Every little kid is tempted to steal. There’s no avoiding it.
I remember a time when little Adam and a few friends wanted to steal something at the corner store. Probably a Snicker bar or a pack of Gushers (shout out to the 90’s kids). I remember thinking “these dudes are crazy”. It wasn’t that i didn’t want candy. I wasn’t even afraid that the lady behind the counter would see us. The problem was simple: i had an awesome birthday party lined up at Aladdin’s Castle, and if my dad found out i stole something, i wouldn’t be alive to enjoy it.
Fast forward 15 or so years-
Nowadays i prefer to keep my nose clean for a much different reason. Nearly everyday we have an opportunity to compromise our identity, character, or goals. But is it worth it?
We face much weightier propositions than the innocence of child petty theft. And there’s always some incentive – convenience, money, status, or an advantage over the competition. The TV only talks about the big ones, the ones on Wall Street like “insider trading” and “overpriced mortgage-backed securities”. But compromise can come in the form of something as small as looking the other way.
I’m not afraid my dad will find out anymore. But i’ve learned the things that sometimes seem easy and acceptable in the fleeting moment rarely offer marginal life-value when compared to the sustainability of integrity and transparency.
Compromise isn’t worth it. Take it from Ben.
One time Benjamin Franklin got backed into a corner by some rich guy that wanted to publish a questionable piece in Franklin’s newly founded newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette. Of course, this offer came complete with a cash incentive.
My boy Benjamin responds to this request in brilliant form.
I have perused your piece, and find it to be scurrilous and defamatory. To determine whether I should publish it or not, I went home in the evening, purchased a two penny loaf at the baker’s, and with water from the pump made my supper; I then wrapped myself up in my great coat, and laid down on the floor and slept till morning, when, on another loaf and a mug of water, I made my breakfast. From this regimen I feel no inconvenience whatever. Finding I can live in this manner, I have formed a determination never to prostitute my press to the purposes of corruption, and abuse of this kind, for the sake of gaining a more comfortable subsistence. – From The History of Printing in America, 1874
A.k.a. I’d rather be broke and honest than compromise my integrity and the reputation of my work over a cash kicker and a sales spike.
The big mess-ups, the ones seen from your history books, are certainly the result of individuals who made a habit of small, inconsequential compromises along the way. I think we can learn from ‘ole Ben. Do what’s right even when the stakes are low, and when the chance comes along to screw up big, the decision will be much easier. It’s not worth it…sleeping at night is.
Oh by the way. The Pennsylvania Gazette is still around.
*Graphic – Manuel