Are you doing the right thing when no one is looking?
No doubt there is a great selection of quotes on this website and now and again I like to choose one and dig deeper. Today, my pick is this Charles Marshall quote from the book Shattering the Glass Slipper, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” According to the website http://www.cslewis.org/ this quote is often misattributed to C S Lewis. Anyway, regardless to who said it what can we learn from this quote? Clearly, this quote is all about integrity. But what exactly is integrity, I hear you ask. Well, you guessed it, I have another quote just to answer this question. Brene Brown gives the following definition, “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” So a person with integrity will stick to the values that they uphold regardless of who is looking. Their actions are determined by their values rather than the opinions of family or friends. The constant governing yard stick of their behaviour is their values and regardless of who they are with, they continue to let their light shine. In other words, they are people who have a complete faith in what they believe in, they trust in life and they are single minded. So what does it mean when an individual is NOT doing the right thing when no one is looking? In other words, what does lack of integrity reveal about us?
Lack of Integrity is a sign of selfishness
When we lack integrity, we do things with the aim of makings ourselves look good as opposed to how our actions are benefitting others. There is an element of selfishness in our behaviour because we use our actions as an opportunity to win an audience as opposed to looking at the bigger picture and doing the right thing.
Lack of Integrity is a sign of lack of self confidence
When you find yourself sacrificing your values in an effort to please your peers or becoming popular, it can also mean that you lack confidence. We have all heard of the term ‘peer pressure’ and people of integrity do not give in to this kind of pressure. They will hold their own and remain steadfast in their values. Another quote for you,Steve Brunkhorst says, “Supporting the truth, even when it is unpopular, shows the capacity for honesty and integrity.”
Lack of integrity opens doors to more serious crimes
Without strong values as our moral compass, the only way is down when we lack integrity. We may start off with the little white lies but what else are we willing to do to please our boss or to get the deal? Therefore, an individual who is not capable of doing the right thing when no one is watching is likely to continue lowering their standards. They adopt the attitude, ‘one more little lie wont hurt’ and before long they have become professional conmen. A good example is the story of Frank Abagnale Jr which was turned into the movie Catch Me If You Can. What started off as a little lie soon turned Abagnale into one of the most famous impostors. He was no longer afraid to tell a lie, instead he thrived on them.
Lack of integrity leads to a culture of corruption and distrust
There is a strong relationship between corruption and lack of integrity. Corruption grows from the seeds of lack of integrity. It is simply those little lies turning big, spreading like an out of control weed into the fabric of society. In a society that lacks integrity you will find police officers who instead of upholding the law, will let the convict get away with a crime for a bribe. These are people who have no moral compass, people who are willing to do the wrong things for their own selfish gains. Take an example of a workplace where there is corruption, the truth does not count, delivering high quality is not important and company funds are misdirected. Whilst this may seem like a good idea in the short term and the corrupt individuals who lack integrity are lining their pockets, the long term impact of such behaviours is clearly bleak. An organsiation whose employyees lack integrity is like a house built on a poor foundation. Sooner or later, the house will fall apart. A society ridden with people who lack integrity is a fostering ground for all sorts of crimes. Criminals know that they can get away with anything, whilst those who obey the rules are put in a situation they have to throw away their values if they want to see justice. The truth becomes hard to find in such a society and it becomes difficult to tell the good apples from the bad ones.
So why should we be doing the right thing when no one is looking. Why integrity matters?
Doing the right thing when no one is looking is not only about us as individuals. Instead, what we do when we are alone, those deals we strike in dark corridors and the hands we shake when whilst curtains are closed contribute to the whole fabric of our society, the world we live in. As each one of us upholds our values, stand for what is right, whether it is in the broad day light of the day or in the quiet dark hours of the night we are playing a part in building a good environment within our own homes, our own societies and our own world. Together we create a society where teachers are committed, police officers can be depended on and the rule of law is honored. Therefore as you go about your day today, may you be guided by your values. When no one is watching you, are you delivering high standards of service, are you doing the right thing, are you working hard? Are you striving for excellence? Or are you cutting corners? Are you using your moral compass as a guide or are you being guided by selfishness. In the words of the famous Chinese philosopher, Confucius,
“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.”
So just as each brick contributes to the building of a house so too does each of us contribute to the building of our societies. Undoubtedly, the quote, “Integrity, doing the right thing when no one is looking” is one of the most important mantras we should all strive to live by. It is one thing we can all do, it requires zero talent.
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