In ‘Batman Begins,’ Batman made a very interesting quote to Rachel Dawes, “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I ‘do’ that defines me.” I choose this for the ‘…what I do that defines me” part of the quote, for it leads directly into the Precept 4” “Refrain from false speech.” It isn’t that everyone could or should be Batman; merely the very act of refraining from false speech shows tremendous character. Very hard to do … but if performed, shows tremendous character.
Refraining from false speech is about lying. Not just about those big hairy lies, but even the ‘small’ or ‘white lies.’ Some have expanded this further to not giving biased or false information. And that’s where it gets difficult. If you are in a position where you lie by omission or tell white lies to protect someone, it is suggested that we consider ways to re-phrase the message without being deceptive.
Many believe there is an important distinction to be made between public and private life. Some believe lying is more justified in public versus private. As constituents, we tolerate a politician who lies because he adores and is rigorously faithful to society yet experiences some marital infidelity. We accept both because we believe in the possibility of comprehensive integrity.
Whether one agrees with his political stance or not, former Presidential Candidate Ross Perot once made an interesting quip, “any man who will lie to his wife will lie to me.” I know from personal experience, that once the relationship of trust is violated, there is no moral distinction to be drawn. And regardless of reason, it’s almost impossible to justify.
In business, I have found very few businesses where employees are equal. Conceptually, these businesses are based upon the premise that people, treated with honesty and concern, will respond with loyalty and hard work. Still, while that model does exist, I have seen business leaders sell-out or close the operation with little concern for their employees or customers.
I have consulted with many companies whose business model accentuated sales over ethics. I recently had a client privately say his business model was to receive millions in government incentives and then close. Factually verifying the information, I found it highly unethical, but strangely, not illegal. I once saw a short-lived reality TV show where a car-dealer sold his father a high-end truck, not because his father needed the vehcile, but simply to meet a monthly quota.
If we are to be leaders, we must stand for something. We have to hear all sides of the issue, treat everyone as partners, and formulate honesty as the foundation of our life.
Yes, this precept is very hard to accomplish every single day. And like most, I have failed. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t get up and try to get it right. All if us face extraordinary situations daily where ethics have, and will continue to be, sliced to an atomic subsurface.
“When regard for truth has been broken down or even slightly weakened, all things will remain doubtful.” (St. Augustine).
Remember Batman, it’s “what I ‘do’ that defines me.” Remain true!