What principles did you learn as a child? Did you find them to be helpful later in life? What things do you want to teach your children?
A young man named James had been taught by his father to tell the truth. His father taught him that if he told the truth, he would not be punished, but there would be consequences to his actions. Believing his father, James decided he would always tell the truth even when it was uncomfortable.
One day when all of his family were either outside in the yard or running errands, James went exploring in his sister’s bedroom. While going through her desk, he came across a set of permanent markers. They were bright colors and would be perfect for drawing a boat. Finding some paper, he began his creation. The blue color for the water and red color for the sun stood out much more than his crayons.
Feeling empowered with the markers, James searched for a larger drawing board. In the living room, he decided it was time to decorate one of the walls. On a cream-colored wall he chose to recreate his boat picture. The markers made a beautiful landscape. The boat was more difficult to draw, but James used some brown and some of the black. He decorated the sail with red and yellow stripes. In the sky he added a few birds and then, as a final touch, he drew a large sun in bright yellow with rays coming off in every direction.
James stepped back and took a few moments to examine his drawing. He considered it a masterpiece. Only after finishing did he wonder if his parents would like what he had done. He decided not to make a grand announcement and simply put the markers back in sister’s room.
After mowing the lawn, James’ father was first to walk through the living room. There was shouting and soon everyone was called into the house. All four kids lined up and their dad began to question them. Without any hesitation, James raised his hand and said he had drawn the picture. After a long pause, his father said he was glad James told the truth instead of lying. James was not punished, but he did get to help as a new coat of paint went on that wall.
A few years later, James and his older brother were sent over to their uncle’s house to help rake leaves. It took over an hour to clean the front and back yards. After finishing, James and his brother decided to have some fun. They took turns holding the rake handle by the end and spinning in circles.
Twirling as fast as they could, they would let go of the rake and watch it fly across the yard. On his final turn, James used all his energy to spin around. As he let go, the rake slipped out of his hands and slammed against the garage. The force of the collision broke the rake into three pieces.
James and his brother knew that they had made a mistake. They sat down together and discussed what they should do. Finally, they decided they would tell their uncle what had happened. When they went into the house, they found their uncle and their dad sitting in the living room. Gathering up his courage, James told his uncle he had broken his rake. He told him that they were fooling around and should not have been so careless.
After a long pause, James’ uncle said he appreciated his honesty and not to worry about the rake. Since he had been honest, there was no punishment for the broken rake. That experience left a strong impression on James.
During his teenage years James grew up believing that telling the truth was the correct thing to do. He later went to college and was married. He found employment with a good company and eventually went into business for himself. He was able to do all those things being honest with the people around him.
It should not come as a surprise that he was successful in his endeavors. He taught his employees never to sit on bad news. When there was bad news to be delivered it was best to get it out and over with. They could then deal with the consequences and not worry about punishment for hiding the truth.
James was the beneficiary of a father who taught him important life lessons. Perhaps if we all had someone interested in teaching us good principles, we would have less people finding themselves in trouble for doing things which are wrong. In farming and in all business, we see people who would rather lie than tell the truth to avoid punishment and the consequences of their actions.
Sadly, we see people in positions of authority who have done something wrong and rather convincingly deny their wrongdoing. They do this with such conviction even when there is evidence to the contrary. Only when they are convicted and about to be sent to jail do they sometimes tell the truth. This sends a powerful message to our youth. Their first inclination is to lie rather than be honest.
As we meet with farmers to discuss their estate and business plans, we can see the good influence honesty and other principles had have on their operations and in their family relationships. The effects are multi-generational and not only benefit the family members, but also benefit their community.
We can temporarily avoid the consequences of our actions by not being truthful, but we lose the trust and confidence of others. Being honest with others is a choice we can make, even when others have not been honest with us.
Bob Dunaway and Associates offer estate and retirement planning. Gary Johnson can be reached at 563-927-4554 or by emailing him at email@example.com.