“What does it mean, to tell the truth?”
A child asked me that. As usual, they are my greatest teachers. “What do you think?” I returned the question, wondering at the child’s working hypothesis (and chickening out just a little bit–let the munchkin do the hard work …).
I got the look I deserved, and: “To not be a liar.”
“Hmm,” I non-committed. “What does it mean to lie?”
“To say you didn’t do it but you did?” he tried. “And to be mean.”
I raised an eyebrow. This kid was good at reading body language.
“Yeah, because someone else get in trouble.”
“Oh, I can see how that would not be very nice, to get someone else in trouble. Anything else lying means?”
A moment of scrunched forehead. “Is it still lying even if you pretend you didn’t do it but you don’t say?”
“What do you think?”
A sage nod. A sigh. “Yeah, it still mean. Someone still get in trouble, right? Because the teacher think its them.”
“So…” I prompted (he was doing so well on his own, I felt like my words would be interfering).
“So … telling the truth is being not mean?” he ventured. His little face was quite serious, thinking this through.
“But truth is hard,” he sighed, a six-year-old summing up centuries of philosophy. “It can get you in trouble. … you know, if you did bad things.”
He paused. “But … then you can say sorry, maybe. Maybe you won’t be in trouble. … if you’re lucky.”
“Yeah, being honest can help.”
Big brown eyes hung onto mine. “What do you think is worser, being mean or being in trouble?”
Tough one. I’m returning it to him. “What do you think?”
“Being mean.” He did not hesitate. “Being mean is worser.”
“How come?” I pushed. Curious. Enchanted by this child.
“Oh … because … being mean makes me more in trouble,” he stated. Pointed to his midriff. “With my heart.”
Old soul, big spirit, that.