“Thou shalt not steal.” (Exodus 20:15)
Recently I went into a Target store near my home to make a quick purchase. As I headed to the back of it where the item I needed was located, the store manager suddenly appeared from some back room and briskly walked by me shouting loudly into a phone she cradled tightly. She was communicating with the local police, describing a shoplifter who supposedly was a repeat offender attempting to steal again right then in her store. As I listened to her describe what this person was wearing and what he had just hidden in his clothing, that being two new video games, I suddenly saw the guy she had described walking towards me. For a moment our eyes locked just as he caught wind of her conversation. It was then she saw him as well and he realized the graveness of his situation. He abruptly discarded the games and immediately sprinted out the store. What happened after that I have no idea, but it definitely brought back many memories of my own days of thievery.
There was a time in my life long ago during my alcohol and drug days, where I actually was a kleptomaniac myself. I stole a ton of things that ranged from cigarettes to candy to music to alcohol and more. It became a game in of itself where I got a rush each time I got away with my petty life of crime. I used to tell myself every time I did it that no one was getting hurt by my actions. I further rationalized it by saying the stuff I was taking was overpriced and took a Robin Hood stance surrounding it, even though I was always stealing whatever it was for myself.
The first time I got caught was at a Rite Aid I worked at. Beyond the many small things I stole almost every day from there, I also had been taking coupons from the sale flyers and putting them in the register, as if a customer had used them, when they hadn’t. I’d pocket the cash value of those coupons and then buy something in the store with it. I had done it so much that the store’s profit margins were greatly being affected, but I hadn’t even realized that until I got accused of it one day by the manager. I played innocent and then quit on the spot, blaming them for it being such an unhealthy place to work at. Yes, I was that spiritually sick! Later that summer, karma finally caught up with me when I got caught attempting to steal two musical albums, ones I’m almost embarrassed to say now! The feelings I had inside at that moment were no different than the look that shoplifter gave me when our eyes locked in Target that day.
Guilt, shame, conviction, you name it, I felt it in that moment when those security guards took me arm in arm back into the store. My little game of thievery was up and the result, a court case that ended in a misdemeanor that thankfully got expunged by doing 40 hours of community service. For a guy who came from a life of privilege, it was such a huge ego deflation and most certainly one of the first spiritual wake-up calls I had in my life and one that probably protected me from ever entering into an even bigger life of crime.
I’ve worked hard to make restitution for all those I harmed from that part of my life over the years and am thankful getting caught back then made me never want to steal again. It probably was the first Commandment I truly learned to respect in my life and definitely wasn’t the last.
God, I thank You for helping me to understand the spiritual sickness of stealing long ago and that I continue to fully embrace one of the Ten Commandments even to this day.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson