Fundamental tenet of the cardinal virtue of integrity is the willingness to pronounce one’s beliefs. Not on trivialities, but on material issues affecting the conduct of human affairs.
In the great scheme of things, opinions have no effect unless they are made known. Otherwise, they rise no higher than self- indulgence.
The announcement of convictions can have a profound effect on others—even if they disagree. Words are powerful things. Once released they take on lives of their own. Otherwise, silence installs a statement of consent. Silence can harbor an agreement of that with which one inwardly disagrees.
Richard covey, who studies and writes on the habits of successful people, says “You need to know what you stand for and you need to stand for it, so others will know, too.”
In an oft-quoted statement, Martin Luther King said, “the ultimate measure of the person is not found in moments of comfort and convenience, but where one stands in hours of challenge and controversy.”
In 1956, in Moscow, at the twentieth congress of the soviet communist party, the main speaker was Nikita Khrushchev. For the first time, he began disclosing the magnitude of Josef Stalin’s crimes. As he spoke, a note was passed up from the vast audience. He received it, glanced at it, and then read it aloud: “if Stalin was such a monster, why didn’t you and the leadership stand up to him?”
“An excellent question,” said Nikita. “I would be grateful if the comrade who asked it would stand so I can answer him face to face.” Not one soul stirred. “Well,” said Nikita, “there is the answer to your question.”
An admiring colleague, who did not always agree with him, said of Earl Warren, Governor of the State of California, and later Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court: “Warren stood up and was counted on every great issue of his age.”
You can depend on it. Issues of consequence will arise. Material questions will call for answers. Problems will require solutions. And somewhere, sometime, somebody will draw a moral line in the sand. In those moments, who values—silence—the hedge—the side step—the straddle—the waffle? Or, splitting the difference?
Two questions: have you ever paused and asked yourself on what principles do I stand? Where am I, too, non-negotiable?