Integrity and Honor

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Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

A familiar story with a new sequel every two years, cheating Olympians, completely baffles me. Why are certain athletes willing to trade their integrity for an Olympic medal? Why are certain coaches and/or trainers willing to look the other way or even aid and abet? Don’t they realize that wearing a gold medal and being an Olympic champion are not equivalent? There is no victory in cheating.

“Winning is nice if you don’t lose your integrity in the process.” — attributed to Arnold Horshak, character in the television sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter”

“…a gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without one, you’ll never be enough with one.” — from the Disney movie “Cool Runnings”

Playing by the rules is more than sportsmanship. It is a reflection of honesty: honesty toward others and honesty with one’s self. And isn’t honesty at the heart of integrity? There’s another integrity aspect: having and following a “moral compass.”

“Integrity means adopting a morally strong value system and having the honesty, courage and conviction to live and act within these values.” — Clancy Cross

This definition leads to two thoughts. First, integrity is an inside job, which means it’s a personal decision.

“We choose what attitudes we have right now. And it’s a continuing choice.” — John C. Maxwell

“The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.” — John C. Maxwell

Second, integrity is so important to building and maintaining relationships that a person’s greatest gift may be to live a life of integrity that inspires and encourages others to raise their standards and commitment to integrity. Ideally, an integrity foundation is built in the home during the formative childhood years and is forever nurtured by teachers, pastors, friends, colleagues and others.

“The reward for doing right is mostly an internal phenomenon: self-respect, dignity, integrity, and self- esteem.” — Dr. Laura Schlessinger

“Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you.” — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him.” — Bible, Proverbs 20:7

“The effect of one upright individual is incalculable.” — Oscar Arias

“The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.” — Socrates

This ideal picture of integrity breaks down because inevitably, moral and ethical principles will be violated. The realization that human perfection is unachievable is not a new revelation. So, how can there be integrity when everyone commits violations against his own principles? It would seem that the only logical alternative for avoiding universal hypocrisy is to adopt a personal philosophy devoid of moral principles. Some would say “moral relativism” is an attempt to do just that. (That’s a topic for another day.) Actually, the paradox dissolves when we fully understand the final piece of integrity.

“Honor isn’t about making the right choices. It’s about dealing with the consequences.” — Midori Koto

How does a person of integrity respond to his own moral failings? First, he makes a humble admission of and apology for the offense, totally free of excuses. Conversely, “I’m sorry I did it, but …” is hardly an effective confession. Second, the person of integrity takes ownership of the consequences and makes appropriate reparations. Finally, integrity demands a commitment to do better. After that, the rest is up to those who were offended. Will they forgive? Will they hold a grudge? Whatever the aggrieved party decides, a person of the highest integrity will accept the verdict with grace and move on.

Humility is what allows integrity to survive moral indiscretions. Even so, it’s important to realize that it takes more time to develop integrity than to destroy it and even more time to restore it when it is damaged. While Integrity has some room for errors, just one momentary indiscretion has the potential to be a major setback against a lifetime of progress. This implies that people serious about their integrity should behave as if any violation will destroy it and when necessary, respond with humility and urgency to restore it.

“Honor is like a steep island without a shore: one cannot return once one is outside.” — Nicholas Boileau-Despréaux

“Character is much easier kept than recovered.” — Thomas Paine, author, statesman

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” — William Shakespeare

Life without integrity is a miserable and pathetic existence. So, in a sense, hanging on to integrity is a matter of life and death.

“What is left when honor is lost?” — Publilius Syrus (~100 BC), Maxims

“Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society.” — Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

God bless,

— CC

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© Copyright September 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

Mind Your P’s and Q’s

The ABC’s of Professionalism

There are several stories about how the English expression, “mind your P’s and Q’s” came to be. One such theory says that 17th Century barkeepers kept track of their patrons’ consumption and would instruct them to “mind their pints and quarts.” Centuries later my Grandma used the same expression with her young grandchildren. It never dawned on me that she was concerned about my drinking habits. From the perspective of a six-year old, I assumed she was talking about my manners.

It’s a curious thing that we have so many words for this antiquated expression.  Thankfully we’re still concerned about subject, whatever one chooses to call it.

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.” — Emily Post (1872-1960)

Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax.” — Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

“Nothing is less important than which fork you use. Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is ethics. It is honor.” — Emily Post (1872-1960)

“Life is not so short but that there is always time for courtesy — Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Civility costs nothing and buys everything.” — Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762)

“Without an acquaintance with the rules of propriety, it is impossible for the character to be established.” — Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC), The Confucian Analects

“Observe decorum, and it will open a path to morality.” — Mason Cooley (1927-2002)

The fact that mankind has adopted codes of behavior has been constant throughout recorded history. What have changed are the specific rules and their relative importance. The character of George Washington was strongly influenced by “110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” Here are a few samples:

#15 — Keep your nails clean and short, also your hands and teeth clean yet without showing any great concern for them.

#19 — Let your countenance be pleasant but in serious matters somewhat grave.

#22 — Shew not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy.

#108 — When you speak of God, or His attributes, let it be seriously and with reverence. Honor and obey your natural parents although they be poor.

