Friday, April 19, 2013

The Price of Honor

What is honor and loyalty worth?

What is the highest price that you would personally be willing to pay in the name of honor or loyalty?

If you were a husband and father of three with a mortgage payment, would you be willing to give up your job and family’s security for the sake of preserving your personal honor and loyalty for the people to whom you owe your success?

This next post is about a man who I have loved and respected pretty much all of my life, mostly because he is my father.

His father was the Chief of Police in Clyde Ohio a number of years ago. Some of his life was spent in the Army in the early days of the Cold War in West Berlin at just about the time the Soviets were putting up the Berlin Wall. He has been Clyde’s finance director twice. For a number of years in my youth he worked as a manager for Sears. He worked for the Sandusky County Auditor’s office for a number of years and actually ran for the position of auditor twice. Now he is a truck driver.

Other than that, when it come down to it there is very little about him personally that you couldn’t guess in a few hours of conversation. If you sit and talk to him—and he would be very willing to talk to you—you would quickly find that he lives his life according to the rule of “treat others as you wish to be treated,” pretty much most of the time. Sometimes he can be a little bit stubborn but really, who do you know who isn’t? (Welcome to Earth!) He is just an average guy.

But everybody has something about them which occasionally allows them to do things that they would think are just the normal decent thing to do, which when viewed by others seems to be outstanding. My father is no exception to that rule.

As I mentioned earlier he worked at Sears. He was the manager of the appliance store in Ironton Ohio during the very early seventies. His store, if I am not mistaken about what he told me, was the third highest rated in the region. It takes a lot of good employees, teamwork and leadership to achieve a status like this.

At that time, Sears had a type of gain-sharing/pension program, which was in part based on the seniority of the employees. The longer you were there, the more you made, assuming of course you continued to do a good job while you were there. His store had a number of people who were making some pretty good money.

One day my father was called into a meeting by the area managers and was told to fire three of his top employees because they were making too much money in the gain-sharing/pension program. He told them that they were his best employees, that their attendance was good, their work was good and they were a large part of why his store was doing its business so well. Their reply was “just make something up that you can use as a reason to fire them and we will back you up.”

“And if I don’t fire them?” he asked.

“We’ll fire you,” was their reply.

So, you have your house payments, your wife, your three kids, your hopes of buying that nice boat, financial security and a nice job; everything that defines success in middle-class America, all at risk. Suddenly you have to weigh these things against your own personal honor and integrity.

Knowing my father, my best guess is that he just couldn’t live with himself if he had to spend the rest of his life looking in the mirror knowing he had pulled the rug out from under three other people to whom he owed his success. Exactly how the hatchet fell I have never asked him. I’m sure it involved him going back to the store, pulling those other three employees into a meeting, and telling them what was going on, and that he would back them up in the court case if they decided to pursue it. When the area managers found out, they fired him. I’m sure that is a pretty close bet.

It takes a lot to be able to do something like this. To risk, or overtly throw aside, your material gains in the world to preserve your honor and integrity. It’s a hard choice that life sometimes hands us all. This one decision not only has the potential to define us for a lifetime but can also define whom our posterity, and theirs, and theirs, becomes in future lifetimes. If a choice like this ever comes your way, I hope you make it a good one. We are the people who define the world we live in and we do it by making such choices.

You don’t have to be a “hero” to do something exceptional and show that you have honor. Even if you have honor you don’t have to show it. You could be a just an average guy, like my father.

Incidentally, I think the other three employees were fired and ended up suing the crap out of Sears, so they got what they earned anyway. It only took Dad a few weeks to find a better paying job. But that is the beginning of another story…

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