Integrity Matters
November 2, 2005

Your bumper sticker says a lot about you

Question: (E-207)

Dear Jim:

What are people saying about their values when they place gross bumper stickers on their automobiles?


Everything we do communicates! Intentionally advertising who one is or what one stands for on a crude or callous bumper sticker can be short-sighted, naïve, even counter-productive. Case in point, the message on the back of a large sports utility vehicle: "Mom's Taxi: Get in. Sit Down. Shut Up. Hold On." By itself, this message suggests no conflict. "Mom's Taxi" operates on her terms, so with no pun intended, it is Mom's way or the highway! However, just to the left of Mom's license plate was a large chrome symbol, the outline of a fish, announcing that the owner-driver was a "public" proponent of Christianity.

The driver-owner of this vehicle must not have seen inconsistency between the phrase "shut up" and spiritual values that encourage thoughtfulness, encouragement, compassion and graciousness. Even what appears to be light-hearted humor communicates, sometimes more than might have been intended. After all, do spiritually grounded people tell others to shut up? So, how effectively is this "mom" exhibiting congruence between what she says about her personal spiritual values and what she does when driving her vehicle? Is this cute or sad?

Beyond bumper stickers, think about the images and messages we present to the world. How we dress, speak, stand, sit and walk - each communicates our openness, confidence and apparent competence. Humans are a living and breathing bulletin board, announcing who they are and how they operate to anyone who sees, smells, touches or hears them. Words used, gossip repeated, jokes told, slurs uttered and certainly actions taken are windows into individual human souls.

Growing up in our family meant that we heard, repeatedly, certain behavior-influencing themes.

Though they were longer than bumper stickers, when their wisdom didn't stick, we risked getting a bump. Examples:

  • You will be known by your associates, so pick top quality friends.
  • Smile, because you wouldn't want your face to freeze in a frown.
  • Say nothing if you cannot say something good.
  • Work harder; when you can't work smarter.
  • Arrive early so others won't have to wait for you.
  • Tell the truth, because it is the right thing to do and is easier to remember than a lie.
  • Never trust those who expect you to compromise your values.

Congruence between what we say and what we do is important because it reflects our integrity.

Living up to integrity-centered behavior standards is hard work. What bumper sticker is worthy of your reputation? Remove those that fall short.

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