Is Your Integrity for Sale?
One of my favorite movies is Family Man, staring Nicholas Cage (2000). In fact, I think Cage is one of Hollywood’s most versatile and accomplished actors. In Family Man, Cage is supported by Tea Leoni and Don Cheadle, who is apparently Hollywood’s 21st century version of an angel. The story is a sort-of reverse adaptation of the Frank Capra classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s a really great movie and if you haven’t seen it, I urge you to rent a copy.
are lots of great scenes in the movie, but one of my favorites is when
Don Cheadle, portraying a convenience store clerk, intentionally gives a
young girl change for a $10 bill, although she actually only gave him a
$1 bill. He’s hoping that when she realizes she received too much
change she will, for her own good, come back and tell him. But when she
continues on out the door, he just shakes his head and muses something
about how disappointing it is when someone sells out their integrity so
cheaply. While those aren’t his exact words, they capture the essence of
I am the first one to
admit that I’ve done some things (maybe more accurately, a lot of
things) that I’m not proud of. But it disturbs me greatly to see someone
sell out their own integrity so cheaply. What is integrity? Former U.S.
Congressman J.C. Watts defined it as doing the right thing even when no
one is looking. That is a pretty good definition. You might add that
it’s doing the right thing when no one is looking, even when it is
difficult. Integrity is indeed doing the right thing, not just the thing
that gets you by.
Of course, the
power of rationalization, the sin of pride, and just plain old greed
often get in the way of integrity. Children are great at "lawyering"
their excuses in an effort to get out of being responsible for something
their parents are not happy about. But big kids who run companies and
nonprofits often seem to be afflicted with the same problem. "Well, the
contract doesn’t say exactly that," they rationalize. And,
perhaps they can get by with doing what they want to do even though they
know it’s not the right thing to do. But how do they sleep at night?
Are they really advancing themselves? Is it really good business? Don’t
they care about their own reputation? Why would they put such a low
price on their own integrity? Will such a reputation benefit them and
the organization they represent in the years ahead?
was right, "Honesty is the best policy." In the long run, a company, an
organization, or an individual will rise or fall in large part based on
integrity. When you do the right thing, rather than simply doing the
thing that gets you by, you build trust with your acquaintances, your
clients, your vendors and everyone you come into contact with. In turn,
that trust leads to more business, better employees and greater success.
However, when you cut corners, it ALWAYS comes back to haunt you.
far more important than doing what is right because it gets you ahead,
is doing what’s right because it’s the right thing to do. God wants us
to genuinely care about our friends and neighbors and even to put their
needs before ours. Ouch! In His Word He tells us not to cheat, steal or
tell lies. He doesn’t tell us that obeying these things are the way to
Heaven (that’s a free gift), but it does please Him when we do the right
thing in every circumstance. As mortal humans it is obviously
impossible for you and me to live up to that standard, but we can at
least try. And when we do, it makes this a better place for all of us.