Integrity and the Peer-Group Shift

How many will watch the political National Conventions this week and next? Blah, blah, blah — elect me and the rise of the oceans will slow and the planet will begin to heal, elect the other guy and baby kittens will die. After all, we’re the one we’ve been waiting for.

Political conventions — enough manure to fertilize all of Iowa’s corn fields. How many “promises” from the last campaign were dropped or ignored after the election? Answer: almost all of them — it appears most people understand politicians say anything to get elected, then ignore their word.

Simply put, a lack of integrity.

It’s what HL Richardson calls “peer-group shift.” Before election, a politician’s peers are the citizens he hopes will vote for him. After being elected, his peers become the re-election campaign, PAC’s, special interests, unions, and anyone waving $$$ around. The citizen? Doesn’t even make the list.

Most people call that a lack of integrity. It’s no surprise elected politicians fail the integrity test, as once elected they only care about reelection and maintaining (or increasing) their power any way they can.

Integrity is what you do when you can get away with anything (either because nobody is looking, or you have the power to ignore complaints).

Of course, it’s easy to talk the talk, what about living the talk? Integrity isn’t something to complain Washington and the Administration lack, it’s for everyone.

A few weeks ago we were in a home improvement store to buy some wood for a Taekwondo board-breaking competition. We generally break 1-inch think pine boards, about 6x12 inches. The store only caries 12” wide by various lengths, usually 6, 8, or 10 feet, so the boards must be cut.

We were in a hurry, so instead of cutting them myself, we let the store do it. After buying the wood, walking outside into the lumber yard a store employee cuts however you require. I’ve done this before, and thought nothing of doing it again, until we spotted the sign:

First 4 cuts free, then $.50 each. Oops. Our board required many more cuts than that.

One more piece of information — the store employees never check for a receipt, you hand them the wood and they cut it. And you’re already outside the store, so it’s a quick walk back to the car.

Here’s where rationalizing begins.

$.50 a cut? That’s way too much. After all, once the saw is set up, it takes about 5 seconds per cut. Hmmm. The guy didn’t ask for a receipt, and we’re already outside, nobody will know if we paid the additional fee.

Rationalizing the dark side leads to, yes — it would be easy to avoid paying, but it wouldn’t be right. Integrity is what you do when you can get away with anything.

We had to lug all the boards back into the store, stand in line, and pay the additional $4 or so, even when it would have been easier to walk away.

Why can’t politicians do the right thing? I don’t know, I just know they don’t, so don’t wait for it. You, of course, as master of your domain, do control whether you act with integrity or not.

Integrity — doing the right thing when you can get away with doing the wrong thing. It’s not always easy or fun, but it’s the right thing to do.

Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends. Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the LORD, and keep their promises even when it hurts. Those who lend money without charging interest, and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. Such people will stand firm forever. (Psalm 15 NLT)

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