Are Your Pants on Fire?

As a society, we’ve become accustomed to watching talented and successful people self-destruct because of character issues. Ultimately, they make poor choices, and choices are a big part of what makes up the mental and moral issues that forge our character and distinguish us as human beings. For an example of how ubiquitous character-induced falls from grace are, consider the following headlines that appeared in just a seven-day period as I originally wrote this chapter on character in my new book, How to Run Your Business by the BOOK: A Biblical Blueprint to Bless Your Business : two nominees for cabinet positions in the United States government were discovered to have failed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in income taxes, a third candidate for a cabinet position is unable to pay nearly six million dollars in campaign debt, a world champion Olympian and national hero was photographed smoking marijuana, a major league baseball player admitted to stealing memorabilia from his former stadium and a slew of CEO’s continue to defend seven and eight figure bonuses from companies they ran into the ground. While it may not make the evening news, each of us is susceptible to the same type of poor judgment and decline in our own lives if we don’t continually work at building a character that produces right values and elicits correct choices.

As I examine my own career and personal life, I realize that during the times when my world wasn’t “right”, it was because I wasn’t right. And don’t be naïve: just because you attend church, or read the Bible, or pray each day doesn’t mean that you are “right”. There’s a significant gap between knowing what is right and actually doing it! Until you close that gap, you’ll continue to fall short of building the character that makes you a leader who is both effective today and will last over the long haul.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll cover five common areas where business leaders fall short on character issues. There are dozens more that I could add to this list, but I chose these five because they are taken too casually by many leaders or are not even considered as a true character flaw at all when compared to treachery like stealing, substance abuse and adultery. You will find that some of the choices I urge you to make concerning these five character issues go against conventional wisdom in the bare-knuckle world of business competition. However, understanding what THE BOOK has to say about these “lesser” matters should encourage you to improve your decisions concerning them and to coach your team to do likewise.

1. Don’t tell “white lies”. 

Are your pants on fire? Have you ever instructed your receptionist to tell a caller that you weren’t in the office, even though you were? If so, then you’re a liar. Now, don’t get defensive! You will likely claim that such an insignificant falsehood falls under the Oxford Dictionary definition of a white lie, which is to: tell a harmless or trivial untruth. However, I challenge you to find anywhere in THE BOOK, where a lie of any sort is sanctioned by God as harmless or trivial. Like so many sins, if you begin to explain away a “lesser” form of it through rationalization, soon you can begin to justify graduated infractions that lead you to major lapses in judgment bringing devastating consequences that ruin your life. For instance, men have written off as “harmless” the practice of “just looking” as they lustily stare down an attractive woman. “Ain’t no crime in looking!” they say with a laugh. But a “harmless” leer can lead to “harmless” small talk, which leads to buying one “harmless” drink, which elicits a “harmless” good night kiss, which brings the desire for “harmless”—and secret—follow up phone calls, which concludes in a rendezvous that costs you and your family all that you hold dear and thought was sacred.

If you’re going to start classifying lies as “white” or “whoppers”, you may as well go ahead and categorize different levels of adultery too. What would be an adulterous equivalent of a white lie? Maybe a gentle squeeze or swat on the behind? Or how about a parting hug that is two degrees tighter and three seconds longer than is appropriate? While you’re at it, you could justify stealing from the company as well. The white lie version of embezzlement could be taking a few dollars worth of office supplies home with you, or mailing personal correspondence with company postage or making personal copies on the company Xerox machine. Face the facts. According to THE BOOK, if you tell a lie of any kind, you are a liar and, since Satan is referred to as the “father of lies”, a liar’s label isn’t something you should want as part of your reputation.

Excerpted from How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK: A Biblical Blueprint to Bless Your Organization.”

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