Character isn’t defined by what you do when everyone is looking, it is defined by what you do when you think no one is.
Standing at the officer’s station in the dayroom with a permanent marker in my hand, I wait!
5 minutes pass, I wait!
10 minutes pass, I wait!
By 15 minutes I am getting tired of standing so I take a seat at the nearest table to the officer’s station. Flipping through a “FORTUNE” magazine, marker in hand, still I wait!
I borrowed the marker from the corrections officer who asked me not to run off with it and to return it to him when I was done.
I give him my word.
Yet, he takes off and leaves his post and doesn’t return for over 25 minutes.
As he walks back into the unit with a phone clinched between his ear and his shoulder, and a bowl of cereal and a spoon in his hands I wait for him to get settled.
“Sir, here you go! The marker that you let me use, thank you.” I tell him as I hand him back the marker.
Turning away to go about my business, he stops me as he hangs up the phone.
“Mr. Walrond, why didn’t you just keep the marker? Aren’t you guys (meaning inmates) always looking for them? I forgot all about that pen and no one would have known but you…”
“… And God.” I interjected. “Even if I was the only one to know, right is right and wrong is wrong. I gave you my word and I kept it as I would expect you or anyone else to.”
“So was it worth it? To wait 30 minutes to give me a cheap pen you could have just put in your pocket and walked off with.”
“Sir, with all due respect it is much bigger than that pen or marker. You can’t put a timeline or price tag on doing the right thing. So if you are asking me what is it worth to do the right thing? Well, it is worth far more than a marker, it is priceless, it is worth my integrity and character as a man.”
This conversation ended up continuing much longer than the time I waited but I came to find out that his expectations were for me to act like a criminal and not a civilized man.
In my eyes however there is no punishment like the torment of a grieved conscious.
To know to do right but consciously choosing to do wrong.
It is not about doing good because people are watching. God no, it is about doing good because that is who you are, because it is the right thing to do.
Even if doing wrong is the norm, well, I guess it is time for you to step up and create a new norm.
And if doing wrong is the norm, one must understand that what happens in the dark will eventually come to the light.
The other day a friend wrote this quote down for me, from a book he has been reading, that he thought I would like and I believe it is fitting. It’s called “Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership”:
“People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered — love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives — do good anyway.
If you’re successful, you’ll win false friends and true enemies — succeed anyway.
The good you do today will perhaps be forgotten tomorrow — do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable — be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest man with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest man with the smallest mind — think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but only follow hot dogs — fight for the underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight — build anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you help them — help them anyway.
Give the world the best that you have and you will get kicked in the teeth — give the world the best that you have anyway.
If better is possible, then good is not enough.”
No mater how long you must wait or what it may cost you, do not ever grow weary in doing good! Even if no one else will stand for what is right with you choose to do good anyway.
What you may miss out on or lose wasn’t worth having in the first place and what you have to gain cannot be measured.
A few days after this encounter that same officer called me over to speak with him momentarily.
He told me that after we last spoke he went home and contemplated the things we discussed in our conversation.
Furthermore he used that experience as a teaching tool for his young teenage son to talk to him about developing true character.
I was a little surprised that our talk had such a profound impact on his life.
What surprised me more was when weeks later I was inside of the “Redemption” self-awareness class I facilitate and one of the students, who I had no idea was around at the time, observed the entire situation with the officer and spoke of it to the class.
He admitted that his whole reason was to try to spot inconsistency and hypocrisy in my life so he could use that as an excuse to bad mouth the program and discredit me as a leader and mentor.
This same gentleman is no longer a skeptic but is now a believer that we can live a high character life in a character flawed society.
This same gentleman has since completed the self-awareness class and has enrolled in two other course that I teach.
This gentleman has since become one of my closest friends.
And need I say, that this gentleman has made Jesus the Lord of his life.
So what is it worth to do the right thing?
You will never know because you never know who is watching, but I promise you someone is always watching!
Categories: Cyril D. Walrond