Failing to Say What We Mean Dangerous Habit

Article excerpt

`Are you up yet?'

`Almost.'

This exchange was a daily ritual in our household. Mother called upstairs with the same question, and I replied with the same answer. The answer was true, if "up" is interpreted as "awake," but not true if it means "out of bed." And "out of bed" was the issue.

But mother and I both knew what the point of it all was. It was to further a process which would eventually see me up, washed, dressed, fed and out the door. The process worked all throughout my school years, so successfully in fact that I was never late in my 11 years of public education.

However, the process contained a fatal flaw. It substituted the will for the deed. It enabled me to think that, as long as everything turns out fine in the end, it doesn't much matter whether all the things that are said along the way are precisely true.

That kind of habit is not easy to kick. Perhaps none of you reading this has ever been subject to the temptation to respond to questions by giving an answer or a progress report that, while not exactly true at the moment, will turn out to be immaterial when the entire project is successfully completed? But it is a temptation that comes very often to me; pressed for time, harried by deadlines, dealing with many different issues at the same time, always behind with correspondence, but also knowing how things will eventually work themselves out.

And so the other day the inevitable happened. I got caught. It is rather like being caught "kiting" a cheque; you write the cheque because you have to pay the bill, and then you rush to the bank to deposit the money before the cheque arrives. …