As a high school student I had a job and pretty much paid for anything that I wanted with the exception of the things I stole, but I’ll save that for another blog post. I bought my own car, paid my insurance and gas, my own food, and anything else I wanted to take part in. I worked at grocery stores or fast food places for my first couple of gigs like most kids my age and I made just enough money to pay the bills and get a few small wants here and there.
My cars were mostly lemons that were on their last leg when I bought them but they were paid for and they were mine so I loved them. I had a habit of rigging up decent sound systems in crappy cars and so with the windows down and the music up I could fool myself into thinking I was in a baby blue 1969 convertible mustang with white leather interior rather than the grey primer splotched hatchback ford escort that I was actually in.
One night I was driving home from a friends house and I found myself unwillingly thrust into a situation that would prove costly. It was just after midnight and I was sorting through the binder of CD’s in my lap looking for some tunes to fill the warm carolina summer air. My joyful seeking was abruptly interrupted by the sound of breaking glass and small crystals flying through the air on the inside of my car and landing all around me. I looked up from my perusing to pull the steering wheel to the left to get me back on the road that I had apparently drifted off of. Gathering my wits I slowed the car and pulled over when I realized that my passenger's side window was no longer with me but rather it was now all around me.
Now, to be clear, I didn’t exactly know what happened. All I knew was that I had been distracted by my CD’s which led to me going off the road and my window breaking but the specifics alluded me. As a 16 year old working at a fast food joint, I knew two things: 1. I couldn’t afford to fix this window and 2. My parent’s would never help me if they found out it was caused by me being irresponsible in the first place. And so I began to spin in my hand the silt that would eventually become the tangled web we weave.
I knew if I could lean on my mom’s empathy while simultaneously expressing how unsafe it was for me to not have a window, she would make dad give me a hand and so I gathered my thoughts and made my way to the gas station up the street to use the payphone. Very few kids had cell phones “back in my day.” I decided that my best course of action was to claim that I had driven by a field (which was true) and that all of the sudden my window shattered (which was also true) and that when I stopped I heard laughing a screaming and running away in the field (which was abhorrently untrue). Victim was a role I’d become accustomed to and so I knew I could pass the story off easily and hopefully win my mother’s sympathy and my dad’s wallet.
As expected it went off without a hitch! Mom was totally fooled and had already committed to helping me cover the cost. But then as the conversation wound down she gave me a directive that I didn’t expect. “Scot, you really need to file a police report. If this happened to other people they will need the information to build a case. When we get off the phone, I want you to call 911.” The problem with these instructions wasn’t that I had to call the police, it was that I had the audacity to assume that they would be just as easily swayed by my tall tale as my mother.
The officer met me at the gas station and we drove out the the scene together. I mumbled out my story as he shined his light into the field looking for some evidence of people having been there and I was shocked when he said that my story didn’t really add up. He kindly explained to me that the evidence was more consistent with me running off the road and clipping a mailbox whose post was now slightly bent and whose front door was not ajar. I assured the officer that I had been nothing but candid with him and that those so called “evidences” were merely a coincidence. Being the gracious law man that he was and recognizing the opportunity he had in front of him to help a young man change his path he gave me one more chance to tell the truth. Unfortunately I didn’t take it at which point he pulled out his citation book and started writing.
I crumbled like a house of cards. I had been caught and now my only chance of redemption was to beg and plead and explain my bad home life and hope that he felt sorry for me but all of that fell on deaf ears. He had given me a few chances, and I didn’t take them. He immediately called my parents and I assume you can guess how that went. He walked me up to the house and asked me to explain what had happen to the owners and he promised them that I would personally be coming to fix their mailbox. He cited me with reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident both of which were heavy fines. He taught me a lesson that though I haven’t always heeded I can no longer feign ignorance: Lies have consequences.
You see this whole honesty thing is first and foremost about reaping the benefits of being a person of integrity, a person who tells the truth, a truth advocate, but secondarily it is absolutely about avoiding the consequences of lying. I told many lies after this night. It would be almost 8 years before I would come to understand the power of honesty but this was the night that I realized that if I chose to lie, I deserved whatever came to me. I hope as you continue on this journey with me you can move from a place of accepting the consequences of dishonesty to avoiding them altogether. Sure, honesty is tough, but once it’s done, it’s done. Lies on the other hand have a way of building upon each other until they inevitably crush you and I promise you, you’re not as invincible as you think you are. In fact, your broken, just like me