Amanda, a new mother – and a single one at that - came to the startling realization immediately after giving birth to her baby boy, Kevin, that she was going to be the one and only person on the planet required to teach him everything. Absolutely everything. So, not only was she exhausted from the 24-hour ordeal she had just endured, but also at the magnitude of the job ahead of her.
Of course, Kevin could learn some things from other people, but none of those people could possibly teach him as well as Amanda could. Amanda was sure of that.
As Amanda thought through where to start his training, she realized she’s endured enough lies from adults when she was a child, as well as from myriad boyfriends over the years, that she knew one of the most important things she needed to teach Kevin, as soon as possible, was never to lie. Lying was, above everything else, the one thing she would not tolerate.
When Kevin was old enough to understand, at roughly the age of 4, Amanda told him, “The most important thing you need to do in life…or actually NOT do…is lie...about anything. Even if what you have to tell me seems like the worst thing in the world, I will never be mad at you as long as you don’t lie to me about it.
Amanda was true to her word.
“Mommy, I hit Jacob today at recess because he was a meany,” Kevin told her one day after she picked him up after school.
“Well thank you for being honest and telling me about what happened and what you did Kevin. I’m not mad at you for telling me the truth but can you tell me what you might have been able to do differently?”
“Nothing, Mommy, he’s a meany-beany,” Kevin responded.
“Well Kevin, I think you’re going to be the one who ends up getting in trouble with your teacher if you hit Jacob again. Maybe next time, go talk to a teacher and tell her what Jacob’s doing, so she can help you solve the problem instead.”
“I don’t think that’s going to work, but I guess I’ll try, Mommy.”
Their conversations over the years went similarly and Kevin continued to trust his mom enough to know that he could always tell her the truth. And he developed the same habit in the outside world too – always telling the truth.
One day in high school, Kevin’s best friend cheated on a math test by looking over to Kevin’s desk and copying his answers. At the end of class, Kevin walked up to the teacher’s desk and told her his friend was cheating. His friend ended up flunking the test as a result.
“Way to go, dip shit,” Mike said to Kevin after school. “Now I’m going to end up with a D in that class and have to take the class again in summer school.”
“I was just telling the truth man,” Kevin responded, “what’s so bad about that?”
“You’re an A-1 IDIOT,” Mike snapped, walking away toward his bus.
Mike never spoke to Kevin again. Kevin didn’t get it. He knew he did the right thing. And now he lost his very best friend.
Later, during college, Kevin met the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, and couldn’t wait to take her out on a date. When he picked her up at her dorm, the first words out of his mouth were, “Wow, you look beautiful.”
“Thanks!” Brenda replied.
“But what exactly happened to your hair? It looks, uh, different,” he added.
“I curled it,” Brenda replied, “Don’t you like it?
“No, not really,” Kevin said without a thought about how that might make her feel.
“Oh really, Kevin? Then goodnight!” she shouted, as she walked back into her dorm and slammed the door as hard as she could so it would lock behind her.
Kevin stood outside the door for a few minutes, staring at it, trying to figure out what had just happened. He then wandered back to his dorm and told his roommate about his perplexing interaction.
“You said WHAT to her?” his roommate asked as he was doubling over laughing, “Man you’re an idiot! You NEVER tell a girl what you really think. You have to lie to them, man! That’s the only way you’re ever going to get a girl.”
Kevin was deeply confused and swore off women for the rest of his time at college. They were far too difficult to understand.
After college, Kevin’s first job interview was with a very prestigious business in his hometown. He spent a week preparing what he’d say to any question they could possibly ask them. And Amanda helped coach him.
“Just be honest in the interview Kevin. Every company wants honest employees. You’ll do great!”
As the interview started off, it seemed to be going very well. Kevin told the hiring manager all about what he studied in college, as well as about a couple of part-time jobs he’d had and what he’d learned from them that he could bring to the job. His confidence was going up with each question that he answered succinctly and professionally. But then the interviewer asked, “What are your weaknesses?”
He thought about what Mom always taught him – “Just be honest.”
“Well, I guess you could say that sometimes I’m a little lazy and procrastinate a little bit. I mean, I get stuff done, but maybe not as fast as other people might,” he told the manager.
The manager sat there stunned. After he’d regained his composure, he said, “Well thanks for coming in today, Kevin. We’ll be in touch.”
Kevin went home to talk to his mom.
“I think it went well, Mom. I think I’m going to get the job. I did exactly what you told me to do – I was honest.”
After a couple of days went by, then a couple of weeks, Kevin realized, with disappointment, that he wasn’t going to get the job and he’d have to start looking for jobs at companies he wasn’t as interested in working for.
“I don’t understand, Mom, he said, “I did everything you said I should do. I was completely honest about everything.”
“Well, tell me what they asked and how you answered their questions, Kevin,” Amanda said.
Kevin walked her through the interview, and she nodded all the way through as he relayed the details. That is until he got to the question about his weaknesses.
“Oh no,” Amanda thought, imagining what he was about to tell her.
“I told them sometimes I can be a little lazy and procrastinate so I don’t get things done as fast as other people.”
“Oh no,” Amanda said out loud, “Why on Earth would you tell them that?”
“Because you told me to always be honest Mom. I was just being honest,” he replied.
As Amanda recalled how Kevin lost his best friend in first grade for telling on him for cheating, and how he didn’t even make it out on a first date with the girl of his dreams because he overshared what he really thought about her hair, and now how he didn’t get the job he really wanted because he told the absolute truth, she realized she had been remiss in her efforts to teach Kevin everything.
Amanda immediately began coaching Kevin on the value of learning how to tell ‘little white lies’ to get through life more successfully. It took him several years to get on board with it, but eventually, he was able to land the job of his dreams, where he met a beautiful young woman, his boss’ daughter, who was to become his wife.
Their wedding day came, and during the reception, Kevin held up his champagne flute to make a special toast to his mother, saying, “Thanks to my mother for raising me and teaching me everything I ever needed to know, especially how to lie to get what you want in life because now I have everything I want!”
Everyone at the reception was stunned into silence. Then Kevin’s bride, her parents, and the bridesmaids were all shouting in unison at Kevin. Kevin’s new Mother-in-Law was trying to hold back his Father-in-Law from throwing a punch to his face. And the groomsmen circled together into a huddle, trying not to show how hard they were trying to contain their laughter.
Kevin looked bewildered, and said, “What? It’s the truth. You’re mad because I lied to get the job and my wife? But now you don’t want to hear the truth that I had to lie to everyone to accomplish it? So, which is more important – lying or telling the truth?”
Amanda realized she’d been remiss in teaching her son one of the most important life lessons – tactfulness. Perhaps she hadn’t been the best teacher for Kevin after all. She quickly snuck out of the wedding reception through the side gate and walked quickly to her car before she could be stopped by any of the wedding guests.
She sat in her car holding her head in her hands, trying to decide which emotion was worse – her embarrassment at what Kevin had said or her anger at herself for messing up so badly. What she’d taught Kevin at the age of four, no matter how hard she tried, could never be undone. All her training about the appropriate use of white lies never sat well with him and eventually he had to come clean. She had raised her boy into a man who simply could not lie.