Is this really who you want to be? That was the question echoing through my head when my boss asked me to do something dishonest. And I knew the answer: No. But I felt stuck.
I work in a warehouse that receives and stores expensive items valued well into the thousands of dollars, so we have a responsibility to be careful as we’re handling these goods.
Recently, a new employee—who was still learning the ropes—was opening one of the most expensive types of items we receive and accidentally cut too far into the packaging, causing severe damage.
My manager was also out in the warehouse and saw what happened. He said that because it was such an expensive piece, we should rough it up some more to make it appear as though it was shipping damage.
As part of my job, I have to email clients to let them know if anything arrives damaged. Having to send an email about the item after my manager had further ruined it so we wouldn’t have to take the blame made my skin crawl.
I was raised to be moral and to think for myself, and as a Christian Scientist, I’ve also always appreciated the idea that God is Principle. To me, Principle means rules, order, honesty, and discipline, so to feel close to God and guided by God to do what’s right, I want to express those qualities always. But in this case, I felt like I hadn’t been able to because of my boss’s actions.
I called my dad during my lunch break, crying and feeling so confused and unsure of what to do. As we talked through the situation, Mary Baker Eddy’s poem, “ ‘Feed my sheep,’ ” came to thought, and the last verse is what stood out to me:
So, when day grows dark and cold,
Tear or triumph harms,
Lead Thy lambkins to the fold,
Take them in Thine arms;
Feed the hungry, heal the heart,
Till the morning’s beam;
White as wool, ere they depart,
Shepherd, wash them clean.
(Poems, p. 14)
I realized that sending the email had made me feel dirty. But I kept praying throughout the day, trusting that God would wash me clean and guide me to whatever I needed to do to help make things right.
Later that afternoon, I was getting a ride home from the owner of the company, and it felt right to ask him about what had happened. In the course of the conversation, he told me that because of the expense to our warehouse, it was easier just to have the original company send a replacement item.
Now my head was spinning! I know the owner and his family as moral and ethical and incredibly hardworking. But it was hard not to see them in a different light now. That night, as I struggled to figure out what to do, I prayed to see them correctly—as the expression of Principle, just as I am. I knew that seeing them this way could help bring out more of who they really are as honest and ethical and that this could help rectify any bad decisions that had been made.
The next morning, it felt like the right thing to tell my manager that I wasn’t willing to ever send a dishonest email again. He said he would respect my wishes. Later, the owner let me know that he and my manager had talked and that he understood how I felt. I appreciated that, and I continued to pray and recognize that everyone is the expression of Principle.
Later, as the owner was leaving for the day, he came out to say goodbye and also mentioned that we were taking responsibility for the damaged item. They were doing the right thing! I’ve never smiled so widely at work. The joy I felt about standing up for what was honest, even though it felt incredibly scary, was immense.
This experience reminded me of the story of Moses in the Bible, and the courage he expressed in facing the much bigger problem of a tyrant king and the assignment to lead the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. As Moses demonstrated, although running away from difficult things might seem easier or less scary, making the right decision always has the power and might of God backing every step.