My conscience is needling me. I have something to confess. I stole this week.
But before you report me, let me explain.
I went to [a local store, omitted to protect the innocent] to pick up a few items, one of which was a pack of Chapstick to donate to a charity drive going on at work. I retrieved the other items on my list and ambled through the “Dollar Section” on my way out. This is never a good idea for me because I often find some trinket or treasure that I seemingly cannot live without. And, alas, this happened again last week. I saw this pillow and thought it looked like me!
Colorful, happy, crafty and delightful. I had to have it. I checked the bin and noticed that it cost $3. No biggie. I still felt it was worth it. I went to check out and everything rung up just fine except the pillow. It was missing a tag. The cashier asked me where I picked it up from and when I pointed toward the dollar bin and offered to retrieve another so it could be scanned she said, “Oh, that’s okay, I’ll just manually put it in as a dollar.”
There was a decision at that moment. I knew it cost $3, not $1. I had ample time to correct this kind woman who was trying to save me a bit of time by overriding the system. I drew in a breath — Then I said nothing, let her ring it up incorrectly, and briefly considered it a $2 victory.
That was thievery number one.
I paid and exited the store into torrential rain. Being without raincoat or umbrella I ran to my car and quickly tossed my bags into the trunk. As I pushed my cart into the corral I noticed the Chapstick sitting, unpaid for, in the cart.
Thievery number two.
That Chapstick was the crux of this trip to the store! I couldn’t leave without it. I snatched my raincoat from the trunk (who do I keep it in the trunk? Does it do me any good there on normal days??) and returned to the store with my “hot Chapstick”
I reentered the store told them what had inadvertently happened and paid for the Chapstick. The clerk smiled, and thanked me for returning and being honest as she passed over my purchased lip balm.
My conscience was appeased… momentarily.
I have a phrase that I often repeat to myself when I am faced with a choice. Whether it be doing my taxes or billing at work or any sort of financial decision or test of my integrity. I say, “My integrity is worth more than that.” As in, “I could say internally that it was an accident and I didn’t mean to walk out without paying for this Chapstick, but my integrity is worth more than $3.”
But the problem was, I had stolen two things that day. Both were sins of omission, but only one was remedied at this point. In some sense I felt more guilty over the underpaid pillow because I had the chance to correct the cashier, but chose not to. Almost instantly a verse that I memorized in Sunday School in fourth grade popped into my mind. Luke 16:10 reads, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” I viewed this moment as a training exercise. I strive to be honest with much. Therefore I must be honest with little. I strive to be faithful in grand plans. Therefore, I must practice faithfulness in everyday occurrences. The phrase again returned to my head, “My integrity is worth more than a $2 discount on this pillow.” Wanting both to prove to myself that I value my integrity and wanting to enjoy the pillow without it being a constant reminder that my honesty is only worth $2 to me, I braved the rain yet again, returned and paid for the pillow.
See how much prettier it is now that it was obtained honestly?
It might seem silly and I don’t mean to pass judgment on anyone who may have had a similar situation. But my soiree with shoplifting, my flirtation with larceny, my dabbling in thievery was a true lesson for me!