Photo by Anna Nekrashevich on

Years ago I took a job that was an hour and 15 minute commute each way from my home.

I did the math and figured out how much that daily commute was going to cost me, including wear and tear on the car (no public transportation), gas, tires, oil changes, etc.

I knew exactly how much I’d need to be paid in order to break even with what I could earn working closer to home. When my employer balked at the amount I said I’d need to make in order to break even, we looked for other solutions. It was agreed when I took the job that I’d work 4 days/week in the office and one day/week from home. That saved me 20% on my commuting costs, which – over time – were considerable.

Unbeknownst to my boss, in order to have such an arrangement I was supposed to sign a teleworking agreement. So after I’d been doing that for about a year already, someone called to my attention that I didn’t have a teleworking agreement on file. They helpfully sent me a copy of it and said, “Just sign here and send it back to HR.”

Instead of just signing it and sending it back, I read it first.

There were lots things in it that gave me pause, but there was one thing I absolutely could not agree to. I had to promise that there would be no “children or animals” in the same room with me while I was working.

The “no children” thing didn’t apply. But it was the “no animals” clause I could not bring myself to agree to. I had, at the time, an 18 year old dog who had lain with her head on my foot whenever I was sitting at the computer since she was an 8-week old puppy. There was no way I was going to kick this faithful canine senior citizen out of the room while I sat at the computer at that point in her life.

I told my employer I couldn’t agree to that and asked if I could cross out that one little part. The answer was No. They also told me to, “Just sign it. Nobody is going to check up on you. Nobody will ever know whether you’re doing that or not.”

I couldn’t do that either. It is just not in my DNA to make a promise knowing full well that I don’t intend to keep it. Not to anyone, and not for any reason. Of course I’m not claiming that I’ve always kept every single promise I’ve ever made, because I haven’t. But I’ve always intended to keep my promises at the time that I made them – even those times when I’ve been unsuccessful at doing so.

I’ve told this story about that teleworking agreement many times, and the almost universal response – including from my employer’s HR department – was that I was being a little ridiculous, and should have just signed it. Nobody would ever have known, or cared.

The thing is: I knew. And I cared. And God knows.

Making promises I have no intention of keeping is like saying, “You can’t take my word for anything, because I might or might not actually mean what I say.”

That’s not how God wants us to live with one another.

Do “little white lies” that nobody will ever know about or care about matter?

I think so. But obviously a lot of people don’t.

I’ve since been told (many times) that this story says something more negative than positive about my character. I’ve been told that it shows that I’m rigid and inflexible, obsessive about rule-following, and poor at making judgement calls.

I don’t agree with that.

I’m curious what you think.

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