“Julia, why are you crying?” Miss Deer, my third-grade teacher, asked.
I stood at her desk, tears pouring down my face. No one had hit me, no one had stolen my things, and no one had died. I felt the stares of my classmates on my back as I looked through watery eyes at my teacher. With an aching heart, I confessed.
About half an hour earlier, I’d walked into my classroom. It was before school started, and the other kids were talking and laughing at their seats. Light streamed in from the towering window behind my teacher’s desk.
The clocked ticked closer to 7:45 and the daily announcements. The tv perched above the whiteboard flickered to life as the fifth graders who read the announcements came on the screen. Just like every day before it, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance, learned what was for lunch, and listened as they read the school news.
After they signed off, we still had some time before Miss Deer began class. I reached into my desk to prepare for our lesson, grabbing my glitter notebook, my reading book and my pencil.
I looked down at my supplies. Something was wrong. A wave of panic flowed through me. What was I going to do? My pencil. The tip! It was broken.
My heart thumped in my chest as I reviewed the situation. Miss Deer’s rule was that pencils had to be sharpened before announcements. I didn’t have my own pencil sharpener, and if I crossed the classroom to the wall-mounted one, I’d surely get in trouble. I couldn’t blatantly disobey like that.
Steeling my nerves, I chose my course and stood up from my desk. I approached Miss Deer slowly, with my pencil clutched close to my heart. My voice shook as I asked if I could use the pencil sharpener. Miss Deer frowned. It was against the rules. She knew it. I knew it. My heart beat harder as she opened her mouth.
“Didn’t you sharpen them before announcements?”
The lie burst from my lips, and I burst into tears. At no outside prompt, tears streamed down my face. My eyes grew red and puffy, and my nose started to run. Why was I crying? Because I lied.
Trying to pull one over on Miss Deer, one of the sweetest people I knew, was too much. I thought I could manipulate the situation, pull innocence off with ease, and get my pencils sharpened with no one knowing about my deception. But I couldn’t. My 8-year-old body couldn’t handle the emotional torment that came from one little white lie.
With alarm and confusion, Miss Deer asked why I was crying, and I immediately confessed. In between huffing breaths, I admitted that I lied about the pencil. She nodded and turned to the phone on her desk. I watched helplessly. A telephone had never looked so intimidating. She dialed our number and started speaking to my father. After a moment, she handed me the receiver.
It felt like reaching for a live grenade. I put it to my ear.
Dad asked me the same questions as Miss Deer. His voice was calm and comforting, just the opposite of what I’d expected.
After talking with Dad, I returned the phone and stared at the ground in humiliation.
My face grew redder with the silence between us. I was still trembling and reached up to wipe my nose on the sleeve of my Scooby Doo sweatshirt. With a sigh, Miss Deer delivered shocking news. My head jerked up, disbelief in my eyes.
“Go wash your face,” she said. “You’re our student of the month, and you’re getting your picture taken.”
That incident in my third-grade classroom taught me a precious lesson about honesty: Always tell the truth.
Because I confessed, my dad and teacher were merciful. I had already been selected as student of the month, and because of my honesty, the privilege wasn’t revoked; because of my honesty, my father only hugged me when I got home. It’s against God’s commandments to lie. Nothing good comes from it, and I never should have considered doing it.
Learning this lesson was worth shedding a few tears.