( In my city, Toronto (Canada), school teachers guide kids on themes of Character Development. I went to the Yoga In My School specialist, Donna Freeman, for some yogic insight bout them. Thank you to Donna for this monthly series.)
Personal and Universal Honesty
by Donna Freeman
Teaching children to be honest is a primary goal of their upbringing. A common childhood tendency is to stretch the truth, exaggerate, or tell little lies that often lead to bigger ones. It is essential that each child learn what truth is so that they may develop confidence, trustworthiness and integrity, and become honourable, dependable adults.
Truth can be divided into two categories: personal truth and universal truth.
Personal truth is an individual account or understanding of events. For children this most often becomes important when resolving conflict. “Tell me your version of what happened,” is a common request whenever adults intervene and need to understand the actions that have transpired to cause the hurt, anger, and tears.
Each individual experiences life differently. Even identical twins will gain different knowledge and life experience from the same life events because they are unique individuals with their own view of the world.
Empathy is developed as children begin to understanding that personal truth is relative. By seeing life through another’s viewpoint, children expand their comprehension of life and compassion for others.
In yoga, truthfulness is called Satya: deep, foundational truth regarding the world, love and purpose in life. This is more than just telling the truth.
Knowing that within oneself are all the skills and abilities needed to successfully navigate life’s journey is a core concept in yoga. These skills may still be in embryo. However, each individual has it within themselves to be happy, successful and confident. As they learn to access their inner power and beauty, develop various skills and abilities, and trust themselves, they will reach their full potential.
Satya is also harmonizing the mind, heart and actions. When individuals live with moral discipline and align their actions with their beliefs they are living honestly. However, truth should never be used to hurt or destroy, and therefore needs to be tempered with kindness (ahimsa).
Parents, teachers and others who work with and care for children can assist them in learning to be honest with other individuals, society and themselves as they teach both personal and universal truth. These are not quick lessons, taught once and easily integrated. Instead continual review and application throughout the formative years is needed.
The result, however, is worth the effort. Children who have learned these lessons become responsible adults known for their positive outlook on life, kindness to self and others, and integrity. That’s a reality worth working towards.