I think it's only natural that most of us like to consider ourselves to be basically good people. Sure, we may make mistakes from time to time, but we are still on the side of the angels. Since breaking my ankle a couple of weeks ago, I've been stuck in my apartment, with nothing but time to think about stuff like that.
I was remembering all of those times when I'd been disabled or had to visit the emergency room for one reason or another and there have been quite a few. In trying to put them in the proper historical perspective, I also stared thinking about other life events that were happening at the same time as those things. After mulling it over for a while, I've come to the conclusion that I have not been nearly as close to the angels as I have always thought I was.
You see, I have this opportunistic streak and after getting into a tight spot, I've been known to use extra legal means to extricate myself from it. Not that I would prey on little old ladies or steal from family and friends, (or even strangers, for that matter) but I still would do whatever I had to do in order to get my needs met. Because I didn't hold a gun, and rob people, I didn't think it was so bad. It was just stuff that had come from big warehouses, or was grown in somebodies “garden” so I thought of it as a sort of victimless criminality where nobody got hurt. Don't get me wrong, I always felt terrible afterward and swore that “this would be the last time” but that last time never seemed to come.
It started while still in my late teens, and into my early 20s, after earning the trust of a few guys who lived outside the law, and I was able to earn extra cash, fuel, weed, or whatever in exchange for doing the occasional “favor” for them. It usually involved transporting goods that had “fallen off the truck” somewhere. On occasion, it was marijuana, although I was always real careful not to carry too much at any one time. Even during my years in the cult, I maintained a couple of contacts on the outside because hey, you never know.
After leaving the cult in 1995, (OK, they threw me out) I got arrested after getting into trouble while trying to earn some cash to help a friend save his business. (No, I don't want to share the details)There was not enough evidence so they had to let me go and ever since then, I've been trying my best to remain on the straight and narrow.
The thing is, I don't know that I entirely trust myself to stay that way. Although in my favor, when everything fell apart during the housing crisis in 2008 I worked lots of overtime, paid off who I could, before being forced into bankruptcy, and I didn't fall back on that old “anything goes” pattern. Still, the urge is there and when it gets strong, I need to remind myself that there is no such thing as a victimless crime. Even if I get clean away with stealing a million dollars from someone who will never even know it's gone, there will still be two victims: my character, and self respect. Perhaps, by maintaining that perspective, I'll be able to move a little closer to the angels.