The Words for the Week are courtesy of Michael Josephson of Character Counts
I’ve talked about it lots of times before: The high cost of lying and deception by politicians, police, corporate executives, clergy, journalists, accountants, and educators has weakened every major social institution.
As each of these domains wages its separate battle to remove the cloud of suspicion and cynicism that hovers over it, there are six truths about trust that must be understood and dealt with.
First, there is no shortcut to building trust. Rebuilding it on the rubble of lost credibility is much harder. The antidote is nothing less than scrupulous and consistent honesty — especially when the truth is costly.
Second, where trust is important, there are no small lies. Falsehoods, however small they seem, are like germs. Without the antibody of trust, they cause infections that can kill credibility.
Third, the lethal quality of lies lasts long after they’re told. Lies told years ago have an immediate poisonous effect on trust when they’re discovered. Think of all the prominent people who’ve been undone by the discovery of trumped-up old resumes.
Fourth, while honesty and forthrightness don’t always pay, dishonesty and concealment always cost. It’s true in some settings nothing good may come of admitting wrongdoing, but it gets a lot worse when you don’t.
Fifth, lies breed other lies. It’s harder to tell just one lie than to have just one potato chip. Once you start deceiving, it takes more and more bodyguards of new lies to protect the old ones.
Finally, don’t be seduced by the “I’m just fighting fire with fire” excuse or all you’ll end up with is the ashes of your integrity. Self-justifications aside, you can’t lie to a liar or cheat a cheater without becoming a liar or a cheater.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
© 2009 Josephson Institute of Ethics; reprinted with permission. Michael Josephson, one of the nation’s leading ethicists, is the founder of the Josephson Institute of Ethics and the premier youth character education program, CHARACTER COUNTS! For further information visit www.charactercounts.org
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. — Henry Ford