I don’t enjoy restating the obvious, but recent events have compelled me to do so. First, though, let’s take a little quiz.

1. You are an all-star baseball player who likes to ride motorcycles, despite the fact that you are contractually forbidden to do so. One day, while popping a wheelie, you fall off your bike and break your wrist. Do you:
a. Admit what happened and take responsibility for your actions
b. Make up a story about falling off your truck while washing it
c. Pretend not to be injured and play the rest of the season with one hand

2. You are a retired basketball player who enjoys playing with guns, despite the fact that you once nearly beheaded a fellow athlete with an errant blast. One day, while twirling your shotgun in the air during a party at your home, you accidentally shoot and kill the chauffeur who brought one of your guests. Do you:
a. Admit what happened and take responsibility for your actions
b. Put the gun in the chauffeur’s hand and claim that he shot himself
c. Blame it on a one-armed, bushy-haired stranger

3. You are a president of the United States who has a weakness for the ladies, despite the fact that it’s gotten you into trouble over and over again. One day, while you are going about your business, your affair with a young intern is discovered and aired in the national press. Do you:
a. Admit what happened and take responsibility for your actions
b. Go on national TV and stonewall
c. Resign from office, retire from public life, and spend the rest of your days wandering shirtless on the beach with a metal detector, muttering about how you were screwed.

Did you answer “a” to any of these questions? If so, congratulations. You’re one up on the people who these things really happened to—San Francisco Giant Jeff Kent, former New Jersey Net Jayson Williams, and then-President of the United States Bill Clinton, respectively. All three men chose “b,” and it did not work out too well for them.

The pain in Kent’s wrist is as nothing to his embarrassment. Sportswriters across the land have ridiculed him as both a clutzy motorcyclist and an ineffective liar. However, though he has made things more difficult for himself by fibbing, Kent is unlikely to suffer long-term repercussions from his actions. While it is true that his contract, like most baseball players’, contains a clause enjoining him from participating in dangerous leisure activities, in practice these clauses are generally winked at by the teams. Since he is a key player and a former MVP, Kent will likely receive no more than a (metaphorical) slap on the wrist.

Williams is in far more serious jeopardy. Though he would have been charged with manslaughter in any case, his clumsy attempts at a coverup have badly exacerbated the situation. By trying to hide what happened, he has not only caused additonal charges to be brought against him, but damaged his credibility with potential jurors.

And as for Clinton, I know this is old news, but geez. If he’d just had the guts to stand up and say “I did have sexual relations with that woman,” the whole thing would have blown over fairly quickly and we’d all have been spared years of annoying Republican moralizing.

Do you see the pattern emerging here? Everyody makes mistakes, but most mistakes can be fixed and/or forgiven if you just tell the truth about them. Yes, the truth hurts — but in most cases, not as much as the alternative.