The Integrity Balloon
February 13, 2010 1 Comment
Many years ago, when my children were small, I dropped my daughter off at a home-based preschool and backed right into the preschool teacher’s truck. I got out and assessed the damage. No damage to my van. But, there was a foot-long dent in the teacher’s truck, definitely more than $500 in damage. Ouch. $500 was a big deal to us—we were struggling financially. Nobody saw me do it. If I had simply left, and hadn’t said a word, no one would have known that it was my fault. Would it have been so bad, just this once? I pondered, should I say something or shouldn’t I?
I realized it was a question of integrity. Would my behavior be in line with my values?
Do you remember, back in geometry class, what you call 2 triangles that have the same shape and size? Congruent Triangles. Imagine 2 congruent triangles, one labeled VALUES and the other BEHAVIOR. When our behavior is congruent with our values, we have integrity. We do what is right and in accordance with our values even when no one is watching, that is, in private. In public, it is also when our “Walk” is congruent with our “Talk.” If we don’t “walk the talk” we are hypocrites. Being hypocritical is a quick way to lose influence with others.
When someone meets you for the first time, they usually assume you are a person of generally good integrity. Imagine a person of integrity like an inflated balloon–full of goodness. But, then some hypocricy slips out and some “air” leaks out of the ballon. I value honesty. I lie—pssssst. I lose some integrity. I value kindness. I am cruel—psssssst. I lose some integrity. I value being responsible. I shirk my duties—psssssst. I lose some integrity. I see an injustice. I don’t speak out–pssssst. I lose some integrity. Pretty soon, I don’t have any integrity left. I’ve lost it and I am about as attractive as a flaccid, deflated balloon.
After I hit the preschool teacher’s car. I had a choice. If I had simply left, my behavior would not have been in line with my values. I valued honesty. I valued taking responsibility for one’s actions. So, I rang the doorbell, delivered the news and paid for the damage. Cost $500. Intact Integrity, priceless. I didn’t deflate my Integrity Balloon that day. In fact, I think it increased in size.