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The Truth, the Whole Truth . . .

Breaking promises and telling the truth

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To consider the effect that breaking promises and not telling the truth can have on others.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need to be familiar with Aesop’s fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, so that you can retell it to the children. Many versions of the story are available, but a concise one (to which you’ll need to add the word ‘promise’) is available at:

  • You will also need a blank sheet of paper.


  1. Begin by telling the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, emphasizing that each time the boy says there is a wolf, he promises that he is telling the truth. You may wish to ask for volunteers to act out the various parts: the boy, the wolf, the villagers who come running to help when the boy calls the first two times and the old man who comforts him at the end.

  2. Point out that this story is about a boy who was trusted by the villagers at first, but who soon got into difficulty when people realized that they could not trust him.

  3. Ask the children if they have ever made a promise that they couldn’t keep, or had a promise made to them that wasn’t kept.

    Ask them how it made them feel.

  4. Point out that we all want to be able to trust people to tell the truth and to keep their promises. We particularly expect our families, friends and those who care for us to tell the truth. However, we are all let down at some point and we all let other people down sometimes. We are all guilty of breaking promises.

  5. Demonstrate what happens when we break someone’s trust.

    Show the children the sheet of paper and crumple it up. Then, unfold the paper and try to take out the creases.

  6. Explain that this is similar to what happens when we break promises. We spoil something that was good. We may say sorry for our mistake, and thereby hope to smooth out the fault, but the paper is never going to be the same again. Breaking promises has consequences.

  7. A broken promise can lead to feelings like:

    - I can’t trust you
    - I am disappointed in you
    - I feel unimportant to you
    - I don’t respect you any more

  8. It is good to remember that the person who breaks a promise never usually means to hurt another. Perhaps the promise was made in a rush without really thinking about the consequences. Perhaps something came up that made it impossible for the person to carry out what they had promised. If we can tell the promise-breaker how we feel and give them a chance to apologize, this is helpful. Sometimes, though, we just have to accept that people will let us down, even those closest to us. Then, we can choose to forgive them.

Time for reflection

Remind the children that we all break promises sometimes. However, when we do, it is important to admit that we are wrong and ask for forgiveness.

Remind the children that if anyone ever hurts us, we should always tell someone we trust, no matter whether someone makes us promise not to say anything. There are some things that we should never keep secret.

Christians believe that God always keeps his promises. Some of the promises that are recorded in the Bible are:

- God will always love us
- God will never leave us
- God cares for us
- God will always be with us

Dear God,
Please help us to keep our promises.
Please help us to be people who tell the truth.
Please help us to be people whom others can trust.
Help us to forgive people who let us down.
Thank you that you keep your promises.
Thank you that you will always love us.

Publication date: May 2018   (Vol.20 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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