“Principle doesn’t go away all at once, it’s a creeping erosion,” what a great line that I heard on last week’s episode of Billions. It describes how our values and principles have eroded over time. Too many of us are too willing to do anything in the name of getting what we want. Often we engage in compromised behaviors in order to justify the end result. But like it or not, after a while it takes its toll.
How many people do you know who seem to live by the creed “the ends justify the means?” Maybe you even practice this philosophy without really even knowing it or understanding it. Many seemingly good folks make excuses to justify their actions even though they know deep down that they are wrong. People are great at rationalizing bad and dishonest behavior.
Living Our Principles.
Here are some of the excuses/rationalizations you hear or maybe use:
• Everyone else does it.
• Nobody will ever know about it.
• I did it for my family.
• This is the only way I can get what I really deserve.
• I don’t have the time or resources to do it the right way.
• This is the only way to get ahead.
Of course, there are countless other excuses to not live up to your stated principles, to not walk like you talk.
It’s easy for people to justify taking “shortcuts” instead of doing the right thing because this behavior is all around us. We see it on the news every day, people in leadership positions, whether in the corporate world, entertainment industry, or politics, who abuse their power for their own personal gain. So what’s the big deal if I do the same thing?
Most of the time people begin by compromising their values on seemingly small things that “don’t hurt anybody.” However, these unprincipled actions soon become a habit and grow more and more egregious, eventually consuming you.
Trust me when I tell you that in one way or another, at some point in time, abandoning your principles catches up with you. If you are doing something illegal, chances are you will eventually get caught. If you constantly gossip about your friends, family and coworkers, it’s only a matter of time until it comes back on you. If you constantly lie to get your way and get ahead, your lies will eventually catch up to you. And even if you do “get away with it,” what price do you pay with your physically, emotionally and spiritually?
C.S. Lewis, the renowned academic, novelist and poet once said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” I know it’s very easy to abandon your principles for expediency in today’s world. But I also know that being true to your principles, especially when you are tempted to stray away from them, is what ultimately leads to true happiness, satisfaction and success.
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