Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

A WORD ABOUT LYING. The first sin which darkened this earth was a lie. It was committed by the prince of darkness opon the tree of knowledge, and ever since, the increase of wisdom and learning seems to have been followed, to a certain extent, by a decrease of veracity. Lying is the fruitful parent of other sins, the evil spirit which goes out to make room for seven others, the cancer which eats up the vital powers of our higher nature. This seems to have been felt by ancient nations. The Grecian Mythology punished even the deities for lying, and the old Persians' Catechism of Moral Philosophy contained only one great foremost demand—“to be true to one's self and to others."

The old Germans had a proverb, "A word, a man,” while now frequently 8 man is but a word, and in the old Saxon and Gothic languages there is but one word, "ligan," to signify prostration of body and of soul, while in modern German and English there is but little difference of pronunciation or spelling between liegen and lügen, or a “liar” and & "lier."

We are surrounded by lying deeds, deceptions, or imitations, and have become so accustomed to them, that we are willing to forbear whenever they make their appearance. There has been a time with several nations, when the relation between the governing and governed rested on a true moral basis; but now the science of politics uses the sheep-skin cloak of patriotism to cover many a deed of selfishness and oppression, chooses liberal names for illiberal acts, and sometimes a glorious end is made to justify ignoble means. The practice of law has lost a great deal of its original purity, and many a lawyer will take greater pains to gain before court the case of his client, than to examine into the true state of things. In trade assertions are frequently made which are known to be wrong, or spurious articles are sold for genuine goods. The architect uses wood,

[ocr errors]

sand, and paint to imitate stone, paper to build marble walls, and frescopainting to make the interior of a room appear larger or higher than it really is. Our ceremonies, literally understood, contain a great deal more than they are intended to convey. Much of our poetry is but fiction-not the history of what has happened, but the creation of imagination. In all dramatic performances the actors, as well as the spectators, are for a while withdrawn from real lite. We have imitations of all kinds of jewelry, American Eau de Cologne, counterfeit money, manufactured hair, false eyes, teeth and limbs.

We hate to be told by any one what he knows to be untrue. Bankruptcy, and even murder, are less shameful than a lie. No flush of the cheek is more burning than that which follows the detection of a falsehood. Why is it? Is the word more than a deed, or the tongue more important than the hand?

Jean Paul explains it thus : “When I confront another person, our souls are, as it were, hidden in our bodies. I may guess at his character and intelligence by his eye or his general appearance, but I am without certainty. It is ouly through language this embodiment of thought, this audible reason, that I can converse with him. The tongue is the telegraphic wire between soul and soul, his last will is revealed by his spoken word, and the action of his soul lies clearly before me. The importance of the spoken word has lost in intensity by the invention of writing. When an idea is expressed, not in the living, life-giving word, but in dead characters, drawn upon lifeless paper, it loses, to a great extent, its power

and vitality, and consequently a lie, when written or printed, appears less punishable. But how annihilating when the spiritual I of another human being communes with mine and tells me a downright lie! Alis living soul is vanished at once, only his bones, flesh, and skin are before me, and the words spoken by his tongue are just as insignificant to me as the wind whose howling does not indicate any pain. A spoken word may explain or annihilate many deeds; but it requires many deeds to nentralize the sting of one spoken lie. The liar treats his tongue as the beggar does his hand organ; the instrument plays a plaintive air, while the possessor rejoices at the money he receives. The liar is unjust. I give myeslf without reserve to him, while he gives me only his body; and by building 8 draw in the free bridge of true conversation, which he opens and shuts at his pleasure, he makes me a tool of his will.”

It will be seen at a glance how important it is that children be trained to speak the truth. Only a clear understanding of the child's inclinations, peculiarities and capacities will enable parents and teachers to devise the best plans and means for its progress. For if a child is accustomed to lie, many other evil thoughts and babits may bide themselves behind that screen, and thus escape being observed or checked. It is still worse when a spoken lie bas been previously matured, when, in telling it, the child is perfectly at ease and confident of success. In such a case, the whole position of those who educate, and of him who is to be educated, is changed ;

the child has gained a superiority over parents and teachers, and the latter become a plaything in the hands of the former.

The question now comes— What is the best method of training children to speak the truth? and the nearest answer is:

First. Prevent as much as possible the first lie. It is natural for man to be in harmony with himself, to act as a unit, to speak and appear just as he feels and thinks. To dissolve this union of inward reality and outward appearance is unnatural, and can be accomplished only by a great effort. The first lie is always spoken with a trembling, undecided appearance, and a downcast eye. But when the strong fortification of truth is once taken, the good protecting angel of innocence recedes, and every subsequent lie is uttered with less effort and accompanied by less remorse. The rule just given is applicable to many cases which are often overlooked and still more frequently not sufficiently observed.

Never consider that a lie which was not intended for one. Little children, ap to five years of age, have lessons to learn which are harder, greater, and more important than adults usually imagine. The proper use of the five senses, a discrimination of the impressions thus made upon their minds, and a true expression of their ideas through the organs of speech in words, which are arbitrarily chosen, and not connected with the thing observed or the thought created—this is the task assigned to early childhood. Happily, children perform it most cheerfully. They learn language in a playful way. They never tell a lie. Their talking is only loud thinking; the first half of a thought affirms what the second denies. They will repeat words many times and form strange combinations. All such talking is mechanical exercise of the organs of speech, or repetition of what they have heard, and therefore without meaning or significance.

