We all know that the honesty of children can be hilarious but also disconcerting. My eldest son told me last summer that I was neither skinny nor fat, but right in the middle — rather humbling but also amusing (read about it here). As a general rule you need to be quite certain you want the brutal truth before seeking the opinion of a child.
I had something of a close call recently with my five-year-old, Sam. He was actually hugging me and kissing me, which by God’s abundant and inexplicable grace is quite a habit of his. But then he took a great big sniff of me and said, “You smell like..,” and I’ll tell you it felt like a petrifyingly long time before he finished. I saw my life flash before me! But it was all for naught, because he said, “You smell like the beach.” Oh it felt wonderful to exhale. The beach. Yes! Sunscreen, I was wearing sunscreen. Oh, what blessed relief to smell like sunscreen.
But if a person never speaks the truth to us — that hard, unfiltered truth of a child — we can’t really trust a word they say. Interestingly, when the Bible talks about “speaking the truth in love,” it is couched in a discussion of how we grow to be more Christlike, how this is in part how we mature beyond Christian infancy (Ephesians 4:11-16). We need truth tellers to grow. Do you have some in your life? Are they more than four feet tall? Are they willing to tell you the truth, not about how you actually smell, but how you actually are? And are they willing to do it because they love you and want the best for you? It’s a hard thing, but necessary. I want to be a truth teller and even more so a truth receiver. Don’t you?