It’s almost impossible to find a child who doesn’t feel the inherent need to make sure that the “right” person is getting in trouble when an authority figure stumbles on a problem situation.
But we all know there are some kids who feel that need more intensely, more consistently, and more relentlessly than others.
I worked with one such child, and mused about the behavior that I was seeing.
I watched as he unintentionally ostracized himself from friends and siblings with his consistent tattling. I watched him and another child playing a game. The other child broke one of the rules of the game (not understanding the rule). This boy tried to explain the rule to the other child, and the other child still didn’t understand. At a loss for what to do, and trembling with rage at the injustice of the rule being broken, this boy came running to me, and angrily reported, “Mya is CHEATING!”
I had watched the whole situation… I knew that *Mya was not intentionally breaking rules to her own advantage, but that she didn’t understand the game correctly. But that did not change this little boy’s feeling that injustice had been done and that it needed to be rectified.
I mused about how this behavior is simply annoying! Children don’t tolerate it in eachother and gradually the snitch becomes the kid that nobody wants to play with.
We’ve all known “the snitch”. Maybe some of us have been “the snitch”.
And most of us have probably heard the old phrase, “no one likes a tattle-tale” (which, for the record, is a terrible way to discourage a child from tattling… even if it is true and effective.)
But for the damaging effects of tattling and the nuisance of the behavior, we lose sight of how the snitch actually shows us a picture of God.
I often am too busy finding the balance of challenging the snitch to relax and trust that not everyone’s motivations are as malevolent as he perceives, and satisfying his quest for justice in appropriate ways–too busy to recognize that his quest for justice is a beautiful, God-given instinct.
The snitch rarely tattles because he has a sinister desire to see someone else suffer in the discomfort of punishment.
The snitch tattles because he can’t abide the thought of wrong being done and justice not also being served. There is a created order, cause and effect, action and consequence balance. . . and if this is upset or out of order, it’s a terrifying thought to him. He tattles, because he needs to feel the security of knowing that the things in this world that are not right will be put right.
The snitch recognizes that the world is “not the way its supposed to be” and wants it to become that way.
God is a God of justice… the inborn desire of the snitch to see justice done is a very Godly desire! It shows his recognition of the order which God created our world to live in.
Unfortunately… (or maybe fortunately)the snitch lacks two things that God posesses. The snitch gives us a picture of God, but is NOT God. there are two fundamental things that God possesses along with this sense of justice and balance and the created order…
First.. God is all knowing. When we set ourselves up as judge of a situation, demanding justice, we are always running the risk of misjudging a situation… because we do not have that perfect knowledge. We may lack understanding of why a choice was made (which may make all the difference in the world) or we may think we saw something that wasn’t quite what it appeared.
a five year old who knew that his mom was hiding jews might think her mom had just done something terrible if the Nazi’s came to the door and her mom claimed that they were not. (in all likelihood, the situation would be carefully explained to the 5 year old–but withOUT that explaination…) without explaination of the implications of the truth, a five year old, may judge their mom to be a liar and think that an injustice has occurred.
In a similar way… we often lack the full picture of reality. God never does… He always has the full picture… He is TRULY omniscient! and for that I am grateful!
Second . . . God is full of mercy and grace. The snitch has a hard time understanding these things. But this divine Grace and Mercy is the greatest gift we could receive.
The snitch helps me to see this too… Imagine, for a moment, life with neither grace nor mercy. The snitch would be the standard. the “nuisance” of trying to appropriate justice for his every concern wouldn’t be a “nuisance”… it would be an obligation. Every little thing that is not right… every rule broken by accident, every careless word spoken in anger, every wrong turn, or mistake, or intentional hurt would bear dire consequences. There would be no getting off with a warning for driving without insurance. There would be no lessening of fines. No “re-serves” when someone didn’t know a rule. No training periods at work, no relationship restoration after careless words. . .
forgiveness doesn’t have a place in a world without mercy and grace. when you break a relationship… it would be irreparably broken.
“the wages of sin is death” This makes sense even as a logical consequence. If there is no mercy and no grace… human relationships would break down so that the human race simply wouldn’t continue! and how many actions are so egregious that the logical consequence of the action is to remove that person from the human race? Would lying be considered damaging enough to the community that a liar ought to be killed, since a liar cannot be trusted anyways?
the reality, for which I am grateful, is that I simply cannot picture a world without grace. Even the “secular” world would protest that we cannot set ourselves up as judge over such examples as I’ve just given. . . but that’s just it! with neither Grace nor Mercy we would be required to do so!
“but the gift of God is eternal life”
So today… I am grateful for the snitch, because he shows me the foundations of justice, of cause and effect, of action and consequence… the order our world was created to live in, and he reminds me of the incredible gift of God’s Omniscience, Grace and Mercy.
May we learn to live with a respect and appreciation for justice and order, and an endless gratitude for Grace and Mercy!
*”Mya” is not child’s real name