Am I a Criminal?

I have followed and listened to you for a few years now and have done quite a bit to improve my character, think with my brain first, impress my employers as my customers, and build trust and display and teach my values to others.

Recently I have been ‘called out’ on something that I have been doing pretty mindlessly with my employer that, now that I am looking at it objectively, looks quite dishonest.

I am crushed as I don’t think I was doing it intentionally, but I don’t think my employer will see it this way.

I have had a great relationship with them for many years and this hurts me in ways I cannot describe. I am having a hard time sleeping, thinking about anything else, and wrapping my brain around how I could do this in the first place? To protect my wife I haven’t told her the extent, but she can tell something is bothering me.

I have worked hard on my reputation, and I cannot see how I couldn’t see this in myself?

Outside of that, how do I repair this with my employer, and myself? And how can I be sure I’m not doing this in other areas of my life? Being a hypocrite it’s a hard pill to swallow when you really aren’t trying to be.

Thank you,


Dear B.,

Congratulations on reaching this advanced stage of discomfort; it is evidence of successful spiritual growth and positive soul-steps.   Our response cannot deal with your specific situation both because you didn’t include details and also because even had you been more forthcoming, we could not possibly know enough through a letter, but we hope we can help you plot a path forward.

If you are suddenly realizing that you have been doing something on a large scale, then you are in a tough place indeed. We are casting about here, but as an example, let’s say you were putting dinners with your wife down as a “business expense” and justifying it by saying that you discussed the office while you were out. If you are in retail, giving discounts or free items to friends would be another example. This would involve more than minor sums and also something that could come to light if there was an audit. But at the same time, we are having trouble seeing you taking such flagrantly problematic liberties without realizing it.

You say you were “called out.” Perhaps this was by a close friend unconnected to the business. Or, was it by someone at your place of work? If the latter, then you have no choice but to talk to your boss. It is better for you to raise the subject than wait to be called onto the carpet. You can make your best case to explain that you did something wrong, repent that action (which includes financial restitution if applicable) and have grown so that you commit to never do such an action again. They may accept your apology or they may fire you. That is the reality of consequences.

However, we’d like to emphasize the importance of what you are asking even if the sums are very minor and if there is no way that anyone would know what you did. One of the sins of Noah’s generation that caused the Flood, was theft. Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that this theft consisted of taking things that were of such small value that the owner wouldn’t follow up legally. In today’s world that might be the equivalent of pocketing paper clips and other supplies from the office or using the office postal account to mail some personal letters. These are far from embezzlement but we are expected to be extremely sensitive to misuse of someone else’s property, whether this is a friend or an employer.

However, we think that if you were doing something unseemly on this relatively low level, we don’t necessarily think that you should bring this up with your boss. If you can replace the funds in some way, that would be a good idea, but in today’s climate, we worry about some of the overly punitive consequences of true confessions.

We just don’t know where on the ‘badness’ spectrum your actions lie. Do you need legal counsel? Is your job at risk? Are you inflating things in your mind so that something that is a good sensitivity for you personally to have but which is fairly common practice today, is weighing you down too much? Are you truly guilty of hypocrisy or only of “going with the crowd” rather than making timeless moral judgments?

We hope that this answer gives you enough food for thought so that, if needed, you talk to someone in person who can guide you. Take care not to damage your marriage by withholding from your wife things that she already senses herself, and that might in her mind, assume greater significance than is warranted. If you are truly facing a serious problem, then give her the chance to adjust and stand with you before it becomes a public issue.

Growth is wonderful but being bowed down by guilt is unproductive. Repair the situation in a proportionate manner and use this new insight into yourself to move forward but not to be consumed by the past.

We admire your determination to face yourself in the mirror. Most cannot do this.

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

What was going on in the years before the Flood?
What was Noah doing that saved his whole family?
Dive deeper into Scripture.  

The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah

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5 thoughts on “Am I a Criminal?”

  1. Carmine Pescatore

    I try to run my life so I’m on God’s side. Wantíng him to be on my side is arrogance. He is perfect, I am not. When I look over the past decades, I’ve failed miserably. I compromised too many times.

    I’ve learned from my personal failures. Better late than never.

  2. 🎯 If Br B gets fired, his next problem will be which job on a long list of offers will he choose from: Br B, what a golden heart, “Your treasure is where Your heart is” … Rabbi THANK YOU. — this episode is a keeper & belongs in my toolbox of ref. points. LET’s GIVE A ROUND OF APPLAUSE TO HUMANITY, God’s handiwork no less, 👏 👏👏👏👏 … even Your boss stands a chance for a promotion, 👀

  3. Vickie Lynn Sanderson

    Dear B.,
    It takes great courage to have insight into our own behaviors and want to change them. Believe me, as a therapist, I see many who can’t or won’t employ insight for self-improvement. I often tell my clients that when trust is broken, either through intentional or non-intentional behaviors, actions are louder than words. Although it sounds as though words are needed at the start in this case. I often add that the new behavior is not to keep the job – that is a bonus – but to live a life of purposeful integrity. So if this trust is broken, keep walking the new walk – for God, for you, for your family. God bless you, B. and I pray the best.

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