Jim Tressel has been in the news for a while, and it is not for recruiting the best freshman class at Ohio State. He resigned as the head coach for the Buckeyes after more allegations that he did not inform school officials of possible NCAA infractions by his players. A Sports Illustrated article alleges a pattern of misreporting, forgetfulness, and outright lying that occurred over an eight year period. SI reports that, “Tressel violated NCAA bylaw 10.1 — Unethical Conduct, one of the cornerstones of NCAA rulebook — three times: first by failing to act when tipped off about the tattoo scandal; again last fall, by signing a standard form given to all coaches declaring that he knew of no violations; and then, last December, by not being forthcoming with school officials.” Mr. Tressel would still be the beloved Buckeye head coach if he informed either school officials or the NCAA of his players violations. Instead, he decided to play devils advocate for his players. Their mistakes became his own because he could not uphold the integrity of the Ohio State football program.
So why is there a giant picture of a tree above this post instead of a Buckeye logo or a side-shot of Tressel? Because this post is about how lying creates a blemish that starts small, but eventually becomes large enough for a squirrel to make a home in.
Lying is like a crack in a tree. It starts off small and insignificant, but over time the tree grows around the crack. As it grows, the crack gets deeper until it turns into a dark hollow haloed by warped bark. While the rest of the tree is straight and smooth, the one part surrounding the crack is misshapen and lumpy. By the end of the tree’s life, it looks beautiful save the one part that started with a tiny crack. So despite what the rest of the tree represents, the one cracked part becomes its identity and impacts how everyone sees the tree in the future. That is Mr. Tressel’s fate if he ever coaches at another program again.
But lying does not just impact the individual, it also impacts everyone around them.
I was a sophomore in high school taking geometry under a teacher I’ll call Mrs. Marshall. My teacher did a phenomenal job explaining the concepts and staying after class to help struggling students, but I never took advantage of her generosity despite my struggles with the material. As a result, my grade in the class slipped and my parents were less than pleased. They wanted an explanation for my poor grade so I gave them one that took the blame off myself. I said Mrs. Marshall was never available for extra help. They accepted that lie and I thought I had bought some time to get my grades up without my folks being the wiser.
Two days later I got called into Mrs. Marshall’s office. She was furious. She explained how the headmaster was concerned that one of his teachers was not helping a struggling student during extra help hours after school. She made me feel smaller and smaller, until she towered above me shaking from righteous indignation that a mere child would attack her integrity as an educator. I left her office suitable chastised, and I thought my problems were over. Not so!
I arrived home and received another righteous tongue lashing from my parents. To say they were pissed off does not do their reaction justice. I think the air started to cackle with my mom’s furious energy. I was punished with having to go to extra help until the semester concluded with the teacher I had unfairly accused of being lazy. This proved to be an effective punishment, and it helped get my geometry grade up while repairing my working relationship with Mrs. Marshall, but I still had to live with my lie.
I still live knowing that I made Mrs. Marshall seem like a poor teacher, made a headmaster look foolish, and made my parents into false accusers. All because I could not tell my parents that I was not studying enough for geometry class. I look back on that time as an incredibly valuable lesson to have so early in life because I discovered how much damage a simple lie can have on everyone around me. Unfortunately for Mr. Tressel, he did not learn that lesson soon enough.
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