To Live Freely: Part Five


In my last post I started considering whether it was a viable strategy to help someone live a richer, happier life by causing them to believe a falsehood. The idea was that if we can discredit this approach, then what remains is to live a life founded on the truth.

We discussed the example of a husband concealing an affair from his wife, in order to spare her the pain of it. The conclusion was that this sets her up to do things that actively work against her, undermining her own stability in life as she extends her dependence on a tenuous marriage. A key takeaway was that this foundation of a lie leaves the wife in a reality that is increasingly detached from the truth, resulting in horrible pain when, and if, she suddenly falls back to the real world.

Today I wanted to consider a new example, though, one where the parents of an adopted child lead him to believe that he is their biological son. The issue of a painful return to reality certainly applies to this case as well, we have all heard the stories of a child who only learns in their adulthood that they were adopted, and how that revelation was a terrible shock to them.

But this particular example also brings to mind another inherent danger in setting another person on a foundation of mistruth, one that must not go overlooked.

Covering a Lie With a Lie)

What is the reason why the parents wants their child to be believe he is their biological son? In virtually every case it is genuinely meant as a kindness. They want their child to feel that he is no less than any other, that he is just as valid and real a part of their family as he possibly could be. In their hearts he is the same as a biological son, so they want him to live as if that were the case.

But why does the child need to feel that he is a biological son to feel equal to one? What harm is there if he knows that he is adopted? It is because the parents know that there are those in the world that view adopted children as lesser. They know that some people would hold that fact against him and make him feel shamed for it. They want to protect him from such unkindness.

But here is the moment where the twisting of the truth turns back to bite those who would wrest it. The parents are actually perpetuating the very stigma that they refute. There is a cycle here where parents hide the adoption from the child because the world would use it against them, but one of the chief reasons why the world thinks there is something wrong with being adopted is because it is treated so secretively by parents. If the child does uncover the fact that he is adopted at some point, what does his parents’ concealing of that fact suggest to him? It implies that his adoption really was shameful, that it was a nasty, secret thing that had to be hidden. If his origin really was just as valid any other, then why was there a need to conceal it? There is nothing that marks something as an object of shame more than trying to hide it.

I do realize that parents may not want to fight that battle against society with their own child. Let someone else challenge that stigma and pave the way for accepting all children as equal. But the fact still remains that by not challenging the problem directly, they are only making it worse. So yes, the parents were entirely well-meaning, but as I have mentioned before, well-meaning intentions do not necessarily equate to moral behavior.

If the parents really feel that there is no difference between a biological child and an adopted one, then they ought to be able to openly talk about the truth of the situation and reinforce in their child that there is no need to feel ashamed about that truth. And if parents secretly do feel that there is a difference, but they don’t want to admit to that, then once again they are trying to extract happiness and meaningfulness out of a lie. They need to consider what is real and what is true, or at least what their best understanding of it is, and then they should live in accordance with it.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 45:9-11

9 Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not:

10 And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast:

11 And there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty.

What greater evidence is there of Joseph’s forgiveness than his pure desire to take care of his brethren? I know the words I am reading are translated, but I am still struck by the tender compassion in phrases like “thou shalt be near unto me,” and “there will I nourish thee.” There is a sort of maternal concern conveyed in words like these.

But not only maternal concern, Joseph also says that he will be providing them with food and shelter, the chief responsibilities of a father. The once outcast brother will now be the foundation of life for the whole family!

And the family absolutely need Joseph to care for them like this. As Joseph reveals, there are another five years of famine remaining, enough to destroy his father’s household several times over. Yes, the brothers have repented of their prior hatred towards Joseph, but even if they hadn’t, they really wouldn’t have any choice but to put themselves under his protection! The must submit to his care or die!

Leading to Water- Give a Man a Fish

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

This, of course, is a very famous proverb. It teaches an important principle about how a person in need is benefited more by improving their faculties than by just improving their immediate situation. But while the principle is obviously true the proper execution of it remains a hotly contested subject.

