Honesty, Integrity, and Honor

Heavy subjects, huh? And I was trying to figure out how to express what I am thinking about those issues, without sounding unduly cranky. But I have been thinking about those subjects for several days.

As I mentioned to you recently, I discovered about a year and a half ago that I had been embezzled, which was a shocking and deeply upsetting experience for me. The person who did it said in court that she did it out of jealousy, and that it never seemed wrong to her, until she got caught. And only then did it occur to her that she was a thief. Those were her exact words in court.

Recently, I tried to buy a piece of art, and the person I was about to buy it from, misrepresented their status with the artist, and tried to charge me more than the going rate. I didn’t buy the piece from that person in the end, because my trust in them had been damaged.

Also recently, I met a person at a dinner party, whom I later learned had committed a financial scam and gotten away with it, without being prosecuted. It involved taking money that they weren’t entitled to. And yesterday, I heard about a young widow who was financially ‘cleaned out’ by her boyfriend.

I guess this stuff has always gone on, dishonesty is not new, nor are scams and crimes. And maybe I’m just sensitive to it because of the embezzlement I experienced, but it just seems like I’m hearing more and more about incidents like these. It really makes me wonder what’s going on, and why it feels like we’re hearing more and more about things like this these days. The young widow in question needed the money. I work incredibly hard for mine, which the embezzler knew well. I’m not a slacker, I work like a dog, and I supported a lot of kids while she was stealing from me. And stealing from an institution isn’t right either, although stealing from an individual seems worse and more personally destructive. And then there are the dishonesties on a massive world-impacting scale, like the BP oil spill, which has affected our environment, cost lives, destroyed wildlife, and will ultimately deprive fishermen of their ability to make a living. The enormity of that disaster is hard to conceive of, and yet we are told that they knew of safety failures and continued pumping oil anyway,even at high risk. Have massive numbers of people suddenly subscribed to the Bernie Madoff school of ethics? I personally know of 3 people who were personally impacted by Madoff’s scam, and were financially wiped out, 2 of them are in their 90’s and lost everything they had worked a lifetime for. The indecency and heartlessness of it is so enormous that it’s hard to wrap your mind around it. And it would appear that many of the people who have committed these crimes and offenses seem to feel no remorse.

The question running through my mind is whether these are individual shocking crimes, or is somehow the fabric and moral fiber of our society getting threadbare and wearing thin? Why are we hearing more about crimes like these?? Has the financial crisis frightened people so much that they suddenly give themselves a pass on ripping off someone else? (The crime against me was committed long before the economic crisis, and for many, many years, so there’s no excuse there). Are people reacting out of panic, in some sort of moral freefall from honesty and grace??? Have our standards changed? Do we need to redefine honesty? Have people lost their boundaries, or sense of right and wrong? Has our definition of honesty gotten fuzzy? Lying, cheating, and stealing have never been okay.

I would not steal a carton of milk from the grocery store, and neither would you, I assume. I wouldn’t help myself to what’s in someone else’s purse, because I like it, nor take someone else’s money. And yet, I keep hearing of situations where some kind of major dishonesty has occurred, and the person who did it finds some way of making it okay to themselves. One of my children was ripped off in a major way by her best friend of l8 years. Her friend stole from her and from several others in their group. She never sent an apology for what she’d done. No conscience? Bad manners? Compulsion? Pathological? Or some kind of new morality that makes taking what belongs to someone else okay? (Isn’t that a scary thought!!) And how far does it go? Is it okay to take someone else’s husband, or grab their purse, steal their wallet, their dog maybe, take something dear to them, or put them at financial risk? Is it okay now not to follow the rules of society, and our laws, as long as we get what we want out of it??

There have always been dishonest people in the world. But so many of them? So many scams? During the investigation of my embezzlement, the FBI told me that crime is up. Why? Panic? The economy? Less supervision at home as kids? Are people no longer sharing with their children the basic old fashioned rules? I recently ran into a situation where someone else’s actions, caused me to have to hire attorneys, and although it cost me a considerable amount of money, through no fault of mine, everyone thought that was okay. No one apologized, or offered to make it up to me in any way.

All added up, I find these incidents shocking. And I am wondering where it starts. I’ve heard people delighted that a waiter didn’t add up the check right, in their favor, and they were positively gloating when they left the restaurant, or if the waiter forgot to add in the wine.

I’m thinking that the answer rests with each of us, to be scrupulously honest in every instance, with money, with people, and about our mistakes. That even if we need the money, we HAVE to tell the waiter or the cashier or the salesperson that they gave us too much change, and give it back. There is no victory in stealing what we’re not meant to have. There will always be criminals and crooks in the world, it’s inevitable. But maybe the key is not to let them taint the way we view and treat the world. Taking anything not meant for us is wrong. Lying is wrong. And if our boundaries get blurred, and we get ‘soft’ on the concept of honesty and integrity—what happens to our society after that? How far does it go? Yesterday, someone reported on a whole conversation they never had with me. Lying isn’t okay either, even if it gets someone what they want.

I think we need to get crystal clear on what is honest and what isn’t, what is ours and what isn’t (even if we wish it was), and be scrupulously honest ourselves. Our integrity is one of our most precious gifts. If we damage it or give it up, the essence of our morality becomes damaged. I don’t think we can afford to sacrifice our integrity, or compromise it, neither on a personal level, nor on a broader scale. Integrity and honesty are not gray areas, they are black and white. None of these people I mentioned were Robin Hoods, stealing to give it to someone else. They all hung on to what they stole for their own benefit and use.

I think honesty and integrity begin with each one of us. It’s up to us to police ourselves, to correct a mistake, and to stay on track. And maybe if each of us does that, all added up, we will make this a better world. I don’t want to live in a society where I have to look over my shoulder constantly, to see who is ripping me off, or try to figure out the latest scam. And if as a society, we have gotten fuzzy on the concept of honesty and integrity, we need to clean that one up fast before it takes us all down. We need to be scrupulously honest and responsible for ourselves, and share that message with our children, so they are clear on what is okay and what isn’t, and what is just plain wrong. All those people doing scams and committing crimes were once someone’s children. What did their parents say to them, or failed to, and what behavior and level of honesty did they model for them at home?

You may have been the victim of a crime too. But even if you haven’t been, how many times have you been short changed, or been disappointed in the lack of honesty of someone you work with, or even a friend. I think this is something we really need to watch and keep our eye on. Just as BP has polluted the ocean with their oil spill, our daily world has become polluted by petty dishonesties, sometimes so subtly that it’s easy to close your eyes to it. But just like the BP oil spill, if we don’t get a grip on the small dishonesties, and refuse to tolerate the scams and lack of integrity we see around us, the decency and integrity of our world will be poisoned forever. It starts with us, on a small scale, and like ripples on a pond, it will spread out from there. Let’s try to be the pebble of integrity, sending out ripples of honesty in this troubled world. Even our own small efforts will ultimately make it a much better place.

Love, Danielle

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19 Comments so far
  1. Janice Matthews August 2, 2010 6:29 pm

    You just wrote a book on it! Matters of the Heart! Yes,it and they are out there and have been. I hate to admit how many times I have been taught a lesson. If you appear to have money…Some people are just not happy. They really do think they should have some, after all you have enough…is their reason and you won’t miss it. I have had cleaning people take stuff, I had a male friend try to drug me over a period of time and tell everyone I was sick. That God for girlfriends. On that one I phone a friend who was coming over and asked her to bring some cranberry juice and when she got to my home she picked up a glass and said what is this? I told her HE had brought me some cranberry juice. She said this is NOT cranberry juice….look its cloudy. Well got through that one ALIVE. Then I have even had police try to sue me after THEY fell on my property and made a claim of a huge amount. That one still follows me as they must have it on their screen, my address that is. They lost big time and I could not believe what they were saying under oath! My insurance company was fighting it but I still had to listen to them. After you wrote about the court case, I wrote a comment and told you to be very careful and hire people you know have the same social and financial state. Jean wrote a book called “The Sociopath Next Door”. Her claim is that 1 out of 4 have this problem. People don’t have the same work ethic as you and they don’t manage their money correctly and then they see you and they want what you have. Be careful, WE ARE but a few and givers get it the worst. Danielle, pray for this world, surround yourself with people you know and if you don’t run a check on them! Protect yourself! The bankers and people working on behave of you should be telling you this, but maybe the have no backbone. Tell your kids to watch it as well!

    Be safe dear one,

  2. Lorraine August 3, 2010 3:05 pm

    You are amazing and your way of life is so
    admirable. If there were more people like you,
    everything would be just fine. I’ve been feeling a little down about this sort of thing recently, myself. All we seem to hear is the
    bad in the world. I think part of the problem is that we live in an instant gratification society. I don’t think any one person or generation can be blamed for that, but it just seems to be the state of the world today. And also a disposable society. I hope our kids in their 20s all come out ok. My 86 year old dad is fond of saying he is glad he is his age, as he would not want to be younger in today’s world. But there are many, many good people out there. We just don’t hear about them as much.
    Let’s just hope all these decent people, yourself included, can be a good example to others. Bless you. Love, Lorraine

  3. simone August 4, 2010 4:05 am

    There are two things that stand out and speak volumes in the blog. The first thing is that you obviously have an extremely high standard of honesty and integrity. The other thing is that you are extremely hurt by the betrayal of others on you and on your family and extremely upset about dishonesty and betrayal as a whole. I truly admire and respect your values, they are values we should all have.

    I cannot claim to have such a high standard of moral values because whilst I agree that many of the terrible betrayals you have mentioned are highly criminal and offensive and deserve punishment and ridicule I have not always been squeaky clean in my life. I have taken what is not mine from time to time and placed my immediate needs over my moral values. Having said that, people like Madoff and the woman who worked for you are scum of the earth as far as I’m concerned.They didn’t just take a little they took a lot, and they ruined people’s lives or made a massive dent in their livelihoods as a result. Madoff is evil in my opinion because he ruined so many lives and charitable trusts were wiped out because of him. He’s a snake an evil snake that should never see day light. The world is full of scammers, takers, users and deceivers. But it’s not a fair world, there are many people who are talented and gifted that will work all their lives and never be as fortunate as you, or another person. The person who sees an opportunity, places it over their moral values and takes without remorse is sometimes a person who feels a victim of the unfair society we live and so willingly victimises another person for personal gain.

    It’s a dog eat dog world, and I think if everyone had equal opportunities and everyone had money or was able to live at a high standard the world would be a better place, there would be much less betrayal, crime and unlawful things happening in this world if people were happier with their own lives and everyone had a fair shot of success. Sometimes one has to look at things in a broader perspective in order to fully understand and make sense of it all.

  4. Judy Phipps August 6, 2010 6:10 pm

    You are so right Danielle,I have been scammed over and over and I,Like you would never take anything that doesn;t belong to me.I think people are just afraid or too lazy to get out and get an honest job,they think it is so much better to steal,but that’s ok they are the ones who have to face GOD when their time comes and he is the ultimate one.
    I have responded to this because you are my all time favorite author I love your books and I agree whole heartedly that people should change their lives and become true and honest to everyone.

  5. Janice Matthews August 9, 2010 12:27 pm

    Okay, just got to say it. Taking ANYTHING that is not yours is WRONG. Everyone has the same openings to work and make it real good. It takes working sometimes many hours without sleep and doing work we normally would not do. Have a goal and don’t stop until you have achieved it and if that means cleaning houses DO IT. Don’t take a little and call it JUST A LITTLE……..IT’S NOT YOURS! NO NOT YOURS!!!!!!! Get your grubby little hands off. This is not about ethics, or anything……ITS STEALING. There is no difference in a little and the big scammers. How do you think they started……by a group of people who worked hard their whole life, penny by penny and now they LOOK like they have lots and the Madoff’s came and they start just a little and ………. Anything you did not earn yourself……..working and honest…..keep your creepy hands off, and for the record, Danielle has 9 kids and lost one but she kept going as I know. A little is NOT OKAY! KEEP YOUR HANDs OFF AND GET HELP.

