Lying ~ The Catholic Teacher’s Companion


This is an excerpt taken from a treasure of a book published in 1924 called The Catholic Teacher’s Companion – A Book of Inspiration and Self-Help.

As we are all teachers, whether it is of our own children or a teacher in an actual school, this article is valuable.

It was originally written for teaching Sisters….

If the teacher would prevent the telling of lies, she should examine the reasons that prompt children to tell falsehoods.

One such reason is the fear of punishment. The pupil knows that he will be punished if he admits his fault, and therefore seeks to escape the punishment by telling a lie. In all such cases the teacher will gain nothing by questioning the child in a threatening way.

On the contrary, such questions will only induce the pupil to deny his fault. Hence the teacher should not ask: “Did you do this?” But the questions should rather inquire about certain circumstances: “Where did this happen to you? Where are the pieces (in case something was broken)? When was this instrument broken? How did it happen that this instrument broke?”

An ill-put question is frequently the occasion for a child’s lie. Furthermore, if the teacher has previously secured the evidence of the pupil’s guilt, she should not waste any effort in encouraging him to confess his fault. If she has no assurance of accomplishing something worthwhile by questioning the child, she should patiently await further developments. The pupil will often betray himself in other ways.

Pupils will also tell lies to obtain some advantage, perhaps a prize, or only a word of praise. If the teacher is too liberal in awarding prizes or premiums, she must carry part of the blame if the pupils use unfair means to gain these very questionable rewards.

Again, a sense of shame may also occasion some lies. The teacher should let her pupils understand that she appreciates their reticence and should content herself with a simple confession of facts.

When it is a question of sin, she should refer the pupil to submit the matter to his confessor. At times the pupils may feel a sense of shame where there is no question at all of moral guilt.

Not a few pupils are ready to tell lies to save their friends from punishment. In such cases the teacher may recognize the loyalty due to a friend, but should at the same time instruct her pupils that service rendered at the cost of a lie is mistaken loyalty and tends to destroy true friendship, which must be founded on mutual trust.

It should not be difficult to reform the pupils who tell lies in boasting of their past achievements or their present ability. The teacher should give such braggarts an opportunity for displaying their vaunted prowess. But in the event of failure she should not rejoice over their discomfiture, but may simply say: “You are still far from being able to accomplish what you set out to do. But I do not want you to lose heart. If you strive humbly and persistently enough, you may succeed in the end.”

In passing judgment on the lies told by pupils, the teacher must duly distinguish between the lies told through malice and those told through ignorance or through mistaken judgment. Lies traceable to bad will are difficult to reform, while lies told through lack of observation or through mistaken judgment, should not be judged too severely.

Modern research has demonstrated how little we can trust the statements of children. Indeed, most children need to be trained to be accurate in their statements. A helpful means to this end is the training to careful observation. Make the children realize, first of all, how poorly they do observe.

With this end in view, they may be told to write a few numbers on the blackboard, for example, 31,031; 30,131; 30,313; 33,103. Let the children look at the numbers for a minute, and then ask them to write them down from memory.

Or tell the class a story containing a few numbers together with names of places and persons, and then let the children repeat the narrative. It will be an object lesson for both teacher and scholars to note the many discrepancies.

After a few experiments of this kind, it will not be difficult to interest the children in exercises that will develop their power of observation. The teacher will stimulate their interest still more by allowing the pupils to propose such exercises to one another.

But notwithstanding all such training, the teacher will realize that she must be cautious in giving credence to the statements made by children. This is true particularly in case she is investigating reports of misconduct. Under these circumstances she must be careful in wording her questions lest her very questions suggest a lie to the child.

Nor should she fail to instruct her pupils about the vast importance of trust and confidence for the well-being of human society.

 If some teachers are themselves perhaps not above suspicion in the matter of truth-telling, their example may produce deplorable results among the young. Let the teacher inculcate by precept and practice a deep respect for truth and veracity.

Trust and confidence is one of the secrets of education as well as of government. Even children who have been caught in willful lies, should feel that they can regain their teacher’s confidence.

Father Faber remarks in his Spiritual Conferences: “There is a peculiar clearness about characters which have learned to be true after having been deceitful.” Father Schwickerath explains this trait by saying that the humiliating consciousness of having been found guilty of deceit, and the yearning desire to be trusted again, forces them to renounce everything like untruth, and to keep guard over themselves lest they fall again into the former habit.

Let us pray for the Gift of Fortitude! “The Gift of Fortitude helps us to overcome our own will. This may start with such seemingly small matters as jumping out of bed the moment we had intended to do so; with giving up smoking or candies and cookies for certain times; with keeping silence when we might have a sharp answer ready; with doing little things for others at the cost of our own comfort; and it may lead to the ultimate test–aiding us in joining the thousands of contemporary martyrs who are called to lay down their life for God. Again, a gift that is needed throughout the day!” -Maria von Trapp

Thought for today….

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