I was talking with a group just the other night, and I asked what happens to a person when they tell a lie; and how are they seen by others once they are caught in a lie?

One in the group piped right up; he said “When I was a boy growing up, my dad told me that if a person tells a lie, they are then marked, even branded, as a liar”.

I said, “Wow, is that true? Whenever you tell one lie, you’re from that point on considered to be a liar?” He thought for a moment, and then said quite emphatically, “Yep, a person who lies is a liar”.

Okay, so maybe that’s an extreme, but does one lie make you a liar?

Well, what is the definition of a liar?

Mr. Webster says that a liar is “a person who tells a lie”.

But, does that mean that once a person tells a lie, then for ever more they are a liar? That’s for each person who hears the lie told to decide, but we do know this-

once you lie, once people know that you are capable of telling a lie, they will find it hard to believe your future words; and, the more that you lie, the harder it is for you to ever be believed again.

That’s a lot to think about, but this part is true –

we all must learn that we cannot allow dishonesty and untruthfulness to be in our lives – its’ consequence is perhaps the most destructive enemy you will face in your life.

Back in the early 1800’s, long before any of us were born, there was a young man named Abraham who landed his first real, steady job – he was a clerk in a general store. Now, being a clerk in a store back in those days was much different than it is today – 1) there were no computers to help keep the records straight, 2) there were no calculators to make sure the accuracy of any sales transaction (there weren’t even the old fashioned adding machines – a person had to be able to actually add and subtract ACCURATELY in their head); 3) but, most of all, there were no security cameras or ways to make sure that a clerk was doing the right thing in his job – so a person did not get a job unless they could be trusted.

Well, this young man, Abe, was quite excited about his new job and his prospects for the future.

But, one day something happened – a woman came into the store, bought some goods, laid down her money, and left. He was pleased with the sale, but later when the store had closed the young man counted the sales for the day, and discovered that the woman had paid too much for her purchase. That really bothered him, but it could easily be fixed. The next day he could send word out to her by her neighbors of the overpayment; he could even wait until she came back into the store at some future time – then give her the money.

But he still was bothered – he had her money, and he didn’t like that.

So, that night, after the store closed, Abraham walked to her house and gave the woman her change. After that, when word got around of just what the young man had done, he was then given the nickname, “Honest Abe”.

Now, you might be saying, “What was the big deal anyway; he took a few minutes before he went home that night, drove his car by her house and gave her the corrected change – why was that such a big deal?

Good question – let’s look closer at the facts of the case.

  1. Remember, there were no computers or electronic store records to catch errors, so it would be very easy for someone to get away with giving wrong change – after all, how could anyone prove it?
  2. One part not mentioned yet was the size of the “wrong change” error – it was a little over 6 cents. You say, “six cents? Six pennies? That’s nothing, I see pennies on the ground all of the time, and I don’t even bother to pick them up”. Now, remember that this was long ago, and a penny was worth more then, than it is now today, but it was still a very small amount. But doesn’t that make Abe’s effort even more honorable – it wasn’t the size of the money amount – it was the principle of the fact – he wanted to get her money back to her no matter how small that amount might be. A small amount could be easily forgotten by all, but it mattered to Abe.
  3. One other important part – the distance to the woman’s house was, get this, four miles; and, of course, Abraham had no car, not even a bicycle – they weren’t even invented yet. Four miles – when’s the last time that you walked four miles? At night? On a dark road with no street lamps?

Getting the picture now? Of course, you are.

And this young man, this young Abraham, he went on to be the 16th president of our United States – his name was Abraham Lincoln.

And just how long did this nickname, “Honest” Abe stick with him? It never left, and we still call him that today.

Oh, the power of an Honest Word!

About Jerry Stewart

I am a story teller. Since 1998, I have been telling the true stories of our nation and those Americans gone before us.  To say the least, these stories have been well received by Americans, both young and old.  So, here’s where the stories have taken me.  In 1998, I was broadcasting my stories on just one radio station in Washington State.  Today, from Texas 15 years later, these programs are now broadcast through a syndicated radio network to over 400 radio stations all across America, with literally millions of listeners.

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