Who are you when no one’s looking?
That’s often been described as the definition of integrity. So, if having any semblance of character doesn’t matter to you, disregard this week’s column.
As for me, I have enough guilt and conscience bubbling up at any given time to more than makeup for someone else’s lack.
Not only have there been ample teachable moments at my parents’ and grandparents’ knees to learn much on this subject, but I also pay attention to others’ behavior and make a mental note of what I will emulate or attempt to avoid.
For instance, a prominent citizen came into the office years ago and pitched a fit in the foyer. I knew who he was but not everyone else did.
When he was promoted to an even more visible position, all I could think about was the day he behaved so poorly, almost in the “do you know who I am” vein. It wasn’t pretty.
As my mom would say, “Don’t show yourself.” So I have tried my entire life not to “show myself.”
That doesn’t always happen. I have been as guilty as the next person of honking a horn, inadvertently cutting someone off and feeling horrible about it. I try to think maybe others feel horrible about it when they do it to me. Not always, but hopefully, sometimes.
There was the time when we were driving to church, of all places, and there were about a half dozen cars in the left lane, preparing to turn at the traffic light. I remember thinking, what if we are all going to the same place?
Well, it turns out we were, including the driver of a huge SUV.
So when he decided to merge to join us — almost causing a multi-car accident — imagine what fun ensued when he also pulled into the same church parking lot as the rest of us. Observing further, it was truly eye-opening when he emerged, along with his wife, and reached into the back seat to remove a small child from the car seat.
In other words, not only was he willing to risk the lives of those in several other vehicles on the road that day — to get to church on time — but the lives of his wife and child, too. Interesting. I hope the message from the pulpit that day was one he really needed because he made quite the effort to get there to hear it.
Then there was the day a co-worker approached me one morning and said, “I saw you earlier, driving into work,” my knee-jerk reaction was anxiety.
Did I cut him off? Was he suggesting I was driving erratically?
It turned out it was nothing more than an acknowledgment, a missed opportunity to wave at one another outside the office.
But it brings to mind another way to view things in this day of social media, technology with virtually everything we do and say and write and send being recorded somewhere for posterity.
Not only should we ask, who are we when no one’s looking, but who are we when people are watching? Are the fingerprints, the footprints and the bread crumb trail we are leaving behind the kind of evidence we wish others to find?
This is not the comfort side of life — this is the classroom. This is where we learn character.
Because no matter what things we acquire, what titles or degrees we earn, what “stuff” we save up and hoard, we can’t take it with us.
The only thing we can take with us is the person we have become.
This is your classroom. What are you learning?