I remember a couple weeks after I graduated college going to the movies with some friends. The girl behind the counter asked “student?” We all said “yes”. Of course, none of us were technically students anymore, but the girl behind the counter didn’t know that and she almost certainly didn’t care. We all still had our students ID’s and we looked the same as when we were eligible for the student discount. We joked about how many years it would be before we got called out on this little loophole.
But then my conscience started bothering me. You see, one of the most important things in the world to me is that people trust me. I want to be known as someone you can count on to do the right thing. Someone who won’t screw you over. Someone with integrity.
And in that moment it felt like I had sacrificed all of that to save a dollar.
So in one of my prouder moments, I turned around, walked back up to the counter and said to the surprised girl behind the desk “I’m not a student anymore. Sorry I lied.”
That was three years ago and since then I’ve had far bigger opportunities to stretch the truth for my own benefit. In fact, the temptation to compromise my integrity is everywhere. It would be so easy to tack on a couple extra hours when billing for some contract work. It’s so easy to lie just to make myself look a little bit better than I am. But integrity is doing the right thing, even if no one is watching. Every time I’m tempted I think back on the feeling I had as I walked away into that movie.
And I wouldn’t trade that for the world.