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Donald Miller Realizes the Cost of a Lie

I lived for a time with my friend and mentor John MacMurray, where the first rule is to always tell the truth. John and I were sitting in the family room one night when he asked about my new cell phone.

"I got it free," I told him.

"How did you get it for free?" he asked.

"Well, my other one broke, so I took it in to see if they could replace it. They had this new computer system at the store and they didn't have their records. They didn't know whether mine was still under warranty. It wasn't, I knew, because it was more than a year old. The guy asked me about it, and I told him I didn't know, but it was right around a year. Just a white lie, you know. Anyway, the phone was so messed up they replaced it with a newer model. So, I got a free phone."

"Did you ever see that movie The Family Man with Nicolas Cage?" John asked. "There's this scene where Nicolas Cage walks into a store to get a cup of coffee. And Don Cheadle plays the guy working at the counter. There's a girl in line before Nicolas Cage, and she's buying something for ninety-nine cents, and she hands Cheadle a dollar. Cheadle takes nine dollars out of the till and counts it out, giving her way too much change. She sees that he is handing her way too much money, yet she picks it up and puts it in her pocket without saying a word. As she is walking out the door, Cheadle stops her to give her another chance. He asks her if there is anything else she needs. She shakes her head no and walks out."

"I see what you're getting at, John," I say.

"Let me finish," he says. "So Cheadle looks over at Nicolas Cage, and he says, 'Did you see that? She was willing to sell her character for nine dollars. Nine dollars!'"

After a little while, I spoke up. "Do you think that is what I am doing with the phone? Do you think I am selling my character?" And to be honest, I said this with a smirk.

"I do," John said. "The Bible talks about having a calloused heart. That's when sin, after a period of time, has so deceived us we no longer care whether our thoughts and actions are right or wrong. Our hearts will go there easily, and often over what looks like little things—little white lies. All I am saying to you, as your friend, is, watch for this kind of thing."

I went back to the store the next day. It cost me more than nine dollars, but I got my character back.

Reprinted from the Catalyst GroupZine Volume 2: The Culture Issue. Copyright © 2006. Used by permission of INJOY & Thomas Nelson Publishers. This article is originally adapted from To Own a Dragon © 2006 by Donald Miller and John MacMurray. Used by permission of NavPress—www.navpress.com. All rights reserved.

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