One day while sitting on an old sofa in my sparsely furnished apartment, I dropped something between the cushion and the back. In an attempt to find it, I squeezed my hand into a tight space and pulled out a beautiful diamond ring. I had struck it rich!
At that time I didn't put much stock in honesty. The end often justified the means, and with this line of thinking, the ring now belonged to me. I didn't have any jewelry and was delighted to be the owner of such a lovely item. I wore it for a number of months and didn't think about it as belonging to anyone else.
One day the owner of the apartment came by to visit. As we talked, she suddenly noticed the lovely ring on my hand. She asked me where I had gotten it. I lied and said that I'd had it for many years and that it was a gift from my dad. "Oh," she said with a disappointed look on her face, "I lost one just like it years ago, and I have missed it so much because it was a gift from a special friend."
As I sat there in a battle with my conscience, I'm grateful to say that although I was extremely embarrassed, I meekly admitted that I had lied. As I removed the ring from my finger and handed it to her, I told her that I'd found it in the sofa and that she was the rightful owner. She threw her arms around me and cried with gratitude both for having the ring back and for the fact that I had told her the truth.
Something happened to me that moment. It stands out as a turning point in my life.
At times my family had been quite poor. At one point we lived in an affluent community, but I couldn't afford the clothes and things my friends had. I felt inferior, and I often envied their affluence. One year I stole all the Christmas presents I gave my family and friends. I made excuses to my parents about where the money came from. Also, whenever the opportunity arose, I took candy from a store that was next to our house. There were other incidents of dishonesty for which I was never caught. I justified my actions with the thought that if I was smart enough to take it without getting caught, then I could do so and they had so much already they wouldn't miss it.
When I looked into the face of the rightful owner of the ring, I felt a responsibility to her and a desire to be honest that I had often ignored. As I sat there, I realized that the ring was of such value to her because of what it represented. It stood for love, friendship, warmth, and fulfillment. If I kept it, it would represent the opposite to me. It would stand for dishonesty, unkindness, selfishness, and lack.
In hindsight, I see that I was really choosing to honor qualities that were Godlike. Even though I would no longer have the ring, I would have what it represented by giving it back, and that would be lasting. It would shine much brighter than a ring that didn't belong to me ever could.
Since that time I have grown in my understanding of the honesty I expressed that day. Tax time, mistakes made during purchases, and other circumstances give us opportunities to draw on the source of honesty, on God Himself, to prove that our natures are abundantly supplied by His love. God, who is the source of all good, who is Love itself, supplies each of us with all that is needed, both to feel loved and with which to love.
Turning to God for our needs gives us strength and joy. We feel legitimate in the celebration of our lives. In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, "Honesty is spiritual power. Dishonesty is human weakness, which forfeits divine help" (pg. 453).
Expressing Godlike qualities feels wonderful. It not only feels good to do this, but it's an investment in our nature, which pays big dividends in a beautiful sense of God's abundance without limits.
I've had a diamond ring now for many years. I love it for what it means to me. But I will always be grateful for the lesson learned from the one I didn't keep.