This article was written by Sheryl Bilbrey, President/CEO of the BBB of San Diego. Let’s Get Honest!
Why is cheating and lying so common in schools, on the sports field and in business and politics? I have heard of many reasons over the years. Some people would blame “pressure” because kids are under pressure to get into college and athletes are under pressure to win. Other people would cite “ambition” because of one’s desire to further their career or protect their livelihood. Still, other people would point the finger at “corporate greed” because of shareholder expectations to meet deadlines and exceed the previous profit margin.
Puh-leeze. Let’s get honest. The real reason that people take ethical shortcuts is to get what they want. Pressure, ambition or corporate greed might be an explanation, but they are not a justification.
So, why is our society so willing to shift responsibility for every form of human weakness from the individual to the system? Instead of blaming the cheater, we blame the test. Instead of blaming the liar, we blame the law and hope that no one is looking or we won’t get caught. What we call pressures today used to be called temptations. With so many news stories about people lying, cheating and stealing, some of us have become blasé to it. Reputations used to matter more. However, while our character is like a tree, our reputation is like its shadow. Our reputation is what people think of us, but our character is who and what we really are.
Whether you are a consumer, business owner, or charity, I would encourage trustworthiness. Being trustworthy is an indispensable aspect of good character. It involves accountability, fairness, scrupulous honesty and moral courage. We should always act so as to be worthy of trust – not because it’s wise but because it’s the right way to live. Indeed, your BBB’s renewed effort to get consumers to contact us for information on ethical businesses such as yours is summed up in our new slogan “Start With Trust.” When a consumer displays trust in a business or charity, they are expecting the right thing will be done, regardless of circumstances or pressures. They believe the organization will be reliable, responsive and successfully do what is expected with competence, fairness and follow-through.
Today, more than ever, you and I must believe in and demonstrate integrity and moral courage. Let’s focus on values and actions rather than rhetoric and good intentions. Let’s not surrender when our principles are challenged. Rather, let’s resolve on an individual basis to do what’s right, even when it will cost us something. We can still be proud of our efforts, even if we fail, as long as we did our best and did it honestly. Yes, it would be nice if we had less pressure in our lives, but it would be better to commit to demonstrate ethical principles in our everyday actions.