Apr 10, 2012

INTEGRITY: IS IT WHO I AM?

by Dr. Cecil Clements (27th March 2012)


This morning I want to share a deep thought that has been on my mind for some time. I keep seeing by-lines of different companies, signature tunes if you will, that say ‘People Do Come First’ or ‘Honesty is What We Stand For’. Then when you find that people don’t come first in the company, you begin to question everything that the company stands for.

So today I want to talk about integrity. Integrity is beginning to become a core value for a lot of companies. But I want to start by reading this story to you – a true story that happened in the late 1920s and it centers around a man called Al Capone. He was a gangster and one of his lawyers was a man called Easy Eddie who was one of the most efficient lawyers in the United States. Although the US government spent a fortune trying to put Al Capone in jail, Easy Eddie as he was known, always found a way to keep him out. Capone rewarded Eddie with a huge salary, luxuries, political power, everything. He had a house, a huge place in Chicago.

But Eddie and his wife had a son whom he loved dearly as all fathers would. He tried to teach his son the difference between right and wrong and provide a good education for him, a good life, money, wonderful holidays, good clothes and every comfort. But there was one that Eddie couldn’t give his son – that was a good name. The son’s friends knew the truth about his father, that he was keeping a criminal free to keep stealing, killing and corrupting society. Eddie, it is said, wrestled with this whole issue. As he saw his son growing up, he wanted to do what was right with his son. He knew he had to come to a decision of whether he was doing the right or the wrong thing.

Finally, knowing that the consequences would be very serious, he made the difficult choice of turning himself in to the police. Thanks to his testimony in court, Al Capone was finally imprisoned. The story ends in a very sad way for Eddie. He was shot to death on a dark street of Chicago.

But here is the enduring legacy of his integrity. His beloved son went on to become a hero in WW2, in part, because of the example of his father’s character. Today, the international airport at Chicago is called the O’Hare Airport in honor of Butch O’Hare, the son of Easy Eddie. It was such a difficult decision for Easy Eddie: to live his life as he lived it, and yet he found that it was corrupting the life of his son. The legacy that he was leaving his son was a bad legacy, a tainted legacy. So he decided to change all that so that his son would be able to grow and mature into the kind of person that he needed to be.

Integrity – it’s got to do with more than us. It’s got to do with our circles of influence, the people and companies that we work with and of course, our families and communities. Integrity really means a sense of wholeness. It comes from the Latin word integer, which means whole or full. Completeness – it’s the exact opposite of the word hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is not being who you are – it is wearing different masks.

McCartney gives another definition, “Integrity in its simplest terms, is just keeping promises.” A person of integrity is one who, when he or she says something, can be trusted. When he/she gives their word, you can count on it. Integrity is being the same in our hearts, in our minds, in our actions, in our words. There is continuity about integrity; there’s completeness. It’s not a segregated life.

I was reading a passage from the Bible in Mark’s gospel about Jesus. ‘The people came to Him and said, “We know you are a man of integrity. You’re not swayed by men because you pay no attention to who they are, but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth’.” That captures the meaning of integrity – that we’re not swayed by people around us. We are able to stand on principles and that we stand by truth. What is truth is absolute and we stand by it regardless of what people around us say.

So how does that work for you and me in the marketplace and our spheres of work?Global Ethics University is a division of Character Training Inc. talks of Ethical Values for Business Success. “Good business ethics are based on a set of moral and ethical values. These work ethics must be absolute – that is, you must take them seriously enough to override any human rationalization, weakness, ego or personal faults.” That’s the key. It must stand completely erect; it cannot be swayed by rationalizing, depending on the situation, moments of weakness or your own ego and pride or faults. You have to be able to let it stand by itself.

I read an e-zine article on leadership, which says, “Managers and executives should uphold the ethical standards of the entire organization, because it has long-lasting results in terms of the organization. What an organization says it stands for, it must stand for and it is only evident by the people who work for it and what they stand for.

Management must lead by example. Good work ethics must be most noticeable at the top. Every employee must be accountable to the same rules.
Corporate values or ethics initiatives must be sold and marketed aggressively throughout the company. Every forum and media should be used to send the message.
Ethics training must be provided to get everyone on the same page. It’s easy to ignore a motivational speech or pass by a poster. But spending time learning about issues will have a lasting impact.
You and the company must be in it for the long haul. Ethics training server must extend to the next generation of employees.
The article goes on to say that despite failings of some, there is plenty of room at the table for positive work ethics and profitable business to reside. It is possible for the 2 to work hand in hand.

Let me give you an example of good ethics as I draw to a close. Bobby Tyre Jones Jr. who lived between 1902 and 1971 was a lawyer and amateur golfer. He is the first player ever to have won the Grand Slam or all four major tournaments in the same year. From 1923 to 1930, he won 13 championships. His record was unmatched until 1973 when it was finally broken by Jack Nicklaus. We all attest to his athletic skills, but look at his testament of integrity. In the National Championships, he drove his ball into the woods and accidentally nudged it. Although no one saw him move the ball, he penalized himself one stroke, which caused him to lose the game by that margin. When praised for his integrity, he rubbished his admirers and said, “You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank. There’s nothing to it. That’s the way I am.”

And that’s the way we ought to be. Integrity has to be at the corner of all the things that we do. It must be a way of life for us. Somebody said ‘Integrity is just walking the path.’ You either are or you’re not.

I want to end this talk with the Paradoxical Commandments by Kent Keith when he was a 19-year-old student and a sophomore at Harvard. He wrote a booklet for high school children. He wrote the 10 Paradoxical Commandments and they were found written in Mother Teresa’s room. They go like this:
People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered: love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives: do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies: succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow: do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable: be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds: think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs: fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight: build anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them: help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth: give the world the best you have anyway.
Friends, my hope and prayer for each of us this morning is that we will find time to make a conscious decision and look at integrity in a new light. Maybe we’ll compartmentalize it. Maybe today you’ll say, “It means everything that I stand for; it means being who I am. I pray that God would help us be men and women of integrity.

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