little lie!

Is a “white lie” any less of a lie? No, not really… a lie of any color is not truthfulness.

The excuse “everyone does it, I just got caught” sends the message that no matter what, don’t get caught in a lie, even if you have to lie to keep from getting caught. Include the “white lies” we are all are guilty of from time to time and the result is a generation of kids that believe that it’s okay to lie.

Dan S. of Highland Mills, NY, writes in his Teen Ink article, “Lies And Society”: “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” meaning, “A lie can and does spread quickly, spurred on by forms of multimedia. Meanwhile, the truth struggles to gain momentum…”

SO WHY BOTHER TEACHING OUR KIDS TO PRACTICE TRUTHFULNESS?

The following are a few reasons to practice truthfulness. Share them with your children; hopefully they will be inspired to choose a higher standard of behavior. (Excerpts from The Family Virtues Guide)

• Truthfulness builds a bond of love and trust. People know where they stand with an honest and truthful person.

• When people do not practice truthfulness, there is no trust. Without trust there is confusion and suspicion.

• Truthfulness is telling the truth no matter what. If someone asks what you think, you tell them what you really think (but tactfully!)

• Truthfulness is living by your true nature, being true to yourself (even if you like to dress up in a tutu wearing a mohawk haircut, like my friend Richie Stotts did years ago when he played guitar for The Plasmatics).

• Without truthfulness you never know if you’re really getting what you pay for—companies would exaggerate the benefits of their products in their advertising, and sales people would try to deceive and mislead you (Hmmm, sounds familiar).

GIVE YOUR KIDS A HIGH-FIVE AND CONGRATULATE THEM WHEN THEY…

• Speak only the truth

• Investigate the truth for themselves

• Can tell the difference between fact and fiction

• Confess when they’re telling a story that is a little too imaginative

• Admit when they have made a mistake

• Are honest about how they feel

• Know that they are enough—they don’t need to exaggerate or deceive to impress others

While writing about Truthfulness I had a good chat with “V” Crew member, Hoyt Smith:

Hoyt: This is definitely a discussion worth having with our children. Being honest with one’s self isn’t always the most convenient or easiest road, but there are many good reasons to press down that path anyway.

Lizardman is Nationally known for being featured on television networks such as TLC, Discovery, National Geography, and Ripley’s Believe or Not!
Photo source: http://www.free-press-release.com/news-the-return-of-lizardman-1310491357.html

The “V” Channel: Thanks Hoyt! We may not think our children have enough life experience to know who they truly are, so we may interrupt their discovery process by judging them and shutting down a path of self-exploration, or worse, forcing them to be who we think they should be. Living a lie at any stage of development sucks! The best we can do is to help our kids can stay true to themselves by accepting them in their “normal” phase and their “this-is-me” phase. (I’m keeping my fingers crossed Nicolas doesn’t turn into the Lizard dude!)

A parent asks, “At what point does pursuing an impossible dream become living a lie?”

Hoyt: Well put. I know sometimes I try to press my children into a mold of my own intentions and desires, to shape them in my image instead of letting them follow their own path. It’s a balancing game, I suppose. I’m certainly not going to let them run off with the rock and roll band next door; but I know they have to be free to fail on their own terms. Regarding living a lie; that can take on all sorts of shapes and forms. I always saw living in the suburbs and practicing non-sustainable consumerism as a prime example of self-deception. At what point does pursuing an impossible dream become living a lie? These are not easy questions to answer, simple paths to follow.

The “V” Channel: Kids are going to want to push the envelope, possibly go to extremes. Hopefully we can convince them that the middle way is “best”. Not too good, not too bad. As parents, we can be there as a safety net, and demonstrate the importance of activity, service and honesty. Then, as individuals, they will naturally go their own way. (Perhaps with that rock ‘n roll band next door, or become a Lizard Dude… yikes!!!!)

