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The Joy Workshop: honesty

It was 9:40 AM and I was exiting the freeway on my way home, when I noticed blue and red flashing lights through the rear-view mirror.

“Pull over just past the tunnel,” he boomed over the vehicle’s built in microphone.

I knew why he was pulling me over.

“You were going 80 in a 65 zone, ma’am,” he said.

“Oh. Was I?”

My hands shook as I reached for the glove compartment to hand over my documents. This was my third encounter with the police in six months. I was more alert than usual because I was driving home from a night of underage drinking.

“As standard procedure,” he boomed, “I need to do a Breathalyzer test since you’re under 21.  Have you been drinking?”

I wasn’t sure how long alcohol stayed in ones body, and I was on the verge of taking the risk to believe that six hours of sleep drained any trace of any alcohol in my system, but instead, I decided to be honest.

“Yes, sir. I had a drink or two.”

He pulled out the gadget and propped on a plastic tube. I watched diligently as he assembled it all together. There it was—this black, chunky, bulky invention that promised my doom.  This was one mouth to mouth that did not excite me.

“Take a deep breath and blow in, ma’am.”

I filled in the cavity of my chest with all the air I could breathe in and then blew in sparingly.

“You’re not blowing in as hard as you can. Blow in harder.”

I blew in with all my might until I went light-headed.

“Zero. Good job.”

Overjoyed, I clapped my hands and leaned in for a hug. That’s just what I do when I’m very happy. He smiled to share in my joy but he pulled away kindly and began to preach to me about alcohol digestion.  However, I wasn’t pulled over for drinking suspicions—it was for speeding—so I wasn’t out of the tunnel just yet.

After some small talk, the cop let me go with a warning.  “Most people initially lie when I ask them if they had been drinking, especially if they’re not of age. Your honesty was refreshing,” he said.

Suppose I had lied and said I wasn’t drinking and the Breathalyzer still had reported zero. Luck would have been on my side, but there would have been less incentive for the cop to let me go. Even though sometimes repercussions may not be as favorable as in this situation, telling the truth can be rewarding for yourself and for others.

The stint with the cop reminded me that honesty is a virtue—a virtue which can help foster self respect and fearlessness.  It’s like the old adage, “an honest man has nothing to fear.” A great way to begin a life guided by honesty is to take a breath before you make any decision. Think about what you are willing to give up when you decide not to be honest or how much emotional stress you are willing to tolerate when you have to keep up with a lie. Being honest is seriously difficult because we feel like we have no complete protection when we’re honest, but the thing is, being honest in and of itself is the greatest protection of all.   It might even protect you from a $500 dollar speeding ticket.