  6. adrian jo August 10, 2010 9:45 am

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and beliefs on honesty and integrity.
    I recently left a job I greatly enjoyed because this was lacking in so many ways.
    A bit about myself. Im a 39 year old male who spent the better part of the last 20 years working in luxury sales. I can attest that jealousy,envy,greed,lies, and and even internal theft all take place . And I’ve never been able to turn the other cheek toany of it. I’ve even recieved as much as $600 in the form of a cash reward for thwarting internal theft. So You can imagine how shocked I was when the following occured…A coworker was ultimatly increasing his sales and commision in several ways, one of which was charge sending shoes(we had in stock) from other store locations and ultimatly doubling his commissions. I constanty reported this with documentation as well as it being reported by others. I was told by my direct head “If you can’t beat them join them”. Shocked is not the word I felt . Confused was more like it. I discovered there was a bonus to management for the $1,000,000 seller as well as no loss other than corportatly.Our location was new and very understocked and therfore it provided more sizes…needless to say I am no longer there.
    I personally believe that all we accumalate and possess are left behind upon our passing, however our actions and the way we lived our life are our true legacy and are eternal..
    On a differnet note, I want to say it was a pleasure having the opportunity to meet and work with you.For those who dont know you you truly are a kind and gracious person. I thought our paths would cross again as I had planned on working at N.M. However due to not one but TWO rear end collisions last year and a relentless back injury .It looks as if I may return to Puerto Vallarta Mexico and work in a family business…
    I wish you and yours all the happiness the world holds… Cheers! Adrian Jo
    Just finished Matters of the Heart,LOVED IT!….Any chance on getting it personalized??? 😉

  7. Me :-) August 11, 2010 9:53 pm

    Romeo Dallaire – The fight for humanity…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  8. Manuela August 15, 2010 12:53 pm

    Querida Danielle:Gracias por su ultimo correo. Me ha gustado mucho,el articulo sobre-Honestidad,integridad y honor,y precisamente,este ultimo sabado,yo conteste a un sr.que me envio un correo hablando casi en los mismos terminos.El me preguntaba, que si seria una utopia,poder volver a tiempos pasados,donde teniamos respetos nuestros mayores,donde podiamos ir por las calles sin temor a ser asaltados,donde al cruzarnos con personas,deciamos buenos dias,donde los profesores eran una institucion de sapiencia,donde nuestros vecinos,eran parte de nuestras vidas,donde los estudiantes,ivamos a aprender,y no a esperar al fin de semana,para asi poder emborracharnos y empaparnos de la cultura del botellon,etc……..Por supuesto,mi contestacion solo fue negativa,y le dije,que efectivamente,era una utopia.Que no toda la juventud esta podrida,pero que esos tiempos pasados,…..pasado es;que estos vientos de despropositos,estan muy arraigados en toda la sociedad mundial,entre otros motivos,debido al trabajo de los dos padres,al poco tiempo que estos tienen para encauzar a sus hijos por el camino correcto de la vida.Tambien,influye,el poco respeto entre esos padres,y el ser tan permisivos con sus hijos,sin saber como se fragua que darles libertad,no significa que los quieras mas,ni que sean sus amigos.Yo,de mis hijos,ante todo soy madre,les he dado libertad,pero no libertinaje,impuse unos horarios,unos metodos de respeto y convivencia,y a partir de ahi,ellos fueron haciendose personas estupendas.Por ello,viendo como esta gran parte de la juventud,es imposible volver a ese pasado…….Yo fui atracada a punta de machete;Y estafada,por una famosa inmobiliaria,donde muchos famosos, hicieron publicidad de sus construcciones,donde en Marbella,eran como dioses.Perdi todo el dinero que pusimos,y no recuperamos nada,pues se declararon en bancarrota…….Yo a esto le llamo terrorismo de la sociedad……..Danielle,espero que al menos en Paris,su estancia fuese maravillosa,pues se cuanto ama a ese pais.Yo tendria que haber estado ahora alli,pues siempre en agosto,suelo estar en algun pais del mundo,(el pasado año,en Los Angeles,y Las Vegas,aunque ya se lo dije en uno de mis correos)pero este año,he tenido que suspenderlo, para cuidar de dos niños,ya que mi hijo mayor,esta separado,y le “tocaba”(horrible palabra)tener a sus hijos…….Sera la primera vez,que mi aniversario de bodas lo celebre aqui,en la Costa del Sol.el dia 17……Bueno querida amiga,he comprado algunos de sus libros,para leer por las noches en mi cama como tengo por costumbre.Creo,que ya tengo unos 60,aunque no los he contado……Mi abrazo,fuerte para usted,y sus hijos,y como siempre,mi amor y recuerdo para la memoria de Nicki.Manuela

