Some Have It—Most Don’t

There is this strange phenomenon. Maybe it’s uniquely American. We demand that others behave in a manner that’s more ethical, honest, and consistent than the way we live our own lives.

We’ve all heard this ad nauseum: “All politicians lie.” Well, according to Robert Feldman, whose studied how often people lie, we all lie quite a bit.

Then, there is this idea that while others fold like a “cheap tent” when pressure is applied, that you’d be the one righteous man/woman who would be willing to “stand in the gap” for truth. Bullshit!

Do You Have Integrity?

America has elected a pathological liar as president. So what if you didn’t vote for him? Donald Trump is now president and you are going to face the consequences for the actions of 62 million people who decided to inflict their anger and concerns about losing their white privilege, on all of us.

If you are a resident of Maine like I am, we’ve lived through seven years of petulance masquerading as leadership. Like the decision by our governor to withhold training funds because he didn’t get his own way. And for the people who are harmed by this, he doesn’t care.

As frustrating as this is to witness, there are still good people out there, who refuse to “go along to get along,” or become complicit in wrongdoing, or even evil.

Last Wednesday I had the good fortune to be in attendance when a close friend was feted by the nonprofit he’s worked for since 1999. His efforts to make a difference and provide opportunities for others while working inside the state’s workforce system is a testament to doing good and having a conscience. Not everyone is a moral coward, or simply doing whatever is necessary to collect a paycheck.

As I sat in the room and listened to stories from co-workers, saw photos flash up on the screen that represented the past 20 years of my friend’s life, I was thinking of those who were the total opposite of my friend, Paul.

I thought about a woman who I once worked for at an employment newspaper. When I was working for the Central/Western Maine Workforce Investment Board, we stayed in touch, usually meeting quarterly for lunch. We’d talk about our families, she’d ask about Mark and I’d ask about her son. Like Mark, he was an only child.

Later, when she was going through a transition in her life, I shared a little of my own journey at the statewide HR conference at the Samoset in Rockport. This was in May of 2012. I’d recently left full-time employment and was entering the free agent phase of my career. We agreed to “have lunch” to continue our conversation. That planned lunch never happened.

Not long after our conversation, I read that she’d accepted a deputy director’s position in the state’s Department of Labor. In her role and then later as commissioner, I was taken back by the change that had taken place in her. Or perhaps she was simply being who she always was, but had masked that cold, calculating behavior. Now, she was just another bureaucrat carrying out the governor’s ideological agenda, Maine workers be damned!

None of us are perfect. We all have areas that are stronger than some others. The honest person also knows their own weak spots and works at them. People like Paul (and my late son, Mark), have always been committed to being better human beings. This has been evident ever since I met Paul in 2006, two weeks after Bryant Hoffman named me as his business services advisor.

Last January, the bottom fell out of my world. Mark, a noble poet, activist, and performance artist, was hit and killed while walking across America to raise awareness about climate change.

When things like that happen in your life, you immediately learn who your real friends are. You also learn a lot about those people who don’t step up and offer something as simple as condolences.

Paul and his partner, Carla, were at our house the week following Mark’s death. Paul went shopping at Whole Foods and figured out what foods were appropriate for his two plant-based vegan friends, and he and Carla brought us lunch one day and sat with us after, during a particularly trying week. I’m sure he didn’t know exactly what to say, but he stepped up and showed up for us (as did Carla). That speaks louder than anything that he’d ever been prior, as a friend—and he was a damn good friend before then. I’ve never as much as gotten an email from the person I once worked for. There are plenty of others just like her that I could highlight.

I see many people going through their lives, doing whatever they have to do in maintaining the status quo. At work, on the boards where they serve, and presidents of a major universities discount claims of sexual harassment, while enabling (and sheltering) predators like Larry Nassar.

This is what Charles Pierce wrote for Sports Illustrated. I can’t say I find anything objectionable in this quote:

Burn it all down. That is the calm and reasoned conclusion to which I have come as one horror story after another unspooled in the courtroom. Nobody employed in the upper echelons at USA Gymnastics, or at the United States Olympic Committee, or at Michigan State University should still have a job. If accessorial or conspiracy charges plausibly can be lodged against those people, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Those people should come out of civil courts wearing barrels. Their descendants should be answering motions in the 22nd Century. In fact, I can argue convincingly that none of those three institutions should continue to exist in its current form. USA Gymnastics and the USOC should lose their non-profit status forthwith. Michigan State should lose its status within the NCAA for at least five years. American gymnastics is no longer a sport. It’s a conspiracy of pedophiles and their enablers.

Hypocrisy doesn’t have to be the norm. You don’t have to lie, steal, and hurt others just to get ahead. If you do, then own that you aren’t a very good human being.

While Paul’s always been there for me, there are many out there who knew me well and knew who my son was. By not acknowledging what’s happened to me (and my wife), I see you for who you really are, and probably who you’ve always been.

Truth, honesty, and living a life of integrity can’t be faked. At some point, we find out who you really are.