January 12, 2004
Honesty always remains the best policy
What causes people to lie, cheat and steal?
Ego, arrogance and greed drive integrity-destroying
behaviors. Ego is that little voice that whispers that
certain individuals really are smarter than most other
people. Arrogance becomes the response that believes
this ego-driven "superiority message" and
then acts upon the misinformation. Greed is simply the
over-the-top, self-serving motive that is blind to social
and moral constraints.
Individuals who believe they are smarter than those
about them are convinced that no matter what they do,
they will not be caught. Individuals choose to lie because
they conclude it is an effective way to get what they
want. Some use as their excuse that they grew up in some
kind of dysfunctional environment and their sociological
and genetic roots are what caused them to lie, cheat
and steal. If that were a solid defense, arguably millions
of people could blame their "upbringing" for
their irresponsible behaviors. However, such a justification
simply fails to hold water.
This ego, arrogance and greed explanation describes
all too common human behavior. But, what about the circumstances
that move ego and arrogance into such destructive as
stealing, driven by greed? What causes them to believe
that they can "get away with it"? Those who
choose to lie, cheat and steal have their own reassuring
answers to these three questions:
Will I get caught? No, because my clever antics will
easily escape the naïve audits of those in accounting
or the salesperson who is so preoccupied that my shoplifting
will go unnoticed.
Will those in law enforcement, should I ever be caught,
be able to make the case to convict me? No, because those
folks will likely miss a clue and not file their crime
reports accurately - and even when they do, they
will still fail to convene a perceptive jury. Further,
arrogance at this level believes the imperfect justice
system will be unable to convict. The superior "gamer" will
simply find a way to wiggle free.
Assuming ego, arrogance and greed are root causes for
lying, cheating and stealing, then what can be done to
make society better? People obey socially acceptable
rules and regulations, personally and professionally,
for a variety of reasons:
They simply "buy-in" to integrity-centered
values. Nurture them.
They fear being arrested, audited or
embarrassed. Remind them. Spiritual principles inspire
constructive behavior while holding destructive actions
in check. Encourage them.
They are simply too tired to risk getting caught, knowing
their memory will not keep stories straight about their
lying, cheating or stealing. Confirm their self-doubts
Integrity is one of several paths, and it distinguishes
itself from the others because it is the right path and
the only one upon which individuals will never get lost.