Some say that giving beggars a handout makes them reliant on an unhealthy system. Others say it is hard for a beggar to care about improving their situation over time when their belly is empty today. So where is the line between teaching someone and becoming their crutch?

Well the problem with debates like these is how they seek a one-size-fits-all solution to a very nuanced problem. Good principles can be applied universally, but the execution of them will always be individual. The correct way to teach Jack to fish will be different from the correct way to teach Jane. Jane might flourish best when learning with a full belly, while Jack might need his hunger to motivate him.

It is better to help people now, even imperfectly, than to wait until you are perfect. Just use your best judgment today and then be ready to adapt your methods as needed.

Leading to Water- Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.


The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures
He restoreth my soul
He preparest a table before me
He anointest my head with oil
My cup runneth over
I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever
Psalm 23 describes what is the great desire of us all: to feel so meticulously cared for by the Lord, so provided for in all our needs. Each of us should feel that He really is our good shepherd.
But there can be barriers to receiving such opulent care. The Lord cannot be our caring shepherd if we do not elect to be His sheep. And we fail to be His sheep when we are not willing to fully rely on Him.
This might come in the form of depending on the testimony of others instead of seeking out our own. When we believe simply because our parents or pastor believed, then we make them into our shepherd instead, depending on them as an intermediary between us and God. This might also come in the form of saying we do not need anyone. We are our own shepherd, already having all the answers and perfectly capable of providing for ourselves. This mentality pushes away anyone, God included, who might have been a help to us.
Of course friends and mentors are good, and self-reliance is good, too. But each can be taken to an excess. Better to have each built on the foundation of our relationship to God and not the other way around.

Leading to Water- Luke 8:41-42, 51-55

And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, and besought him that he would come into his house:
For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he went the people thronged him.
And when he came into the house, he suffered no man to go in, save Peter, and James, and John, and the father and the mother of the maiden.
And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.
And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead.
And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise.
And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat.


There came Jairus, and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, and besought him that he would come: for he had one only daughter, and she lay a dying.
And he took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway.
There is an a lesson in this story that is essential for all parents everywhere. Jairus is already a faithful man, he was a spiritual leader in his synagogue, but when his daughter was in the most dire straits he went directly to the source for help.
Of course it is natural for us parents to want to solve our children’s every problem, to answer their every question, to be everything that they need us to be. But sooner or later there are problems that we will never be able to help them out with. The most important things in life are beyond any mortal power to resolve.
And so it is important as parents that we, like Jairus, bring the savior into the room with our child. Even if we can resolve today’s matter by ourselves, now and again we should acquaint our sons and daughters with the one who can resolve all matters. Then they will know where to go when we are unavailable or insufficient.

The Need for Refreshing- Psalm 143:8 (GNT), Lamentations 3:21-23 (NLT)

Remind me each morning of your constant love, for I put my trust in you. My prayers go up to you; show me the way I should go.

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.


Remind me each morning of your constant love
We have just discussed our need to regularly recommit ourselves to God. We often forget the feelings of the past, and thus need to establish new connections to replace those which have grown stale.
Similarly, we also need to regularly be reminded of God’s love for us. Suppose He were to one time say to us “I love you, and I will love you forever,” and then never again profess His devotion to us. Though those one-time words should theoretically suffice, they never would. A single proclamation for eternity grows hollow within us over time. That is just our nature. What we need is a constant reaffirming of just how much we mean to Him.

The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Ours is a transitory existence. We eat, but later again we hunger. We sleep, but later again we are fatigued. God professes His love, but later again we are doubtful. As a kind and patient parent, God does not despise our forgetfulness. He reminds of it us over and over, the same as we do to our own children. Each morning He is ready to tell us that He is just as committed to us as He was the day before. We feel His renewed pledge, and it rejuvenates to remake our own pledges as well.