  9. Maria Jesús Alcántara August 18, 2010 3:36 pm

    Querida Danielle.Despues de leer sus libros durante más de tres decadas,pienso que la realidad supera la ficción,simpátizo con usted pues tanto a mi esposo como a mi nos ha sucedido que hemos sido engañados y manipulados por nuestros propios hermanos,él por una hermana y yo por la mia propia osea por partida doble,la gente cuando tiene necesidades manipula ,engaña y roba y no se dan cuenta de que nosotros trabajamos duro por lo que tenemos personas asi no tienen escrúpulos ,todo lo que está pasando en el mundo a mi se me pone la carne de gallina,pensando en mis nietos ¿que va ha ser de ellos? con la corrupción que hay por las ansias del poder?Danielle siento por ti y mi cariño está contigo .Ya sé que tenemos que confiar en la gente pero! es tan dificil!!!

  10. norman horobin October 3, 2010 4:00 am

    your article about “Honesty Integrity Honor” is very fine, but in some respects is not so easy.
    For example, you meet a bedraggled person on the street begging, and as you are a kind person you give them some money say enough for a meal. What you don’t realize is they may be people who are lazy and don’t want to work: they draw unemployment benefits and subsidize that by “fake” begging meaning that with the begging they have enough income and do not need to work. Worse of all they brag to their friends how the people who give them money are so stupid!
    On another scale, many poor countries have been assisted by loans from world banks etc, but in most cases it hasn’t worked. Very often 50% of the money is taken up by administration and corruption.
    What I am trying to say is summed up by the saying:-
    “Give a man a loaf of bread and he will eat for a day: teach him how to grow corn and he will eat for a lifetime”.
    Norman Horobin.

  11. J.D. Howell October 11, 2010 12:23 pm

    Honesty, integrity, and honor are all so important, Danielle. And I am a firm believer that people should own up to offenses and offer apologies and a way to make things up, even if to make it up is impossible, unless she’s been released from doing so. I also, however, firmly believe that victims, if concerned about the rest of society, should approach their culprits with inquisitiveness, understanding, and, if it’s not too injurious to even think of, forgivenss.

    Now forgiveness, broadly, is a release. If the harm done isn’t too grievous to the victim, such that it causes only a superficial impact to one’s body, mind, or property, a release of a culprit’s debt should be weighed against the reasons for her wrong behavior, not against the fact she committed a wrong! And who should decide whether something is superficial, the victim of course, unless it’s obvious that the only reason for not forgiving is, again, the fact that wrong was done.

    To treat an unfortunate happening any differently is to leave important causes of human behavior unaddressed. And how can a society ever retain more conscience if it ignores to address the facts underlying its own lack of conscience.

