That Belt I Stole

That Belt I Stole

Dear Sujatha,

About 3 years ago, I stole this belt from a store in the outdoor mall near my house. The reason I did it is pretty stupid and really doesn’t matter, but basically boils down to my needing a belt and having left my wallet in my car and my car being so far away and my meeting for which I needed a belt being an hour from when I stole the belt. I know this is terrible and I know that this was not an excuse, but still this is what happened. My problem, besides that I am clearly a really terrible person, is that now, whenever I see the belt I am reminded of how terrible I am, but also that I have cut the tags and worn the belt and it’s got a mark from where it bent into the buckle. So I can’t sneak it back into the store, and I am way way too embarrassed to go in there to tell them what I’ve done. Seeing this belt makes me cringe every time and I’m not sure that donating it will make me feel any better. Any suggestions on what I could do now that would make me feel better and would in some way atone for my wrongdoing?




Dear Beltstealer,

Well, that’s quite a little moral/emotional pickle you’ve gotten yourself into. You did something you knew was wrong, and now whenever you see evidence of your wrongdoing, you are paralyzed with guilt making it impossible to see any way out. I imagine over these last several years, you wish you had just gone to your meeting with your pants sagging. The way I see it, you have a couple of things to sort out. First, you have to make it right financially with the store you stole from; you cost the owner money and you might have cost a manager her job. There are a few ways to do this: You can visit the store in person and pay for the belt; you can put the money and a letter explaining what you did in a package and mail it to the store either anonymously or signed; or you can return the belt with a letter of explanation. I don’t like the last of these solutions because you said the belt shows wear and I am not certain the store would be able to resell the belt now anyway. So making it right financially via one of these means would be the first thing you have to do. If you decide to pay for the belt, then you could consider donating it to a homeless shelter. Including a pair of slacks and a shirt might go a distance to regaining some karmic energy, as you said you would like to do. That type of donation is much needed for men and women who without proper clothing cannot interview for jobs.

The second thing though is harder. You clearly feel really bad about having done this, and that is important, but some serious introspection seems to be in order. I mean, seriously? Three years you’ve been sitting on this belt problem and what I suggested above didn’t occur to you by now? I don’t want to glom on since you know what you did is wrong, but it’s so incredibly stupid too! You could’ve gone to jail for shoplifting for a belt you had the money to purchase but didn’t want to be bothered to pay for. That is pretty entitled behavior, no? And then, you allowed yourself to be so mired up in guilt that you didn’t do any of the available options to make amends. I don’t know if this is a pattern of yours (doing dumb things and then to sitting paralyzed contemplating consequences avoided and the humiliation of making things right) but you should spend some time thinking about that. Because in this letter you told me not only the dumb mistake you made, which isn’t all that rare (I know many many people who have done the exact same thing) but you also told me that you are a person who will write to an advice columnist to ask what you should do about this problem. You had to know didn’t you? What do to about this problem? The whole thing strikes me as curious, so if you want to write back and give me further insight into you, I’d be happy to hear from you again. But before you write back, please handle the belt problem.


Peace, love, joy,







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