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We’re all for recycling. In fact, we recycle and re-use just about everything, including chewing gum and our own jokes. But there are limits, even for us.

Here’s one of those limits: We once found out someone in our employ recycled our proposals, recycled some of the work we’d created for Client A, and sold it to Client B (of which we were unaware). That same someone charged Client B for that work (unbeknownst to us) and pocketed the cash (also unbeknownst to us). Once we found out, that someone was summarily and unceremoniously fired for his trouble. We didn’t watch to see if the door hit him in the ass on his way out. But we know which way we were hoping.

Common wisdom (or the popular sentiment that passes for wisdom) has it that every man has his price. True. We’re guessing our former employee had found his. But integrity has no price. It can’t be bought or sold. It can’t be stolen. It can’t be violated or compromised. It just is, immutably. Notice the similarities between the following statements:

  • “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” (Harper Lee)
  • “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” (John Wooden)
  • “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” (Albert Einstein)
  • “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one. (Marcus Aurelius)
  • “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.” (Frederick Douglass)
  • “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.” (Abraham Lincoln)
  • “In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.” (Czesław Miłosz)

What do the people who made those statements have in common? Other than their being human, not much. But they did share an understanding of and an appreciation for integrity and the inviolability of their own. We still quote them because we still cherish their ideal.

Here’s to our integrity. In the end, it’s all we have.