Search This Blog

Monday, July 23, 2007

Is Your Integrity for Sale?

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.

There 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 the message.

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?

Lincoln 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. 

But 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment