Archive for May, 2011

 

When Integrity Goes Lacking, What Happens?

May 26th, 2011
Jim Thomas

The timely and timeless virtue of integrity was formulated across a succession of centuries and passed down to us as a legacy of upright conduct. Authorities of the ages rank it first among the noble cardinal virtues. The absence of it is unmistakable—among individuals, professionals, and corporations. It goes lacking:

• if we place too little premium on trustworthiness and reputation;
• if we cannot keep our word in matters great and small;
• if we ascribe no weight to accountability;
• if we fail to deliver as promised, when promised, in the manner promised;
• if we are prone to cut corners and play loosely with the rules;
• if we have no sense of sin; as Robert Radcliffe , president of the Southern Company, called it;
• and, if we are unwilling to stand up and be counted when it counts.
Then! over time, our relationships—personal and otherwise–our good works, products, and services will find fewer and fewer takers.
That’s as true as turnips and taxes and ain’t nothin’ truer than them,” David Copperfield told Mr. Barkus.

Henry Fonda Exemplifies Integrity on Set of Mister Roberts

May 19th, 2011
Jim Thomas

Henry Fonda, native of Nebraska, overcame early struggles in his chosen field to become one of America’s acclaimed actors. Who could ever forget his magnificent performances in The Ox Bow Incident, The Grapes of Wrath, The Caine Mutiny, and 12 Angry Men? In 1999, he was named the sixth Greatest Male Star of all time by the American Film Institute.

A mid-westerner and a man of great dignity and inner convictions, he epitomized for many Americans some of the best that is within us. This he demonstrated on the set of the award-winning classic play, Mister Roberts. The production ran for 1,157 performances on Broadway.
As the character, Lt. Doug Roberts, Fonda answered the call in each and every one. On one occasion, he had good reason not to.

During the play’s run, he and his family resided in Greenwich Connecticut. On Friday, April 14, 1950, his second wife, Frances Seymour Brokaw, committed suicide in the bathroom of their home. Hank, as he was known to family and close friends, after immediate arrangements, drove to New York that very night and gave his scheduled performance in Mister Roberts. Those in attendance said his performance was indistinguishable from all others in his three-year run.

His wife was gone. He could not bring her back. An audience awaited him. They expected him. As an actor there was an obligation to be met in the long-standing tradition that ‘the show must go on.’

Fonda gave more than a stage performance that night. He rendered an act of integrity. He held to an honorable standard of conduct even when it was difficult to do so. Integrity is the First Great Virtue, and Aristotle said virtue is concerned with what is harder.

The French Resistance,Integrity, and the Deliberate Choice

May 10th, 2011
Jim Thomas

 We know it when we see it, but integrity—in the abstract—can be uncertain, vague, and even elusive. Yet, many who have thought deeply on the subject maintain it ranks first among the cardinal virtues. Undoubtedly, for without it other assets and advantages decline in value, or become of no value at all.

The men and women of the French Resistance in World War II exemplified the very essence of integrity. From them we see this indidpensable virtue is about making the deliberate choice. A choice to stand by the right principles, at the right time, for the right reasons—even when it is unprofitable or inconvenient to do so.

In May of 1940, Germany invaded and occupied France. The invaders soon clamped down with an iron heel. Young Frenchmen were deported to work in German war industries. French Jews were deported to concentration camps. Great treasures of French art and culture—the pride of the nation—were soon being looted and shipped to Germany. What should they do? What could they do, if anything? asked the citizens of France.

An overwhelming majority said “nothing,” and adhered to their usual routine. Another contingent collaborated with their occupiers. A tiny element, looking on from the safety of their homes and jobs, became outraged and decided something must be done. They made a deliberate choice; they joined forces with the resistance fighters. No one made them do it. They acted freely and voluntarily. Their motivations arose from patriotism and love of country.

Once the choice was made, France’s practitioners of integrity drew upon a separate and distinct virtue—courage—to enforce it.

In his highly popular book, Your Greatest Power, Psychologist J. Martin Kohe contends that the power to choose is the greatest single power of the human psyche.

The deliberate choice, not necessarily the superior choice, but by all means avoidance of the bad choice, that is the fundamental underpinning of integrity.