Henry David Thoreau once said: “A man had better starve at once than lose his innocence in the process of getting his bread.”
Just doing a job cannot justify doing something unethical, immoral, or dishonest. The guards in the German concentration camps, after becoming friends with the prisoners, would often justify walking them to the gas chambers with, “I’m just doing my job.”
I know we have all been inundated with the messy details of the unraveling of Wall Street so I won’t bore you with more of the same. However, hopefully we will learn the lessons from this blatant example of what’s wrong with the common corporate mentality. Greed, deceit, and a “culture of corporate corruption” can never be justified.
Unfortunately, this is just one more historical example of moral meltdown. When people at the top justify one little breach of integrity and then compound it with another to cover the first, there is no limit to what can be encouraged. Adolf Hitler, Jim Jones and many others have served as models for leading “normal” individuals to lose all ethical perspective for the good of the cause. And the end result seems to be very predictable — devastation to thousands of innocent people.
Thomas Stanley, in his landmark book, “The Millionaire Mind,” lists the top five factors most often displayed by millionaires in explaining their economic success: (1) Integrity – being honest with all people, (2) Discipline – applying self control, (3) Social Skills – getting along with people, (4) A Supportive Spouse, and (5) Hard Work. Notice the number one characteristic – Integrity. Without that, any “success” is likely to be short-lived.
What is it that you are justifying doing just because it’s part of your job? Just because you have the ability to do something well is not enough reason to continue doing it – if it violates your values and common sense. If in the completion of your job or business, someone else is ultimately made poorer or taken advantage of, you are in great danger. (Prov 22:22-23) Stop immediately, no matter what it takes.
If your work doesn’t express your true values, you’re setting yourself up for deceit in other areas of your life. And for the invasion of ulcers, migraines, cancers as evidence of a less than authentic life. In the movie Cool Hand Luke, a guard says, “I’m just doing my job. You gotta appreciate that.” And Paul Newman responds: “Nah, Calling it your job don’t make it right, boss.” I agree.
(Incidentally, we all had to say goodbye to Paul Newman this week. He appeared to be an actor with unusual integrity in real life as well.)