Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River

By Katie East

Last week, for the first time ever, someone accused me of stealing. A stranger asked me to help her get money out of her wallet because she hasdjust gotten a manicure. Sure, the woman was a crazy, scattered-brained 60-something who was hopefully suffering from early onset dementia. Still, it was like a punch to the gut.
I knew I didn’t steal from her, but it still hurt all the same. She too would have known I didn’t steal from her if she paid attention to the three times I counted her change back to her face. It didn’t matter though, once the allegation was made, that horrible feeling set in. Apparently, being wrongfully accused of stealing feels the same as being stolen from.
Luckily, I’ve only felt that feeling a few times in my life. You feel used, vulnerable, and it makes you question how you can ever trust again. The only other time I’ve experienced that feeling is when I found out a significant other cheated on me.
If you’ve been there before, then you know the feeling too: that wave of nausea hits and your vision starts to close in. It’s a universal feeling almost anyone can understand. So why do people still cheat and steal if they know how bad it feels?
Being ethical isn’t always easy. There’s not some simple list of how to act that everyone can abide by. Ok, besides the Ten Commandments, morality isn’t always black and white.
Lying, cheating and stealing are wrong; that we can all agree on. That doesn’t stop most people from still committing those sins from time to time or even on a daily basis. Everyone tells a white lie now and then.
So when is a lie a sin, and when is it just a cushion to the blow of the truth? I know my opinion varies greatly than most of my friends and family. Apparently not everyone appreciates “real talk” at every casual social event.
My philosophy is to only tell a lie when the truth will hurt more people than the lie. This isn’t a perfect absolute rule or any consistent adulterer could use it as well. For white lies, though, I find it’s a good deciding factor.
The best example of this is when my sister or a friend ask if what she’s wearing looks good. If we’ve already left the house the answer is always yes. What’s the point of telling the truth now? It will just hurt her feelings, lower her self-esteem and possibly ruin the night.
If we’re still getting ready and a friend doesn’t look her best, I try to constructively critique the outfit and tell her to change when she asks. I’ve been on the other end of that situation though. One night a friend decided to lie and tell me I looked good before we went out.
The night ended with several angry LSU tailgaters yelling about how ridiculous my visible bra and 80’s style cutup shirt looked. When my friends later admitted they were just “sparing my feelings” earlier in the night, I was livid. It was too late for the truth then; my DIY off-the-shoulder shirt had gotten loose and was falling beneath my boobs.
At least we can all agree stealing is wrong, right? It seems like a universal truth, but what about Robin Hood or Aladdin? If stealing weren’t occasionally tolerable then I would never have fallen in love with that bad boy Newsie Jack Kelly.
I stole something once. I was pressured into it when I was in middle school as some sort of an initiation process. FYI, 12-year-old girls can be as intimidating as any other gang leader. My youth was basically like the movie Thirteen but with minimal face punching.
My mark was a BFF heart necklace my friend picked out. I begged her to just let me pay for ours but she was insistent I steal them for us. Apparently, we were to be bonded in our delinquency. I’ll never forget that horrible nauseous feeling when I pocketed the hideous metal and pink trinket. That’s a feeling I’ve avoided all my life since.
The human response to lying, cheating and stealing is usually the same for most people. Next time you think of committing one of these don’t rationalize your behavior or avoid thinking of whom it will affect. Think of that bile-inducing feeling in your gut when it happens to you and take the high road.

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