Comments 6

Character Hurts

Those times I have painfully live the lesson I just taught the children

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

From A Psalm of Life

by H. W. Longfellow

I had a great Saturday planned.  I had been looking forward to it for weeks.  My husband would be working all day, but the children and I had a full schedule of enjoyable weekend activities.  It was the final day of the Farmer’s Market. The Native American Festival promised crafts, costumes, and culture.  I even had saved a little money to take the children out to eat.  It would be a memorable and educational day.

I walked down the stairs at the hour of departure, expecting to find four children dressed and ready to rush out the door.  Instead, chores were undone and faces were cross.  I heaved a sigh, reminding the four that work comes before play.  As they hastily cleaned up their messes I spied pages under the kitchen table.  Bending over to pick them up, I found the remains of one of our “early reader” books, completely torn apart.

When I inquired what happened, it became apparent that half of the children were just as surprised as I was to find the book in such a state.  The other two, however, became involved in a contest of finger-pointing, accusation, and shouting that quickly made clear exactly what had happened to the book.

After silencing the criminals, I calmly pointed out the laws broken in this case.

~ Parents are not honored if their property is destroyed rather than cared for (fifth commandment).

~ The sixth commandment “teaches us to avoid anger and injury to others” according to their catechism.

~ When we break something and do not replace it, we commit theft and break the eighth commandment.

~ Blaming is bearing false witness, the ninth commandment.

~ Refusal to share (the root of the argument of the book, which ended in the book being torn asunder) demonstrates covetousness – a violation of the tenth commandment.

By the time I had simply run down this list calmly and quietly, the two guilty parties were sobbing freely and begging forgiveness of me and each other.  They pledged to buy a new book (very difficult to do on a quarter-a-week allowance) and to guard against such happenings again.  It was a somber group that loaded up into the van and headed out for the day’s festivities.

The sun came out for us as we chose our fruit at the Farmer’s Market and said goodbye to our weekly friends.  We cheerfully jumped back into my trusty van for the long drive to the Native American festival, full of anticipation for a fun day, when I backed into the car beside me.

Four pairs of eyes widely turned directly upon me and the van became silent as all waited to see what Mommy would do now.

First, I sobbed.

Then, I called their Daddy to tell him what I had done.

Next, we waited for the owner to return.  I could leave a note, but I could not think what to say, and I kept crying on the piece of paper my son handed me.

Finally, a couple walked up purposefully to the car and jumped in.  I walked up to the driver, and one of my sons jumped out to accompany me as I confessed my fault.

Teaching character hurts.

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o’erhead !


  1. Oh, Lea Ann…I don’t know whether to say I am sorry or applaud you for being able to use every teachable moment, even the personally humiliating ones. Praise God that through our own failures, He provides opportunities for us to learn humility and to teach our children that we ALL need the grace of God. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Sounds like many valuable teachable moments that day. I admire your calmness to remember to teach at a time when yelling and screaming might easliy be our first reaction. Yay Mom!


  3. I have to concur with the two ladies above me. I really admire the ability to remain calm. I always considered myself a calm person until I had a son on the autism spectrum, and when he is stimmingly humming or buzzing instead of listening to me, it drives me crazy! Thank you for this example. I am going to try to keep it in the forefront of my mind. Hoping this coming weekend is a better one for you!


  4. What’s the rest of the story? I hope it ended well.
    I was at McDonald’s this spring and our big SUV’s door hit the car next to us in the parking lot. It made a small dent into a car that already had plenty of dents on it. For a second, I was tempted to just walk away fast. But little eyes were watching and I left a note with shaking hands. The owner of the car called later that day amazed that I had ‘fessed up— and freely forgave. It became a wonderful moment in the day!
    I had to laugh at all the broken commandments over the ripped up book. If I stopped to think, I’m sure I also break them 100’s of times a day, if not more. I’m so thankful we serve a merciful God who also freely forgives!
    Yes, I have days just like that one. I’m so glad to have a friend like you to encourage me through them.
    Now I’m off to make dinner. Have a blessed evening!


    • The rest of the story was painful … the husband thanked me for telling him what I had done, but the wife was very upset and angrily wrote every letter of my insurance information down. I got back into my van and watched them drive away in tears, repeating over and over to myself “I’m sure I did the right thing.” I found out they called my insurance to report the incident 20 minutes later.

      My husband called me back right away to tell me to quit crying; that was what we had insurance for. And I realized then that I couldn’t let it spoil the rest of our day. SO, I drove CAREFULLY to the festival. We did have a great Saturday together.

      On the way, we passed Half Price Books. I heard a meek voice from the back of the van pipe up, “Mommy, can I stop and see if they have the ‘Little Bear’ book?” We found it not only in stock, but less than $2! The criminals DID receive mercy!

      I spoke with my insurance later that evening, then again gave my recorded statement Sunday. I was assured that since David had insured me so well, I had no out-of-pocket expense. Plenty of mercy all around.

      The insurance adjusters kept laughing at the fact that ….
      1)I stayed in my van to talk to the other couple when I had only scratched their car; and
      2) I still cried when I told them the story; and
      3) the entire episode happened after lecturing my own children on taking responsibility.

      They both told me they never get to hear such “great stories as this one.” Glad I could amuse them.

      And now you know … “the rest of the story.”


  5. I always catch myself doing things I wouldn’t when I have my children with me (like running back into the store to pay for something that was forgotten underneath the grocery cart). Oh how I wish I could remember that my Heavenly Father is ALWAYS watching!!


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