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.