COMMENTARY 779.2: The Blue Stone and the White Lie

When my daughter Abrielle was 4, she came running down the hall screaming. “I don’t want to die! I swallowed a stone!” I immediately determined that nothing was obstructing her throat, but she was still in a panic.

“It’s OK, sweetheart,” I tried to soothe her. “You’re not going to die.”

She thought I didn’t understand. “But I swallowed a stone! It was a blue one!” she emphasized, as if I should realize that was a particularly deadly one.

Apparently a babysitter, to discourage her from putting things in her mouth, had told her she could die if she swallowed the wrong things. To Aby, that included some polished stones I’d given her.

I assured her that she was in no danger, that the stone would come out in the morning when she went poo-poo.

She ran to the toilet, hollering, “I want it out now!” She began pushing so hard, it looked like a blood vessel would burst. She was frightened and desperate.

Moments like this test and refine your values. Truth and reason weren’t working. So I lied.

“I know what to do,” I declared. I got a spoonful of maple syrup and brought it back. “Here, swallow this,” I told her. “It will melt the stone.”

“Will it be gone?” she looked up in wonder.

“Absolutely.”

She swallowed it and announced triumphantly, “Daddy melted the stone! I’m not going to die!”

The emergency was over, but I hated lying to her. A few weeks later, I told her the truth, worried that she would never trust me again. Funny, she trusted me even more.

Truth is important, but trust is the ultimate treasure.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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