Be ethical and honest

Does it pay to be honest? Not really, you would answer, especially in these times when corruption and double-dealing are at an all-time high. Here is a true story though that provides us with food for thought. It appeared in a newspaper some years ago.

In the city of Mexico lived two men, Miguel and Santiago. They were crooks who had no qualms in stealing from people or swindling them of money. Their long-term plan was to organize a big robbery, make a great haul and escape into anonymity. Their actions, however, attracted the suspicion of the people, causing them to become wary. Putting their heads together, they hit upon a plan. They would remain scrupulously honest for a period of five years. When the suspicions of the people were fully allayed, they would strike and make off with the booty.

The agreement was faithfully carried out and, right enough, they won the confidence of their neighbours as well as the public. People placed implicit trust in them and their exertions brought them money as well as respect.

Towards the end of the fifth year, the two friends were together at dinner when Santiago said to Miguel, ‘I have something to tell you Mike. I am done with being a crook. I like being honest and respected. I neither want to carry out the great robbery nor strike it rich in a dishonest manner.’

Holding Santiago’s hand, Miguel confessed, ‘My dear Santy, I have long wanted to tell you the same thing, but didn’t know how. I too much prefer to have modest comforts and be respected than possess ill-gotten wealth.’ And so, honest they remained for the rest of their lives.

Like the two who figure in this story, most people will acknowledge that being ethical and honest is the right thing to do. Are there any reasons? There will be those who contend that it is the fear of being found out and being punished that keep one on the right path. While this cannot be denied altogether, there are more compelling and moral reasons why one would prefer the better path.

There exists in every human being the urge to be honest. There is something uplifting and liberating in knowing that you are a person with integrity, someone on whom others can rely and place their trust.

Additionally, it will be seen that it is the honest who are compassionate. They will never wrest an unfair advantage by browbeating, cheating or stealing. Last but not least, they are free of stress and have to fear no one. Their conscience is clear and at rest because, in the powerful words of the Greek dramatist, Sophocles, ‘there is no witness so terrible, no accuser so powerful as the conscience that dwells within us.’

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