COMMENTARY 862.3: I Owe It to My Family

by Michael Josephson on January 14, 2014

in Commentaries, The Good Life

An angry woman once approached me after a speech to tell me off. “It’s easy for you to talk about my responsibility to speak out or object to waste or wrongdoing,” she said, “but I’m a single mother and my highest duty is to keep my job. If that means occasionally looking the other way, so be it. You have no business trying to make me feel guilty for putting my family first.”

I’m a father of five, so her criticism hit hard, and it took me a while to sort it through. I think we have to be careful about using our families as an excuse for choices that diminish our integrity. Financial security is surely important, but so is the moral example we set for our children and the foundation we give them to build their lives on.

Suppose you’re faced with a difficult choice at work where you think you may be fired if you do what’s right. Which is the better gift to your family: 1) to compromise your principles and send the message that you can’t always afford to be ethical, or 2) to show that you can always afford ethics, that whatever happens you can make it, and that in this family, character matters and no job is worth dishonor?

Sometimes the dues we pay to maintain integrity are high, but the ultimate cost of moral compromise is much higher. In fact, the more an act of honor costs, the more it’s worth. Every example of moral courage contributes to a lasting legacy that our children can and will be proud of all their lives. Don’t give that up for the short-term benefits of security.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe Average May 19, 2011 at 11:15 am

Great analysis and conclusions Michael! As usual, your insights are thoughtful and inspiring – and greatly needed in the moral relativism of today.

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Stacey May 19, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Agreed! Our children are always much better copying what we do rather than listening to what we say. Better to demonstrate what we want to see in them (and ourselves)to cultivate integrity.
Good article! Much appreciated as always!

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RogerD May 20, 2011 at 7:36 am

Thank you, Well put and well said. I have recently been in a relationship with a woman that I have known for over 15 years. She has a 9 year old daughter and throughout she has asked for help and constantly reminding me that we are just “friends”, only to come back to me and ask of me things that a boyfriend, husband or family member would be of obligation to help her. Realizing now that she has been doing this not only of me, but of other men in her life. Her moral compass is off center. She has been a very important person in my life and I have only come to realize that based on her obligations to her daughter she lets nothing get her way of this obligation. Although her desire to do this is honorable, but also despicable. Noting that even her young daughter is now developing the same pattern towards others around her. This pattern is also geared towards her daughter whereas even her daughter does not get in the way of her desire to help her get what she wants. Sometimes the character and actions we develop for the reasons we do it, not even for the reason we do it will get in the way of what we desire. For the sake of her daughter, even her daughter doesn’t get in the way. Thank you for being very insightful.

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Rose May 20, 2011 at 8:14 am

We are often faced with hard choices, especially in today

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Gary January 22, 2014 at 8:20 am

I think what the woman was saying was that sometimes protecting your family is the most important thing. There are situations where for your own safety you have to weigh your options and choose what is best for your family. I am not talking about lying and cheating, but certain situations where keeping your mouth shut is the best way to protect your family. That is the reason why we have so many ways of anonymously reporting things. She’s right… just make sure that when you tell people to take the moral high ground… that you always say… “as best that you can.” Emphasis on ‘best’…

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Jennifer January 22, 2014 at 11:36 am

That’s a nice analysis, Michael, but I need to play devil’s advocate here. I am guessing you have never been a single mother — neither have I. We have not walked that mile in the lady’s moccasins, as my dear Grandmother would say. Without knowing how desperate her situation is, I can’t bring myself to disagree with her. We don’t know if she is forgoing meals so her children can eat. Long, rambly story short, I think neither of us is qualified to sit in our chair and say, “Just do the right thing.” It’s not so simple. Thanks for the opportunity to *gently* disagree.

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Clint January 22, 2014 at 12:35 pm

No. We haven’t walked in her shoes and that means that we should not judge. However, right is right and there are thousands of reasons we can come up with to turn a blind eye. “All that needs to happen for bad to prevail is for a good man to do nothing.” It won’t be easy but it will be worth it.

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