All girl punk band, The Gore Gore Girls.
Photo credit: http://www.musicrex.com/denver/the-gore-gore-girls-at-hi-dive

It’s not easy making decisions in life, especially when it comes to raising and guiding our children. Ultimately they will choose their own path. As parents, the best we can do is engage and inspire our children toward a higher standard of behavior.

Wishing you and your kids “Victory via Virtues!”

Scott Feraco
Founder and Creative Director
The “V” Channel

Special thanks to The Family Virtues Guide, by Linda Kavelin Popov with Dr. Dan Popov Ph.D., and John Kavelin.

©2012 SCOTT FERACO. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2012 4:39 pm

    I had a long discussion with my daughters last night regarding truthfulness, but it wasn’t the standard dialog about the virtues of honesty and the vice of deceit.

    No, it went a lot deeper than that. You see, my daughters have some fairly strong opinions of what the truth is based upon their environment and their subjective perceptions. So much of what we think of real is actually subjective; and that often leads to self righteousness and intransigent positions on a variety of topics and issues.

    So many of us tend to delude ourselves. Think about it: we are always looking out from our own set of eyes, and can go for a whole lifetime without actually seeing ourselves. We may see ourselves as honest and truth-seeking, but how often do we actually bend and borrow the truth and shape it to our own needs?

    Is it possible to be honest and also diplomatic? If you don’t like the meal your host cooked; if you think your friend has gained weight, if you sugar coat information for your boss at work or hold your tongue for fear of being mean or too critical, are those dishonest acts?

    What about wearing make-up to disguise your wrinkles or hide your age? Is that dishonest? When a woman wears high heels, or a man dyes his gray hair, is that untruthful?

    What’s my deeper point here? I suppose it’s that the truth isn’t always out in plain sight; it’s not always readily available. There aren’t always two paths to choose from, and the world is rarely presented in strictly black and white shades.

    Remember the classic story of the blind men and the elephant? Each described what they perceived in unique and sometimes conflicting ways. There’s the old adage: there are always two sides to a story.

    In the Academy Award winning film Annie Hall, there is a scene with a split screen where Woody Allen and Diane Keaton express conflicting views of their intimacy. “How often do you have sex?” the psychiatrist asks. “Hardly ever,” said Woody. “Two-to-three times a week. “All the time,” countered Keaton. “Two-to-three times a week.” Who was telling the truth?

    There is a great story told to me once by a Catholic priest, about two Seminarians who frequently enjoyed a cigarette after Vespers. Feeling somewhat guilty, they agreed to bring up their vice with the monsignor at confession.

    The next day they met and asked each other how it went. “Horribly,” said the first. “I asked if it was OK to smoke while I prayed, and I was severely rebuked and ordered to say a thousand hail marys. What about you?

    “I was actually praised for my actions,” said the second.

    “Really?” asked the first. “What did you say?”

    To which the second replied: “I asked the Monsignor if it was OK if I prayed while I smoked.”

    You see, reality can be bent and shaped that easily. Our outlook, our cultural and social references often assist more than we care to admit in shaping and building the truth. Sometimes deceit can be justified (“Do I look fat in these jeans?”). Sometimes the truth isn’t the whole truth (“No, I wasn’t out late. When I came home it was actually early in the morning.”)

    Getting my daughters to press in a little more diligently in seeking the truth, to weigh many factors and examine and consider their perspective, to remove the tint and taint of bias, of wishful or hopeful thinking and really get down to the brass tacks, the nitty gritty if you will, is – I believe – a virtuous practice. Being open to other perspectives, new ideas, multiple opinions and beliefs, will serve all of us well in our never-ending journey toward honesty and truth. How do we initiate that dialog? How do we teach lessons about learning lessons? That seems to be an important factor to consider when weighing this very important topic and pondering the related implications.

    • Scott Feraco permalink
      May 22, 2012 10:57 am

      Brilliant response! Thank you, Hoyt.

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