Monday, February 23, 2015
“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” — Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr.
Since I accepted Christ some thirty years ago, I have prided myself (knowing that pride is a sin) on knowing that I have always kept my word, whatever the financial cost or inconvenience to myself. My father always kept his. My father-in-law always kept his, and it has been the standard to which I have held myself for many years. It hasn’t always been easy. As a pastor and pastoral counselor, I have known many things about the members of my churches (and others) that I would rather not have known. I knew which molested their children, which were alcoholics and drug addicts, which had embezzled from their employers, which thirty-five-year-old man had left his wife and two young daughters to run off with a fifteen-year-old high school girl. Many times, knowing the ugly side of a person you have helped forces that person away from you and sometimes to attack you because you know of their weaknesses, some of which were not only repugnant but illegal as well. Still, not one word ever told to me in confidence was ever shared, even with my wife. These things will go with me to the grave, and there are many secrets that need to remain such. Many times truth telling is just a way to make yourself feel better while hurting others, sometimes permanently. Still, there was one time that I did betray a confidence as a pastor. It bothers me to this day, but I still believe I did the right thing (see quote above). A man confessed to me that he was addicted to painkillers and even told me of other parishioners who were also addicted. Then he told me the name of the doctor who supplied him and his friends and added that the doctor (whom I knew) was also addicted and sometimes operated while under the influence. I had no hard evidence, only what this man had told me, but, under the law, if I learned of potential harm to others, I was bound to do something—but what? I could have gone to the police, or complained to the state medical board, but I had no real evidence. I did know one of this doctor’s partners and this group of doctors operated a new hospital that was doing incredible good. The day I learned of this, I called the doctor I knew and told him what I had heard. I told him not to believe me, but to check this doctor’s prescription records, and if the proof was there, he had to do something or I had to both go to the police and to the medical board which would really damage the other doctors and the hospital. My friend went immediately, that night, to get the records and before morning, the doctor/addict was no longer practicing medicine. There was a small piece on the inside pages of the local paper a few days later saying that this doctor had voluntarily turned in his credentials and license and would never practice medicine again so that he could turn his attention to family issues. I never knew what ultimately happened to the doctor/addict. Years later, long away from that pastorate, I ran into the doctor to whom I had confided what I knew. We were in an airport, and he was going one way and I another. He walked up to me, shook my hand, said, “Thank you,” and walked away. I have never seen him since, but I know that the hospital is still running and doing very good work. I was on my knees a lot the day I heard the news of the doctor’s addiction and working under the influence. I knew that if someone died at that doctor’s hands, I could never live with myself had I done nothing. God guided me to do the right thing, but it has always bothered me, and I have asked forgiveness many times while praying that what I did saved lives even as it ruined others. Being a Christian can be a very hard thing to do, but if you love Christ, you do as He commands even when loving others hurts you.