|Two rats looking like miniature polar bears. D'awwwww...|
Latte was different. Several days into my care, I figured it was time to pick up this slightly-muscular ball of fur and reap the rewards of holding that fuzzy critter. Well, Latte wasn't having any of that and first bit me, then leapt to his death on a hardwood plank that was lying on my carpet. At least, that is what I told Harry and his mother when they came back from their vacation to the sad news. Young Mark, ashamed of what really happened, told them that lie and the others were good enough people that they didn't question the randomness of their suicidal gerbil.
The truth is that after Latte bit me, I angrily swung the rodent by it's tail, and it flew off and hit the carpet. I thought that when he bounced off the "soft" floor, he was still alive...until a moment later, the poor thing never got up.
More than 20 years later, I remember exactly what that scene with Latte, Harry, my mom and I looked like, and am still ashamed about the lying as much as the action. For that time between, I developed a REALLY tuned moral detector. I don't call it a moral compass, because I breaks da rules all de time. But I do like to call people on their bullshit, and ask that both sides respect the rules as often as they can. This makes me a pretty lousy guest to some interactions, but I really do put effort into giving some genuine thoughts to my friends, family, and conversation partners who stick around long enough.
One way I've tried to use my detector for good is trying to understand why a lie comes out instead of pointing it out, embarrassing all parties involved, and making others spiteful. I'm working through this practice of empathy, and it takes patience I never knew I had, but I think it's a lot more useful than simply taking the wind out of someone's sails in the name of integrity.