“The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew
he would never be found out.” ~Thomas Babington Macaulay
What If No One Found Out?
Yesterday one of my chronically late coworkers remarked to new employee who is following in her footsteps and arrived twenty-five minutes late, "It doesn't matter, our supervisor isn't here," with the implication being that since he wasn't present to note the tardiness it wasn't a problem. We see examples of that kind of thinking everyday, no only in the workplace but also in our relationships and at home. (My wife doesn't know I'm cheating on her, my parents don't know I'm skipping school, my brother doesn't know that the money he loaned me is really so I can buy drugs, my friend doesn't know I told her that I'm sick so I could hang out with someone else, etc.) What they don't know won't hurt them, or us. Or will it? Whatever happened to personal itegrity? Just as the quote says above, true character isn't about the public image we portray, it's about the kind of person we are inside... what we believe, how we determine right from wrong, and how we conduct our lives whe no one is looking.
There are so many ways we cheat at life... petty theft, little white lies, half-truths, cutting corners when it comes to being stand-up people who follow thru on what they say and keep their commitments. But when we do that we are only fooling ourselves. Deep down we have that little nagging voice that says "you're faking it, you're pretending to be someone/something you're not." When we allow ourselves to start chipping away at that line between true and false we allow for further erosion of our character, until we become someone who is no longer capable of determining right from wrong, who finds a way to blur the black and white line in everything they do... situation ethics, always finding some way to justify our behavior.
The bottom line is that you may have other people fooled, or at least think you do, but you can never really fool yourself, and in the end you will have yourself to answer for. Isn't it better to conduct your life in such a way that when you look in the mirror you like the person that you see? Spend a moment reflecting on the content of your character, what would you do if you knew no one would find out? Would you still do it if you knew they would?
I'm linking up with Cate at Six Word Saturday... join us there!