As I parked in front of my house at 4 a.m., I sensed that my plan to sneak out and meet up with friends camping might not be ending as I had planned. But still hopeful, I quietly entered the front door and tiptoed into the dark living room.
"Where have you been?" said my father in a slow, angry, tired voice full of disappointment in his 16-year-old daughter. "I have been sitting here for hours and want to know where you have been."
I told him the truth, but quickly learned that no amount of truth at this point could make up for the loss of trust I had incurred by not being honest in the first place. I wasn't where I was supposed to be. I sneaked behind my parents' backs. I broke a sacred trust that I knew would take a lot longer than one night of camping to build back up again.
Although a long and tedious month of strict grounding followed this event, I learned the important value of honesty that I have carried with me to this day. I've learned that when you are honest and have personal integrity, you are confident in your actions and aren't shameful. You don't have to hide things or watch what you do or say. The truth speaks for itself.
I have also learned that dishonesty always leads to broken trust. Society is full of examples of dishonest people — bankers on Wall Street, politicians, spouses, clergy, and the list could go on and on. In many circumstances, their lack of honesty is motivated by selfishness. They think only of themselves and what is to be gained and give little worry to how their actions do and will affect others, just as I did when I broke my father's trust in an instant that night. Hearts are broken, families fall apart, whole economies tumble, and faith is lost through selfish, dishonest choices that individuals make.
So as I sit on the floor playing "memory" with my 6-year-old daughter and realize she had sneaked a peek at the pieces while I was in the other room answering the phone, I see on a small level a comparison to that night nearly 20 years ago.
I ask her, "Did you peek?"
Her reply: "No."
"Are you sure?" I say.
A hesitant "yes" is her answer.
And then I try to teach the value of honesty and let her know that it is wrong to peek, but I would much rather her tell me the truth about it. She then giggles and confesses she did peek. I tell her that even if you do things that are wrong, you should at least have the integrity to be honest about it and to make things right. We move on, and she gives me a run for my money, winning the game.
We have all been dishonest at one point or another. Sometimes there are no immediate consequences. Let's face it: It is easy to be dishonest. Often nobody knows about our dishonest actions, and it appears nobody is being hurt or affected by them. We're not Bernie Madoff, right? It's easy to justify.
But in the end, we know whether we have been honest with ourselves.