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Excerpt From " I Believe: When What You Believe Matters!"

by Eldon Taylor


The following excerpt is taken from the book I Believe: When What You Believe Matters! by Eldon Taylor. It is published by Hay House (Available now) and available at all bookstores or online at: www.hayhouse.com . 

Chapter 4: Integrity Inviolate

“It’s not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong; not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich; not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned; and not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity.”

— attributed to Francis Bacon

There’s a marvelous story told by American businessman Jon Huntsman regarding a $57-million deal that he made on a handshake. It took the attorneys some six months to get the paperwork in order; and by the time the contracts were ready, the value of the company Huntsman was selling had grown to more than $150 million. However, because he’d given his word, because his handshake meant something real to him, he honored the deal, even though the buyer himself had offered to compromise. Huntsman’s message is well captured in the title of his book: Winners Never Cheat—Even in Difficult Times.

When I was young, my mother told me things such as, “Cheaters never win.” But when I was young, I saw many cheaters come out on top. They won at card games, they won playing Monopoly, and they even won in some sports events. It seemed to me that those with the “sharp angle” or those sly “fast-hand” artists were always winning.

I understood the intent of my mother’s admonition, but what if you didn’t have a conscience? What if there were no angels, masters, guides, or for that matter, no heaven and hell? What if the whole notion of a god was but a fictional leftover from the basic animistic instincts of our primitive ancestors? Under these circumstances, cheating could well have its advantages, couldn’t it?

With the exception of the sociopath, everyone seems to have what our wise elders have identified as a conscience. Society as a whole becomes more cohesive as a result of our collective acknowledgment of right and wrong. Even in tribal groups, the community sense of conscience organizes the tribe in such a way as to censure incorrect behavior. Researchers differ on how much of that is the result of our environment and how much is innate, but they don’t disagree that often this small, internal voice dictates individual sacrifices in foregoing principles of pleasure while enduring units of pain.1

What happens when the small voice goes silent for the individual or the culture? There are far too many examples of societies that turn their backs, shut down their conscience, or allow moral urgings to fall on deaf ears. Some examples may be found in the Holocaust; genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Cambodia, and Turkey; Stalin’s forced famine in Ukraine; and the action of Japan’s Imperial Army when they marched into Nanking and murdered 300,000 out of 600,000 people in the city—and all of this within just the twentieth century.

Integrity

I was in a grocery store recently with my youngest son, William James Taylor. We went to the ATM to obtain our cash for the groceries, and William pulled out two $20 bills just as my withdrawal was ejecting from the machine. I hadn’t seen them, so when he informed me that they weren’t part of our withdrawal, we double-checked our counting. Sure enough, we had an extra $40.

William knew that we could use the money—it was Christmastime, and there was a lot of shopping yet to do—but he also knew it wasn’t his (or ours). So on his own, he returned the money. We spoke about how easy it would have been to keep that $40, and then we discussed the ramifications of that simple act.

First, we would have compromised our own principles, and once we’d done so, it would be easier to do so the next time. Then, what if the person who’d left the money discovered the shortage and returned to the store? It could be really important. I had William ruminate over this for a while, and soon he was offering many reasons why the money should be returned.

I don’t believe you should compromise your integrity. That said, having this ideal and living up to it may not always be possible, if for no other reason than we’ve often become far too sloppy about when and where we make our commitments. Still, if I think ahead and value my word, then I won’t make promises that leave me no way out when there should be one. For example, in the earlier list of statements made to children, the promise could have been: “I’ll take you to the movies so long as your behavior and attitude remain positive and pleasurable to be around.” With my sons, we have a caveat to all promises, which is that they’re all subject to “AB”—attitude and behavior. Nevertheless, I find myself keeping promises only because I gave my word and for no other reason. I believe that’s important—do you?

It all comes down to how much you value your integrity. Do you treasure the idea that you’ll do your very best today and every day to hold it inviolate? Will you do what you say you will, live up to your promises, measure yourself positively against your own virtues, hold values that demand the highest from you, and be unafraid to show that rarest of all commodities—moral courage?

I believe that honor begins with integrity and that to fail to honor yourself is a certain path to an empty, unfulfilled life. It’s the ultimate cheaters game, for you’re cheating no one more than yourself!

Plato tells us of four cardinal virtues: wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice.3 To consciously persist in cultivating these qualities over a lifetime, little by little every day, examining and reexamining our lives, taking every situation individually to find its meaning, if only to ourselves—this is the noble life that leads to becoming a good human being. For me, Shakespeare’s statement, “This above all, to thine own self be true,” is the litmus test for progress. In other words, if I can’t do it perfectly to begin with, then I’ll work at it until I get it as close to perfect as I can.


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