The waitress set down my cup of coffee, and I poured cream into the hot, black liquid while silently reflecting on and pondering something.
“Why do people lie?” I asked my husband.
We know a couple of people who embody my Daddy’s old saying, “the truth’s not in them.” They lie about many things, big and small, consequential and inconsequential. And if you have them pinned against the wall with absolute evidence of the lies, they will lie about the lies. It’s baffling.
“Being honorable and honest is learned. It isn’t born in us. We’re taught those principles,” he said.
I shook my head and pointed out that one of these people we know was raised by honorable parents and has siblings who practice honesty, so that, I said, couldn’t be the truth.
Daddy used to say that a man who’ll lie to you will steal from you. And I have found those to be words of everlasting truth. After all, a lie and a theft both are children of dishonesty.
A few months ago, I was at a speaking engagement in Florida where dinner was being served. My purse — which is held together with one snap in the middle, leaving the sides open — was sitting on a chair. I was standing across the room having a conversation when I noticed a sudden flurry of activity around my purse. An old woman, her face hard and cracked, watched as a young woman grabbed napkins and rushed around. I hurried over.
“I’m sorry. Did I leave my purse in the wrong place?” I asked.
The young woman turned to me and said, “No, no, it’s all right. She just bumped into the chair and spilled some tea.”
The old woman turned to me, glowering.
“We weren’t trying to get into your purse!” she snapped. Her eyes narrowed. “It just spilled on the floor.”
This, I quickly discovered, wasn’t the truth. My purse contained almost an inch of tea, and it was quite a mess.
“Goodness!” I declared as I began pulling out items. “It’s filled with tea.”
The woman plopped down on a nearby chair and continued to act ugly.
“No, it is not,” she said. “I barely spilled any tea, and it did not go into your purse.”
The young woman, who could see differently, looked at me and smiled sadly. Neither of us said another word. We just cleaned it up while the old woman defiantly watched us. Remarkable. It was a simple accident. Why lie about it? Why deny how much had been spilled?
A few weeks later, Tink was at home working on a script, and I was at a beauty appointment when we both received urgent calls from a friend who was staying in Mama’s house. Our pasture sprawls across the creek from our house to Mama’s, so there are three gates, two of which are on Mama’s side of the creek.
“The horses are out!” she screamed breathlessly into the phone. “We’re chasing them now.”
Trust me — this is not a call you want to get. By God’s grace, the horses galloped up the road and crossed a major highway but never came close to danger. Tink sprang into action, while my brother-in-law, Rodney, and nephew, Rod, rode to the rescue. By the time I arrived, the wayward creatures were back safe in the pasture, though Rodney somehow cut his finger.
Bowen, a freckled-faced, red-headed 8-year-old, approached me timidly.
“Miss Ronda,” she said. “I think I left the gate open. I’m sorry.”
It was so brave. Intensely admirable. I knelt down, hugged her then looked her in the eyes.
“You are so courageous. Always tell the truth, even in times like this when it isn’t easy. That’s the mark of an honorable person, and that’s what you want to be,” I said.
The truth isn’t always pretty. Or easy. But it certainly gives respect to those who tell it.
Rich is the best-selling author of “There’s A Better Day A-Comin.’” Go to www.rondarich.com to sign up for her newsletter.