COMMENTARY 981.4: I Owe It to My Family

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.

Comments 9

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

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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’…

  5. 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.

    1. 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.

  6. Please someone send a copy of this article to the top brass at NSA so that they may see the light in what our young whistleblower, now sitting, somewhere in Russia and those who are still in the USA, have released to us, the unsuspecting public.

  7. Dear Joseph,

    I agree with Jennifer and Gary in that the woman who was distressed felt she truly was at the end of her rope and could not go against the hens that feeds her and her family. I agree that when your reply, after you rite this down, and that of others who say Stand Firm And Don’t Keep Quiet, are not empathetic and do not truly understand the dear and dread of her situation. The question is not to say something at any cost to her, but to ask, what other options are available that the woman could take anonymously. One option, as pointed out by a reader is to ask if there is an Ombudsman available that can take this issue forward without naming the women. Another option is to ask, as previously written, if there is an anonymous phone call that can be made to the leadership. If there is no other option available then the next option for you and us, is to approach the company president and request that such options are available to the employees and to work with them until they commit and establish the option of an anoymous phone message or to be able to see an ombudsman. But by stopping and saying that after recollecting yourself, it that the other readers too said that there is no excuse but to Not Keep Quiet at the peril of her dread of loosing her job is far from a solution. Lastly, we surley do not know how difficult and fearful and outright panicking she must truly feel that she has no options, when we say You Must Say Something. It is nice to view frozen artic movies from the comfort of our chairs thinking how nice it would be to be there, or not being able to truly empathize with hungry buffers on the street when we are not famished from not eating for two days. Thank you for the opportunity to help provide options that were not considered.

    And Kanji’s is dead wrong when not calling out the treason that the person he refers to, has committed against all our wonderful American Nation.

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