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Every day, we are bombarded by tales of scurrilous dishonesty.  From BP to Blogovitch, from swinging sports-stars to pedophilic priests, it’s easy to conclude that, as I wrote in a recent post, everybody fibs.

But the steady pile up of lies and the lying liars who tell them has started to get to me, like poison slowly dripping into my soul.  If it’s hard for me, a cynical and jaded adult, to stomach, what must this steady reporting of dishonesty be doing to our children and their perception of adult life?

As an antidote, I started making a mental list of stunning examples of honesty.  It’s a short list.

To begin with, there was the time in 1987 when Chris and I were driving with our friend Lindsay down the coast of California. 

We were all talking and laughing, wrapped up in conversation and gorgeous scenery.  At the wheel, Lindsay was going too fast in her fun red car.  (OK, it was a BMW. Catnip to cops). Sirens.  She pulled over.  When the trooper appeared at her window, he said apologetically, “I tried to warn you before doing this,” and she said “Oh thank you, I did notice you putting on your hat and flashing your lights, but it didn’t sink in. I wasn’t paying attention.  I completely deserve a ticket, I was definitely breaking the speed limit.”  A big believer in consequences, she immediately accepted the well-known and sign-posted result of breaking the law: a speeding ticket.

I bet that particular CHIPs trooper remembers that moment as well.  I would guess that a huge majority of speeders pulled over for their transgression come up with excuses and lies.  Surely, Lindsay stands out as a stunning exception to the rule.

From my own life, one example springs to mind – because at this particular point in time, it was so painfully tempting to be dishonest.

Ian was a baby, the PR business Chris and I had started was barely off the ground, and our income was pitifully low.  Along with a few small projects, we had one big contract that year, for $10K, promoting a hospital’s team triathlon.  The check for $10K arrived on cue.  And then a few months later, another check for $10K arrived.  It was clearly a bookkeeping error by the hospital.  That money would have made all the difference in the world to us back then. Heck, even today, it’s still a big number.

We talked for about 30 seconds about whether or not the hospital would ever catch its mistake, whether or not we were legally obligated to return the money (no but yes, we decided), and we sent it back immediately, before the temptation began growing tentacles.

The next year, same client, same project, same fee – and same double-payment.  Again, our income was tiny, and again we sent the money back.  If life were fair, this hospital would be our Client For Life, but alas, life is unfair. In short order, we lost the client – despite having passed their inadvertent Honesty Test.

My mother was so scrupulously honest that if she mailed a package to someone with a letter inside, she put a stamp on the box to cover the letter, as well as postage for the package weight.  She firmly believed that is what the USPS expected its customers to do. 

She and my dad once found a small-denomination bill blowing down the street in a New Zealand town.  They took it to the police station hoping to find a lost-and-found department.  The officer merely smiled and told them to keep it.  They put it in a church collection box “because it wasn’t ours.” 

I’ve seen my dad flag down a waitress to point out a mistake in the check – a mistake in his favor – and I’ve seen her surprise at anyone doing such a thing.

So in the midst of all the disasters befalling our economy and our environment, as everyone lies to save their hide and their company, I ask of you:  please share a story of a time when you were really honest, even though it was really, really hard.

If you’re like me, you need to be reminded that honesty and truthfulness are not only possible, but devoutly to be desired.

Please add to my pitifully short list!
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