No, this is not a story of someone else lying to me and apologizing to me.
It’s a story of me lying to someone, and seeking forgiveness after being pricked by my consciousness, or perhaps nudged by the Holy Spirit.
Some weeks ago I dropped an enquiry email to one of the EdTech companies. They have something similar to what I want to build, so in a way, they are my competitor.
A few days later, an enthusiastic and professional staff of theirs – let’s call her G – called back. When she called, I was kind of busy, so I instinctively decided to tell a lie about who I am. I portrayed myself as a parent who is doing online course shopping for my son.
Some call this mystery shopping. Some call this role playing. Some people think that this is perfectly legitimate in business.
But after I put down the phone, I felt bad. G very nicely arranged to do a follow up with me. The more I think about it, the more uneasily I felt. I knew that I have lied to her.
I considered blocking her number and ending the whole interaction there and then. But something in me told me to apologize.
It is not about how G will feel. At most she will feel that I am one of those fickle-minded customers, who just change their minds after getting some initial information.
No, it is something else.
it is about how I define honesty. Even if no one is hurt, and no one will know about it, honesty must be kept, if I see myself as an honest person.
It’s about obeying God’s instruction.
There are six things that the LORD strongly dislikes, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.(Proverbs 6:16–19)
So, I called G. After a few attempts, we connected on the phone. G was enthusiastic as usual.
“Hi Jason, you left me a message, how can I help?”
“Hi G, thanks for getting back…. there is something I need to apologize about…”
“Hmm? What is it?”
“You know, that day you called me, and I told you that my son is in Sec 1…. Actually I told a lie to you, and I am calling to apologize for that.”
“Err…. it’s okay, don’t worry about it.”
“No no, I’m really sorry, lying is never okay.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it, it’s really okay.”
“Thanks G. Actually, I am an online tutor, and I called to understand more about what your company does. I am very curious…”
We went on to talk a bit more. G was gracious enough to share with me about how her company worked with tutors like me. She asked about what I might need, and suggested potential areas of collaboration.
I felt relieved. I felt I have done the right thing.
I am sharing this, not because I want to boast about how honest I am. God knows I tell half-truths and blatant lies now and then.
I am sharing this, because this time I have come face to face with a radical standard of honesty set by God. I am grateful that, at least for this time, I am able to respect that standard, and do something to honor that.
What would you do to be honest, when trying to get information about your competitor?