There is in our language a dangerously disarming phrase by which people often persuade other people to compromise principles. It is the phrase “Just this once.”
“Just this once” has a siren-like lure. It is the forerunner of the phrase “Just once more.” It is the beckoning voice of a false friend that leads us from safety to a false position, first “Just this once,” and then “Just once more.” “Just once more won’t matter.” “Just once more, and then I’ll quit.”
And so we sometimes move from one false step to another, often deluding ourselves into thinking that this is the last time. In some social and personal matters, many of us live somewhat this way. We may know, for example, that we are living our lives at a pace we cannot keep up, but we hate to refuse a friend.
Thus we are led from obligation to obligation, and each time we say “yes,” we tell ourselves that we are saying it “Just this once” and that tomorrow will be better. But tomorrow is seldom better except as we have the backbone to make it better. In matters of eating and appetite, people often go from one indulgence to another, always saying to themselves, “Just this once ……Tomorrow I begin to diet.” “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.”
“Just this once” becomes especially serious when people persuade other people that a principle is a matter of frequency rather than a clear-cut matter of right or wrong. It is true that a one time offender is locked upon with more leniency than a frequent offender. But stealing “Just this once,” lying “Just this once,” deceiving “Just this once,” or any other act of immorality urged upon anyone “Just this once” is a dangerous doctrine. “Just this once” is a long step, but “Just once more” is an easier step, and so men often forget their own fetters from link to link.
If it isn’t right, let it alone. Don’t do “Just this once” what shouldn’t be done at all.
`Richard L. Evans