Originally published in the Christian Science Sentinel
I found out something important about honesty early in life. On a lazy summer day when I was about 10 years old, a friend and I wandered into the neighborhood drugstore to pick up something for her mom. While the druggist was in the back of the store, my friend began to examine the contents of the candy rack. Suddenly, she grabbed a package of Lifesavers and stuck them in her pocket. I was terrified we would be found out, but when the druggist returned, he sent us off with a friendly wave.
At a safe distance away, my friend took the candy out of her pocket, peeled the wrapper, and handed me a piece. With only a slight hesitation, I popped it in my mouth. I enjoyed the candy, but I knew that what she had done was wrong. I felt guilty. I was beginning to understand that "sharing the spoils" with my friend made me dishonest, too. The memory of that event burned into my consciousness so powerfully that I vowed never to steal, nor be a part of a "heist," again.
While it may be common for kids to make the kind of mistake my friend and I made, the tendency to deceive appears pretty frequently in adults, too. Tuning in to current news reports, you see quite a number of lapses of integrity. One would hope that the level of honesty would be "kicked up a notch" in the consciousness of leaders. The worlds of corporations, politics, law, journalism, need honesty and integrity.
With the media's constant stories of deceits and crimes committed by community, state, and national leaders, people may feel there's nothing they can do. But I once had an experience that convinced me that each of us can make a difference right where we are.
My husband and I were shopping in a crowded store, waiting in line to buy a gift. A young couple in front of us were delighting over her engagement ring. The woman turned to us to show us how beautifully it sparkled.
The wait was long, but I was enjoying this couple's obvious joy. Then the woman picked up a lipstick from the table next to us. She examined the lipstick and then dropped it into her coat pocket. Well, it wasn't Lifesavers, but the situation was pretty similar. I knew I should do something, but I didn't want to call attention to this couple or get them into trouble. I thought, "She's somebody's daughter. What if she were mine? What would I do?"
As we edged closer to the cashier, I prayed to find the right approach. I waited until the woman placed her items on the counter. I felt a motherly affection for her. When she didn't add the pocketed lipstick, I gently tapped her on the shoulder and asked, "Did you forget the lipstick?" She looked at me and asked, "What lipstick?" I said, "The one you forgot, in your pocket." She laid it on the counter. The whole episode was natural and free of drama. I don't know whether the young woman was changed by our encounter, but I was. I was moved by what was, to me, an example of spiritual power.
In her groundbreaking book on spirituality, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy wrote of the importance of honesty: "Honesty is spiritual power. Dishonesty is human weakness, which forfeits divine help" (pg. 453).
When I first read this book, I loved learning that honesty is not so much a personal possession as it is a spiritual quality that God gives His sons and daughters. It's natural. And, while honesty may often appear to lie dormant and unused, it can never really be lost, because God is Truth and is always present, firmly fixing this quality in every heart. Honesty, mercy, integrity, love - God imparts them all to everyone. They can be established in anyone's day-to-day life.
Some people may find the "divine help" that overcomes "human weakness" sooner than others, but honesty is always available. Prayer can help impel business people, judges and lawyers, politicians and reporters, parents and children, who are in trouble because of fear or greed or simple temptation, to appeal to this eternal quality and prevent problems before they are acted out.
Many times my "Lifesaver" experience has made a difference in choices I've had to make. It has become a healing, saving grace. That grace is there for everyone because each of us has a spiritual identity - as inseparable from Truth as the sunlight is from the sun.