When Others Are Dishonest, What About You?
“NOBODY is honest,” was the harsh judgment of Lincoln M. Zonn, New York lie-detector specialist. “Diogenes never found an honest man and neither have I,” he said. Do you agree with Zonn? The distressing fact is that there is more and more evidence to support the conclusion that people in general are becoming increasingly dishonest. What about you?
Norman Bell, Toronto (Canada) manager of Pinkerton’s national detective agency, said: “In our investigations we’ve found, as an average, that one out of every three employees is basically dishonest—which means he will seek ways of stealing; that one out of every three employees will be dishonest if given the opportunity and the third employee is the only one who deserves the full trust of his employer.” What about you? Where do you fit among these statistics? Are you basically honest?
It has been found that dishonesty is quite contagious. The immoralities of a single individual can weaken the inner restraints of many, through the deadly rationalization that “everybody is doing it.” Here the Bible principle holds true: “A little leaven ferments the whole lump.” (1 Cor. 5:6) For example, in companies where higher-ups were discovered stealing, researchers found that other employees copied their nefarious behavior right down the line. Private investigator John Jurens stated that in companies where he found company presidents stealing, “everybody was stealing.” Would you permit this to influence your morality? If the president and other officials where you work were dishonest, would you remain honest notwithstanding?
Dishonesty becomes an overwhelming temptation to many persons when others seem to be getting away with it. (Eccl. 8:11) A Chicago electronics firm hired two watchmen on nights and weekends to protect a warehouse, which was stocked with radios and recorders. The two guards turned the place into a Sunday-afternoon bargain center. Customers, with the proper password, flocked to the warehouse and were given free run of the place to select the models of their choice at a flat rate of one for $25 or two for $35. The firm lost $300,000 in nine months before the watchmen were apprehended. The guards were corrupt themselves and they corrupted others. Still some “customers” did not regard what they were doing as dishonest. What about you? Do you think it is right to purchase stolen property?
In Toronto a hotel owner recently discovered that fourteen of his employees had banded together and stolen money, food, liquor, linen, typewriters, furniture and other hotel property, with a total value of $36,000. One person said: “It became a habit.” A supermarket operator in America discovered that “90 percent of his employees were taking home $1 or $2 a week either in cash or merchandise.” “Everybody was doing it, so why not me?” was the reaction of some employees.
People justified their actions by saying to themselves, “The company owes it to me, because they didn’t give me a raise.” Or they would neutralize their dishonesty by saying, “Everybody does it.” They also played down their guilt as embezzlers with attitudes like, “It’s the right of every good employee to take home so many power tools a year.” The impersonality of bigness also loomed as a contributing factor to dishonesty. Some distinguished between a supermarket and a neighborhood delicatessen. Said one undergraduate: “A lot of people steal from supermarkets, but nobody steals from the deli [delicatessen] because you know the guy depends on you not to.” Because of the impersonality of the supermarket, the dishonest person may reason, “After all, I’m not hurting anybody in particular.” Do you feel that way?
Little do dishonest persons realize that they are hurting a lot of people with their dishonesty and, chief of all, themselves. American business is hurt to a total of $5,000,000,000 a year from kickbacks, payoffs and bribes. White-collar employees steal about $4,000,000 every working day. Some 250 firms yearly in America are forced out of business due to fraud and theft alone. Who says dishonesty does not hurt anyone? Supermarkets suffer an estimated annual loss of $100,000,000 due to employee malpractices. This loss cancels every penny of profit that would result from $5,000,000,000 worth of sales. Food industry sources estimate that dollars lost annually either through theft or opened packages no longer salable range from $330,000,000 to $3,000,000,000. Shoppers pay for dishonesty in higher costs. And higher prices hurt!
What about the damage done to one’s own moral fiber? A measure of self-worth, self-respect, is lost every time one is dishonest. There is a loss of goodness and appreciation of what belongs to others. The conscience becomes seared and its real value is lost.
There is also a loss of confidence and trust once others find you dishonest, and not to have the confidence of others hurts. Dishonesty can cut deep into the family relationship and damage it beyond repair. Are you willing to pay that price for dishonesty?
There is also the effect dishonesty may have on the morals of others. One’s stealing from the supermarket may mean a steak on the table, but it also may mean destroying the morals of one’s children, causing them to cheat in school and steal from others, which is a terrible price to pay for a steak.
Think, too, what dishonesty can do to one’s relationship with God. It can wreck it permanently, causing one to lose out on life everlasting. Do you think dishonesty is worth that price?
Where dishonesty and wrongdoing load a person with invisible chains of guilt, the consciousness of right-doing exhilarates and strengthens one. It fills one with self-respect, with moral strength to do the right thing. So when others are dishonest, if you are wise, you will do the right and honest thing.