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by Rubel Shelly

    You don’t have to start a project with bad intentions for it to go wrong. Quite the contrary. The noblest of motives can lead to a monumental embarrassment.

    A group called The Bureau for At-Risk Youth of Plainview was concerned to communicate a clear anti-drug message to young people. So it printed thousands and thousands of pencils bearing the following slogan: “Too Cool to Do Drugs.” Good idea, right? As you might have guessed, however, there is more to the story.

    A ten-year-old student at Ticonderoga (New York) Elementary School caught something the adults had missed. When the pencils are sharpened a few times, the message turned into “Cool to Do Drugs.” Sharpen it another time or two, and the slogan becomes an emphatic “Do Drugs.” Nobody intended for that to happen! There were lots of red faces.

    “We’re actually a little embarrassed that we didn’t notice that sooner,” said a company spokeswoman. Kodi Mosier, the student who spotted the gaffe, was asked how he thought it could happen. “I guess they didn’t sharpen their pencils,” was his insightful response.

“I guess they didn’t sharpen their pencils.”
    So the group that printed the pencils apologized and recalled the pencils. Now they are having a new batch manufactured — with the same message being printed in the opposite direction. Reading now from eraser to tip instead of the opposite direction, “Too Cool to Do Drugs” will simply become “Too Cool to Do” and finally “Too Cool” as the pencils are sharpened. That’s an improvement.

    We can all say, “Been there; done that.” Right? We meant well — but blew it. It was a bright idea for company morale or productivity. It was a surprise party or special gift for a family member. It was a comment in Sunday School class. Then the whole world seemed to stand on its head because of the way things backfired.

    Embarrassment is best handled by a simple, straightforward acknowledgment. Getting defensive only digs your hole deeper. Looking for someone else to blame just makes you look worse. The right thing to do is to step up, take responsibility, and apologize. There is something marvelously disarming to an angry client or offended friend when you say, “I’m really very sorry about that, and I apologize. I hope you will forgive me.”

    Some solutions are so simple that we routinely overlook them.

From Rubel Shelly's "FAX of Life" printed each Tuesday. See http://www.faithmatters.com for previous issues of the "FAX of Life."

HEARTLIGHT(R) Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
Copyright © 1996-97, Heartlight, Inc., 8332 Mesa Drive, Austin, TX 78759.
© 1999, Rubel Shelly. Used by permission.