After an interruption to take inventory on where we were on April 1, and another interruption to steer you clear from the pitfalls of April Fool's Day, we are back on track with our week of gifts we can share with others. The gifts we are concerned with are gifts that cost no money, but gifts which take a few minutes of our time, some thoughtful consideration, and a lifetime of commitment to the principles we are teaching by example.
One of the best gifts we can give others is to set a good example. By setting a good example, we are laying the groundwork for others to watch how and what we do with the hope that others will emulate our deeds because they feel motivated to go along the same path that we are on. By setting a poor example, people all too often find a weak-kneed excuse for them to follow our errors with the idea that they saw us do it so it must be all right if they follow and do the same thing. The first path leads to a clear conscience; the second path leads to tears and regrets and perhaps worse penalties.
Among the most important characteristics we and others should choose and emulate and never deviate from is the characteristic of honesty. All too often we are stunned when we learn of a prominent politician or business person who has committed fraud or graft. Why people think they can get by with acts of deceit and dishonesty is beyond me. Some may get by for a time and think they are home free but, sooner or later, their despicable and dishonest act will catch up with them and bring not only themselves down to embarrassment and failure, but they may also cast a wide net of heartbreak across families and businesses and others who have been affected.
During my long years of teaching college, one of the most tragic and difficult problems I faced was the problem of student cheating. The pressure to pass exams, to get admitted to certain academic programs, to go on to graduate school, to hold on to scholarships, simply becomes too great some times and students crack. They may think that just this one time won't matter. Or, they would get by with cheating a time or two and then make cheating a regular and successful, they tragically think, practice. In an exam room filled with 400 students, you know some acts of dishonesty are going on. Today's electronic devices with information storage make cheating all the more possible if that is what you choose to do. My standard policy always was if you get caught cheating, you flunk the exam.
Many students plan to go on to graduate school and obtain an MBA, a law degree, or go to dental or medical school or seek some other professional training. My roommate when I was an undergraduate student got caught doing something he shouldn't have done and I ended up taking his textbooks and class assignments down to the jail where he stayed a few days while everything was sorted out. That little stint cost him his lifelong dream of going to veterinary school and he ended up going back home and milking cows the rest of his life. The risk of having a stain and a blotch on your record of integrity is just not worth the temptation to cheat, ever.
Another issue we would run into occasionally at school was the issue of inflated and dishonest entries on resumes, claiming degrees earned that were never earned or schools attended that were never attended. One professor I knew many years ago forged his department head's signature every year to certify that he was still making progress in completing his Ph.D. degree at a major university. Of course, he was finally caught and lost his job. Sadly, he had received several all-university teaching awards at the school where we were teaching. Some politicians and other public figures seem to think they are above and beyond honesty and integrity and that they can fill in anything they want to on their resumes. Sooner or later these dishonest lies are discovered, and the price paid for cheating can be devastating.
Honesty has no substitutes. The only white lie permissible is if your wife asks you if you would like to go to the fabric store with her or if she asks you how you like her new outfit. Other than that, honesty does not permit fudging, shading, rounding up or rounding down, embellishment, deliberate misrepresentation, snitching funds from the office till, cheating on exams, lying about accomplishments on resumes, taking anything without paying for it, denying guilt when you know perfectly well you are lying about it, or any and all other misrepresentations of fact and breaches of integrity. One of the most wonderful gifts you can give those near and dear to you and to your business associates and to anyone else is to be known as a person of absolute integrity. You would rather lose a deal than to misrepresent its terms. You would rather miss out on something than wrongly claim you were entitled falsely to something. Once you have earned someone else's trust and admiration, you want to treasure this trust and admiration among your most precious assets, worth far more than money or a new boat or a 12 bedroom house or a job promotion or anything else.
Task Number 92, which admittedly I got a tad long-winded writing about, and which I will hear about from my editorial board (my wife) who wants me to shorten these posts, is to set an example of honesty. If we never follow another task I have outlined, by applying honesty to all of our actions, to all of our choices, to all of our business and personal dealings, we will accomplish more goals and see more results than we can possibly imagine. Good luck, keep going, the Curmudgeonly Professor.