A couple of incidents happened this week that made me think. Firstly I had lunch with 2 of my dear friends and their children. We had a lovely lunch in the garden of a local country pub where there was lots of equipment for the children to play on and many other children for them to play with. It was inevitable that at some point there would be a disagreement and it made me smile when my friends son and daughter came back to her and related completely different stories of the same event. You must have experienced this situation many times. So what can you do?
The second incident was in a sense much more serious although it was seen on a reality television show. I was drawn into watching the show because of the out cry regarding an incident where an actress accused an actor of punching her. It was clear from the footage that the incident she referred to was an act of playfulness not physical abuse. Her accusation was cruel beyond belief and the actor in question was visibly shocked when he realised what he had been accused of. It was hard to watch the pain he was in as he tried to process why he had been accused and many people complained. How the producers dealt with this incident is not the reason I am writing this blog. My reason for writing is to consider how we react to someone else’s truth. Without seeing the footage of the incident the actress was very convincing, so much so that she was initially able to manipulate other male participants into believing her.
These two incidents are both examples of whether we can trust someone else’s truth. The above situation shows how dangerous it can sometimes be when we react without knowing the full facts. Jumping to conclusions, assuming we know why someone acted in the way that they did, or filling in the gaps of a story, are all likely to make matters worse especially if we share our thoughts about the incident with a third person. Of course we want to trust our family and friends and we want them to trust us. I know from personal experience how important it was for me to be believed when I was being treated badly and how lonely it feels when a parent doesn’t believe you. So how can you balance trust and truth and teach your children to do the same? Here are 3 tips for you to try.
1.Only act on what you know. If you are faced with a situation like my friend where two of your children are telling you different versions of the same story don’t side with either child unless you saw what happened. I have seen children manipulate their parents into punishing a sibling for nothing and it is not a healthy situation for either. One child learns to be dramatic to get what they want and the other stops trusting their parent to make a fair decision.
2. Do you know it is true? Do you know 100% it is true? I use these questions a lot when I am working with teenagers. I discovered the questions in a book by Byron Katie called Loving What is. If you have not read the book I can highly recommend it. The questions only form a part of Byron Katie’s work but I find them to be quite transformational even on their own. Teenagers usually answer yes to the first question but very few are 100% sure that what they are complaining about is true. With time I found the teenagers started to ask the question before I did which always made me smile. Of course these questions are not just helpful for the teenagers. The next time you find yourself starting to get angry over an assumption you are making try asking yourself these questions. Acting only on what you absolutely know starts to make life much more peaceful.
3. Stop gossiping. None of us like to think of ourselves as gossips but when we are talking in a judgemental way about someone else, when they are not in the room to defend themselves, that is essentially what we are doing. Try and move to a position of observation not judgement because your children will copy what you do. I can remember working with a teenager with Aspergers. I had worked very hard to try and get her to stop being so judgmental about everyone else only to over hear her father talking to her about each of their neighbours faults! He was undoing all that I had tried to achieve. As parents you have to lead by example.
I so wish everyone was honest and trustworthy but sadly that is not the world we live in. It is a world we could create but to do that we need to teach the next generation to value honesty and to understand that given time people will show us their true nature. Trust is earned over time. As we get to know people better we intuitively start to know if we can trust that what they are saying to us is true. Until we are sure it is better to only act on what we actually know to be true.