Lying, cheating, stealing. I assume you know the difference between right and wrong. The question is whether you abstain from those acts because you’re honorable or because you’re afraid of getting caught. Would you do something unethical if you could get away with it?
Nobody, except the perpetrator, really knows why an unscrupulous act was committed. If you were the perpetrator, were you taking a shortcut, covering up the truth, scamming the system, giving in to a moment of weakness, or selling your soul to the devil? Regardless of the reason, the result is the same — even though others may not know that you committed the act, you’ll know for sure. And you have to live with that fact.
How does that make you feel? While some people would feel guilty, dirty, or even worthless, others are oblivious. For them, it’s all about the prize.
Are You Honorable or Afraid of Getting Caught?
We are regularly faced with choices that fall in the gray area of moral behavior. Other times our choices are clear as day. Determine if the following 15 points are clear in your mind.
- Is stealing someone else’s idea as dishonest as stealing a possession?
- If you do something unscrupulous, to benefit others, does that make it right?
- If your boss tells you to do something unethical, does that excuse immoral behavior?
- Is stealing the credit that belongs to someone else really stealing?
- Is overlooking dishonest behavior as bad as committing the act?
- Are you a winner if you cheat?
- Does talking about morality make you a good person?
- Is spreading lies as cruel as creating them?
- If you fail to report dishonest behavior, are you being dishonest?
- Is telling a “white lie” lying?
- Is omitting a key fact as bad as telling a blatant lie?
- Is breaking a small commitment as bad as breaking a large one?
- If several others commit a wrongdoing, is it appropriate to mimic them?
- Does the size of a reward ever justify shady behavior?
- Is stealing a little as bad as stealing a lot?
What Is Your Dignity Worth to You?
You’re going to be tested throughout your life. You may be tempted to cheat to make yourself look good, stretch the truth to cover your behind, or do something unethical to get what you want. The challenge is that the right choice might not always be as clear as day. That’s when your actions reveal your true character.
It’s easy to say what you’ll do in theory, but your actions count most when the rubber meets the road. Your choice is clear. Will you live a life that makes you proud or choose a path of dishonor and deceit?
To make matters more complicated, your answer may not always be on full display. In fact, it may be a test in which you grade your own exam. No one will know how you performed — but you will.
If you choose the path of honor and integrity, there may be some negative consequences. In fact, you may fall short of the prize that you had your heart set on; you may be forced to tell your boss you’re not comfortable with his or her request; or, if you did something wrong, you may have some explaining to do.
The prize for being honest is that, even though you may not win all the time, you’ll be true to yourself and your values. What’s that worth? Everything! John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” Would you do something unethical if you could get away with it? Follow your conscience. You have to live with yourself for the rest of your life.
Would You Do Something Unethical If You Could Get Away with It?
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