It’s reported that the great hero in the Christian faith, C.S. Lewis once said: “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” However, attributing the quote to C.S. Lewis is a misnomer. This quote is an adaptation of a quote from Charles Marshall in Shattering the Glass Slipper. Regardless of who actually said the quote it sure is right on the mark.
Integrity is defined as: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. We live in a world where integrity seems to have flown right out the window, we see it rampant throughout society. Our industry, the transport of Broadway shows to venues across the USA, is a very small segment of the trucking industry. And, even in this small segment of the industry we’ve run across some really wonderful people, they are people that you would immediately like. Nice people, funny people, friendly people, kind people, dedicated people. You might want them for your friends. And while almost all of these people are people of integrity, you will occasionally run across a few that do not adhere to the quote above.
Looks can be deceiving, they look and act like kind, decent people. But, upon working with a few of these people, we’ve recognized that they are not strong in the integrity gene. And, the rather obvious integrity issues with these people seem to center around what I think boils down to two motives – fear or greed. Those two motives presented themselves to us in a particular case for which I will use as an example.
We found that one person, we will call them Person A, who should have known about a common accepted business practice (I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here), gave some vague excuses as to why the common business practice was not in place. Part of Person A’s job involved interacting with someone in authority for the benefit of themselves and their coworkers. Multiple people, including ourselves, explained the common business practice to Person A – upon which a verbal promise was given to us that they would act. Three months later we found that Person A never actually interacted with the powers-that-be to build understanding and a resolution of the issue, only that they had a vague conversation with the powers-to-be directly before they went on leave. And, three months of extreme frustration ensued by many coworkers because of this inaction – some with different stories/excuses as to why the common business practice was not in place. The promise was broken. The reason I surmise was fear. Person A put off doing the right thing, following through with a tough or awkward discussion with the powers-that-be. Perhaps they didn’t want to upset the proverbial “apple cart” with those in charge. However, their inactivity caused immense stress on all involved.
Then when we were thrust right into the very core of this problem, it was up to us to attempt to resolve the rather complicated issue that first presented itself to us some three months earlier. We had already decided that despite the awkward situation, we were going to broach the subject with the powers-that-be. After all, in our opinion it was indeed the right thing to do.
That’s where Person B enters into the picture. Person B was one of those co-workers that was rightfully frustrated over the situation. While other co-workers asked us to try and resolve the issue, Person B began to put pressure on us. Person B even went so far as to say that if the situation was not resolved, they were not going to perform their work in a way to make the outcome completely successful. And while talks were going on with the powers-that-be, Person B walked right up and inserted themselves into the rather delicate conversation and blurted out exactly what they wanted. Ouch! Damage done. Now the powers-that-be were upset, and the course of diplomatic conversation, and building goodwill, was derailed.
The powers-that-be reached out to Person A, and had a conversation with them. We were told by the powers-that-be that Person A had assured them that we would not broach the subject, which was not the truth. Even though the situation became very awkward, the common business practice was put in place for this particular instance. Then when the results were shared with our coworkers, many were happy. That is except for Person B, they didn’t get everything to which they believed they were entitled. They wanted more, they tried to skew just what they wanted using a faulty business model, one that I think they knew was wrong. They ended up not getting what they wanted, and promised some retribution against us down the road.
Simply avoiding an issue only serves to build it up until it becomes a situation that can no longer be ignored, and possibly, as in this case, a potential explosive situation. As in this case, we learned that we cannot control what others do, or think. If we could, then Person A would have acted when they promised that they would. And, Person B would have been happy with what they got.
Doing the right thing often requires courage and fortitude. It involves setting our minds, our will, and our actions into purposeful steps – one step at a time. Acting with integrity does indeed involve doing the right thing when others can see the situation clearly, and when no one is looking. Acting with integrity also involves setting a natural inclination towards self-focus aside and doing what is honest for all involved. Acting with integrity requires one small step after another, constantly examining the situation and doing the next right thing. Acting with integrity is something that others expect us to do. Integrity is something very, very important to both my husband and I. Acting with integrity is what God expects us to do, that to me is the most important thing to take into consideration. I want to please God in all that I do – whether it be easy or hard.
This time we got it right.
I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness.(1 Chronicles 29:17a, ESV)