#110 — Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

— Catherine Millard, “Rewriting of America’s History” pp.59-60

Those with adult children know first-hand how technology and generational attitudes affect changes in the current code. Certain “P’s and Q’s” of one generation might be “don’t know and don’t care” to a younger demographic. They are busy with other priorities. I don’t have access to President Washington’s entire list, but it’s a certain bet that it does not include the proper way to “de-friend” someone from one’s cellular favorites.

Cell phones and email are among the top disruptive technologies of the last 15 years. Appropriate behaviors are still being defined and learned.  For fun, I visited some Web sites that addressed cell phone etiquette of which I chose five for comparison. The authors agreed that ringers should be off in places like theaters, cell phones and driving don’t mix, and talking louder on a cell phone is unnecessary and rude. Four of the five complained about personalized ring tones. After that, they were all over the map, indicating we don’t yet have a common baseline for cell phone etiquette.

One way to learn about manners is to Google “pet peeves”. There are pet peeve lists about cell phone usage, driving, recruiting, baseball, the workplace, the bathroom, and even pet pet peeves. Those gripes which enough people share will eventually spawn new or revised rules of etiquette.  However, these lists also contain some pretty petty pet peeves. (Maybe alliteration is on yours.)

Bad manners (good manners, too) affect everyone.

“Whoever one is, and wherever one is, one is always in the wrong if one is rude.” — Maurice Baring (1874–1945)

Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.” — Author Unknown

There’s an interesting three-way relationship among respect, manners, and morals in the following quotation:

“To have respect for ourselves guides our morals; and to have a deference for others governs our manners.” — Lawrence Sterne (1713-1768)

The subtle but important meaning is an inferred relationship between morals and manners. Without this connection, manners would merely be arbitrary conventions. Good manners come in two forms: acts of kindness and omissions of kindness (things one refrains from doing or saying.) In most cases these are small, simple matters requiring little knowledge and effort.

“Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

“Good manners: The noise you don’t make when you’re eating soup.” — Bennett Cerf (1898-1971)

Like all character issues, minding one’s P’s and Q’s produces tangible social and professional benefits.  In fact, the return often far exceeds the investment.

“Politeness and consideration for others is like investing pennies and getting dollars back.” — Thomas Sowell (1930- ), Creators Syndicate

“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” — Clarence Thomas (1948- )

“Outcomes rarely turn on grand gestures or the art of the deal, but on whether you’ve sent someone a thank-you note.” — Bernie Brillstein (1931-2008), “The Little Stuff Matters Most”

P’s and Q’s can help produce “peace and quiet” in a fast-paced, stressful world for you and those whom you meet.

“Good manners and soft words have brought many a difficult thing to pass.” — Sir John Vanbrugh (1664?-1726)

God bless,

— CC

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© Copyright November 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

On Purpose

Because we usually go through the day on automatic pilot, its easy to lose track of the reason we do certain things. For example, today I got out of bed, like I do every day. Was this accidental or did I do it on purpose? What was the purpose? I decided to do the mental exercise of listing some of the things I did and the reason(s) behind them.

Action or Thought Purpose
Got out of bed Things to do that are more important than lying in bed.
Ate food Quench my hunger; give me energy; keep me healthy.
Read the Bible Feed my mind; calibrate my attitude.
Showered It’s healthful; to avoid offending others.
Went to a business meeting Make a sale.
Studied & took an online test Improve my mind.
Went to bed Recharge my batteries (sleeping feels good!)

I began to recognize that in each case, these purposes were not the total answer. Each was based on a more foundational purpose. For example, the “things more important than lying in bed” included making a living to help take care of my family. But, that still did not fully satisfy my mental exercise. There was an even deeper purpose at stake. Why should anyone consider caring for his family as a worthwhile purpose? Well, for moral reasons, of course. The next logical question was, “Where do morals come from?” It goes even deeper, but that’s enough for now.

I also thought back on how well I executed the tasks with respect to the intended purpose. Did eating quench my hunger and give me energy? Yes. Did it promote good health? Here I can do better. I humbly admit that I ate too much and did not eat a well-balanced meal.

What is the purpose guiding your life. Is it to be happy and/or to make others happy? Could it be that your purpose is to make a difference in the world? Maybe your purpose is simply to avoid doing harm to others? If so, are you missing an even larger purpose? Unless we are a cosmic accident, we were put here for a special purpose ordained by a creator. Could that creator be God? I hope you enjoy the quotes and are inspired to reflect on your purpose.

“Everyone has a purpose in life. Perhaps yours is watching television.” — David Letterman

“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” — Bible, Proverbs 20:5

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

“The secret of success is constancy of purpose.” — Benjamin Disraeli

“To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

“Many persons have the wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” — Helen Keller

“Any ideas, plan, or purpose may be placed in the mind through repetition of thought.” — Napoleon Hill

“Unless a life is activated by sustained purpose it can become a depressingly haphazard affair.” — Richard Guggenheimer

“Providence has nothing good or high in store for one who does not resolutely aim at something high or good. A purpose is the eternal condition of success.” — T. T. Munger

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” — Bible, Proverbs 19:21

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” — Bible, Romans 8:28

By the way, for those of you who think you know me pretty well, try and guess my favorite quote on purpose.

God bless,

— CC

© Copyright August 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com