    To simply say that one is responsible for policing her own actions is not a philosophy that would create a better society in which to live. By doing that, you ignore all the problems that person is facing, which more likely than not caused her to do what she did. It’s easy to cross over the prescribed line of wrong and right, when on the other side it begins to seem of so little impact, that not to cross it would yield a worse impact.

    I know it seems so hard to accept what I just said, especially here in the US where there’s food stamps and a whole host of other social programs for people. But keep in mind that we all can fall victim to that kind of “line” thinking, not just people who need food who may go and steal it. I have less sympathy for someone who would steal food, since there are programs to acquire such nourishment, than I would for someone trying to hold onto a small house, say, 1400 sq ft., when her victim may live in say, a 10,000 sq ft. mansion, unless there were a social relief program she could fall back on. With all the money floating around in this country. I don’t see the problem in that. We spend almost a trillion dollars fighting a war, when those same funds could have paid the morgtages off of so many people, living in real fear day to day, not just a fear that comes around with the occasional, isolated, terrorist attack!

  12. Cat October 28, 2010 7:57 am

    I’m dealing with a situation of this nature currently within my family and because I stood up against the perpetrator (my brother’s wife and possibly him as well), anger is being slung my way. The victim was my elderly grandmother and it seems that my brother and his wife feel they’ve done nothing wrong. They haven’t even admitted that it was stealing. (They used her bank account to pay a couple of bills online without her permission.) Most of my family still has communication with them and has said little to them against what they have done. Even grandma treats them as though nothing happened and won’t even admit to their faces that she is fully aware that they stole from her. To the rest of us grandma is completely honest about the theft but says that she knows they won’t do it again so she feels that I should just drop it.

    I have been ostracized and bodily harm has been threatened against me. These people weren’t even prosecuted for their crime. I am just amazed at how hateful they are towards me even though they are the ones who committed the crime. Self reflectence seem to be a rare thing especially in my family unfortunately. I have had many sleepless night over this while others seem to be unaffected. Why?

  13. YJ Draiman for council December 12, 2010 5:53 am

    •Honor, Honesty and Integrity these are not just words
    At times we feel maybe justified in violating a part of our own integrity.
    We don’t measure the effect that by doing so, the amount of damage
    that it does to others as well as to our own soul.
    We speak of justice; we speak of honesty and doing the right things in
    life. We are sometimes confronted not so much by the violation of
    these principles but by the impact they have on our own spirit.
    Feeling betrayed by those you trust, who have in some way acted in a manner that you may never understand,
    will have an impact on your life. This may only be for a moment or maybe a lifetime;
    each person has their own emotional point of tolerance to transgressions that may have been committed by even the most trusted among you.
    These words are what make’s us civilized. They are the fundamentals
    of our own character. We can not be responsible for someone else’s
    behavior but we are in total control of our own. Our behavior in any
    setting should be guided by these words.
    We can forgive others, but it is not easy for us to forgive ourselves
    when it is our actions that bring forth circumstances that no one
    wants. I have felt recently that betrayal, that dishonest act that just
    hurts and saddens the soul. Of course, that does not make that person
    bad or evil. It is an act that does not help for the survival of a group.
    I believe in the biblical statement that vengeance is the Lord’s it is not
    mine to give. When dealing with anyone in any capacity honesty is the
    guide. Integrity is the path to take. Honor is yours to own. Weep as
    you may for an infraction of another upon you; forgive as that
    transgression will also corrupt your soul to a deeper distrust of all.
    For the transgressor it will be easy to do that which they may feel is
    right, though the action violates all honor or self respect which creates
    havoc and chaos on others. Maybe to be honest will allow one to sleep
    at night. My heart pains, for those who have chosen the path of least
    resistance, which is the path to destruction.
    Integrity doesn’t mean that you become some cold, stoic person, and
    vacant of all emotion. Integrity just means to flow with your honest
    feelings and actions ensuring that they are in alignment with propriety.
    If you don’t like what you are doing then honor yourself by doing the
    best job anyway. You can always change careers.

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