business woman lyingThe 2016 US presidential race is heating up, which means the time is ripe for truth-stretching, name calling, and worse.

This week’s “I’m running for president” announcement by one candidate was so filled with distortions and untruths that fact checkers immediately pounced.

In another case, a news anchor was suspended for six months for “misrepresenting” his reporting experiences. In an interview this week, the anchor said his ego drove him to embellish stories.

What causes humans to embellish, to lie, to discount others, to take credit, or worse? Financial gain or showing they are smarter than others or winning while someone loses are outcomes that may drive us to lie.

For me, it all boils down to character – moral character. And, moral character matters.

Moral character is at the heart of many philosophers’ ideologies. We can learn about virtue and character through the writings of Aristotle, Plato, Heraclitus and others.

In fact, one of Heraclitus’ most popular quotes is “ethos anthropos daimon“, which roughly translates as “character is fate” or “character is destiny.”

Being of strong moral character means we are trustworthy. We are reliable. We do what we say we will do. We treat others with dignity and respect. Not once in a while, not most of the time, but all of the time, in every interaction.

Every plan, decision, and action reveals our character. We may think that our selfish drive is invisible to others, but it is not. It is amazingly transparent and consistent. If we are self-serving, it is obvious. If we are of service to others, it is obvious.

I have utmost control over the quality of my moral character. Should I be of grace and of service today, or should I screw everyone over so “I win” and they lose? It’s my choice.

Maintaining strong moral character takes effort, energy, reflection, and intention. It doesn’t happen naturally. We live in a society that reinforces “I, ME, MINE,” daily. If we want something different, something that serves others more than ourselves, we have to invest in those behaviors and those decisions.

Even when you are successful in aligning to strong moral character, others around you might behave in less giving ways.

For example, my worst boss asked me to lie. Years ago, in my non-profit executive life, my branch team of volunteers and staff worked our butts off to raise $25,000, which was double what they had ever raised before. But at the campaign’s closing dinner, with 300 people in attendance, my boss told me to get up in front of everyone and tell them we had raised, not $25,000, but $30,000. I refused, and announced the real total.

My boss wasn’t happy. Neither was I. He felt that I let him down. I felt that he had revealed his true moral character, and I had discovered his values were much different than mine. I didn’t want to interact with him anymore. I left that job as quickly as I could.

Make the choice today to be trustworthy, to do what you say you will do, to be kind, to be gracious, to express gratitude for effort as well as for accomplishment, to be reliable, to be respectful with everyone.

You’ll be able to hold your head high – and you might even influence others to be more respectful and of service, over time.

How do you maintain your strong moral character? How do others whom you respect demonstrate their strong moral character? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Steven Coburn – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

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The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.

S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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