When children begin to utter connected thoughts, a new difficulty arises in mistaking the true meaning of words, and from iguorance of grammatical construction. Mistakes are made with regard to number, tense, or person; particles which express expansion or limitation, affirmation or negation, are used in the wrong way; the degrees of comparison are disregarded, or a part is taken for the whole, or vice versa. The child may have misunderstood a whole question, or confined his attention only to the last words. In each of these, and many other cases, the answer or statement of the child may be wrong in the eyes of an adult, and yet perfectly true within the limited sphere of a child under eight years of age.

Another cause which makes children often appear as if they deviated from truth, is their actice imagination. They will imitate the doings of adults, with whom they come in contact, and play schoolmaster, carpenter, auctioneer, or soldier. They will hold town meetings, capture a thief, or arrange a fuceral procession. They expect others to feel and act just as they do themselves. They breathe life into inanimate things around them. Their dolls are living babies, eating, drinking, sleeping, and crying; a stick becomes a fast-running horse, and a paper boat carries a whole army of living soldiers. They make no careful discrimination between past, pres

ent, and future. An expected pleasure is to thein a present reality, and an alarm of a punishment they have met with in the past, will be experienced anew with the original intensity as often as they are reminded of it. Their hours and weeks are long or short, according to their feeling. All their experience and knowledge is the material with which they color their past trials or joys, magnify present impressions, and form new combinations, or build castles in the air. They live in dreams when waking, and are awakened by dreams when asleep. Up to a certain period they can not distinguish things as they are, from the creations of their fancy, and are therefore liable to be misunderstood.

It is not sufficient, however, not to accuse the child of a lie, when it is actually innocent; we must, as much as possible, remove all temptation to tell a lie.

If we could see clearly how our mental and moral faculties are called forth and developed by circumstances and events, we should meet mang & case where adults caused a child to tell what was known to be untrue, and then punished it for it. If it is known with certainty that something wrong has been committed, parents or teachers ought first to ascertain whether the child knew the act to be wrong or not. In the latter case only proper instruction and advice are needed; any thing beyond that is of evil. But if the child is conscious of having done wrong, it should be met with a firm accusation which would not leave the least room even for the thought of a denial. If it be not fairly ascertained that the child did wrong, a skillful way of catechizing has been found the best method of getting at the truth. The questions ought to be pat calmly, kindly, and in such a succession that the child does not see the connection between its answers and their consequences. After some facts are established, the child's true position is often clearly seen. This method, however, requires practice, skill, and, above all, an earnest zeal to benefit the child, whatover the cost may be. Young parents and teachers are apt to fail in these attempts. They are either so fond of their charge as to overlook many s case which ought to be investigated, or have not time and patience enough to arrive at a satisfactory result. Sufficient time must also be given to the child to consider fully the true meaning of the questions, or else an inconsiderate answer may be given in baste. If cases occur where, in all probability, the first lie may be expected, it is preferable not to mention such a case at all.

The little child must be kept as long as can be in the belief that the parent or teacher knows the truth and is free from error.

Never adoise or command a child to lie. This point is seldom in all its bearings strictly observed. Children are sometimes made to ask one's pardon, when they do not see any thing wrong in their doings; or they are commanded tv show signs of affection to persons whom they do not like; or they are taught to learn and utter complimentary phrases, which they feel to be but words without meaning; or they are compelled to speak words of thanks after punishment, when they feel any thing but thankfulness. A mother wishes to be undisturbed, and advises her dangh

ter to tell callers that she is not at home. A member of the family is to be surprised with a present. The child has heard of it, but is told to deny all knowledge about it if it should be questioned. An adult plays with children, hides himself, and asks some of them not to betray to the others where he is hidden; not to mention cases of a grosser kind which occur in the lower classes of society, where the division line between truth and falsehood is almost invisible.

Secondly. When a lie has been told, find out the motive and treat the child accordingly. The merit of a deed lies neither in its appearance nor in its subsequent consequences, but only in its motives. To read these in the hearts of the pupils is one of the highest duties of all those who have to deal with children; and to purify these is to elevate their moral standard most effectually. The various motives which induce children to lie, may be brought in three groups—indiscretion, fear, and desire.

Lies of indiscretion are committed without forethought or plan. They may occur in conversation. The child, in talking with an adult, expresses his loose ideas in words still less precise than his thoughts, and thus an original misunderstanding may cause the reproach of a lie. The child may be asked to testify as a witness before the family circle, to give advice to his playmate in a critical position, or to repeat a story. In these, as well as other cases, the child may have received a wrong impression, or his memory may be at fault, or his feelings and imagination may be wrought up to such a pitch, that he is incapable at the time to discriminate between appearance and reality. What is to be done in such a case ? Sometimes the simple advice not to make fan, but to speak in earnest, may be of good effect; at other times it may be well to point out some of the contradictions of the statement, and request a correction of the mistakes. Or if the habit not to be careful enough continues, the child may be told that it will fall in disrepute, as one who does not adhere to truth. Good advice, instruction, and encouragement are all that is needed to counteract and prevent lies of this kind.

Another potent cause of lies is fear. A lie of fear is always committed when something has been done which the child knew to be wrong. The evil deed lies behind-confrontation and detection before him. Conscience tells him that pnnishment must follow, and imagination condenses and magnifies such punishment beyond proper limits. In the pressure of the moment there seems to be but one way of escaping, and with a trembling voice and downcast eye, the deed done is denied. In many of these cases parents are perhaps as guilty as their childrən. Their look, voice, and appearance magnify the importance of the deed, and the degree of punishment. They will even get into a passion, and speak words or commit deeds worse than those which they pretend to punish. In examination of this kind there is seldom enough kindness and forgiveness shown to make the child conquer his fear and confess the truth. The parent must feel really sorry, and try to make the child feel that it was its own deed which produced this perplexity on both sides. It would be faulty, however, to

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »