Hope your conscience is greater than your cleverness.
When I was about eight or nine years old I tried tricking my mom into giving me money I could spend at Thornbury’s Toys.
I told her I was curious about how checks worked and wondered if she could teach me. My mom was impressed with my curiosity and desire to learn and that I took the initiative to ask. She happily pulled out her check book and started going over each line and how it needed to be filled in.
“So, for example, let’s say it is going to be for $10. Where would you write that?” I asked.
My mom showed me where on the check that went and wrote in the amount in numbers and then in her beautiful cursive longhand.
Next I pointed to “Pay to the order of” line and suggested, “Let’s say it’s for, I dunno, like, Thornbury’s Toys. Is that where you’d write out ‘Thornbury’s Toys’?”
“Yes! Exactly!” My mom replied, excited to see I was really paying attention and understanding this lesson….and gladly filled out that line “Thornbury’s Toys.”
I asked her to please finish filling it out and asked if I could keep the check to study and memorize. She proudly signed her name, wrote “Toys’ in the “For” line and handed over my homework assignment for me to “study,” as I requested.
Well, you see where this is going. I proudly took the check and went back to my bedroom to try to now figure out how I could get a ride to Thornbury’s—and not from my mom.
But something awful and unexpected happened. Guilt slowly crept in. A loyalty to my mother and to honesty began to displace the excitement I was feeling about the possibility of buying a new toy. And the sense of cleverness started to feel heavy and burdensome like something I should be more ashamed about than proud of.
In fact, the feelings were so horrible, without understanding what was happening to me, I immediately tore the check into tiny little pieces and threw the pieces away behind my clothes drawer–where no one would find it.
Several years later when we moved to a new house—and the clothes drawer was being moved–I was standing there to pick up those little shreds of paper, which signified the still alive little shreds of guilt. I hadn’t forgotten them…or the lesson I had learned.