It pays to come clean

Published 8:43 am Friday, November 23, 2012

After spending the first 30 years of my life as a country boy, it was a big deal when Gale and I and our two girls moved 500 miles away to central Florida. By the standards of many, the town that we moved to might have only qualified as a small city, but to us it was a major metropolis. Getting used to traffic, one-way streets and people who must surely have considered Southern hospitality a myth were considerable challenges. Added to all those things was the issue of having people living really close by; thankfully most of them were considerate, friendly and good neighbors.

Since I was going to school full-time and working full-time, I did not have a lot of time to spend making our lawn look immaculate. I took time to mow the grass when it needed it, but I did not have the luxury of spending countless hours keeping everything in a showcase condition. Our backyard was fenced in, and one of the yard problems that needed to be taken care of was some type of vegetation that had runners extending onto the chain link fence that separated our yard from the adjoining gentleman’s yard. When it became apparent that my messy fence was taking beauty away from his well tended lawn, I knew I needed to take action. Spending a lot to time removing the runners did not fit my schedule very well; I decided to take care of it chemically, so I bought weed killer and went to work spraying the fence. It was not long before those little vines were wilting down and getting ready to crumble. But then, to my horror, I made another discovery — my spraying had extended further than I expected and yellow zigzags could be seen in my neighbors grass as it started to succumb to my easy fix that had gotten out of hand!

If I had been still living in the country it might not have mattered that much about a few streaks of misplaced weed killer, but I had moved onto new turf and the man who owned the adjoining property had no connection to me or my family, and no reason to be sympathetic. My options to deal with it were limited: I could ignore it, or hide whenever I saw him coming toward my fence, or humiliate myself by telling him what happened. I chose the latter, and to my great relief he assured me that it was no problem. I have always guessed if I had not owned up to my mistake that he would likely have had a much harsher attitude about what I did.

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A lot of relationships could be spared from damage and a lot of heartache could be avoided if people would be more willing to confess their shortcomings and take responsibility for their destructive words and actions. Christ taught this principle in Matthew 5:23-24: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (New International Version).

The shortcomings against others that we do not own up to and deal with not only jeopardize human relationships, but they become stumbling blocks and hindrances to our spiritual lives as well. It ultimately pays to come clean with both God and man, and that sometimes requires us to take the bold step of owning up to our blunders and failures.