Obvious Truths: Who among you is immoral?
Now, I was in a hurry. The map had appeared pretty straightforward but the walk was longer than I expected and if I didn’t kick it up a notch I would be late to my first Philosophy class. Frankly, I was pretty excited about this class because it was one of the few electives of my Freshman year at the University of North Carolina. The majority of my schedule was filled with requirements – English, Foreign Language, Math, etc. Philosophy was not required and it sounded interesting so I surely didn’t want to be late for day number one.
I walked into the room as the professor was wrapping up a conversation and began to address the class. With my back turned to him, I climbed up about twenty steps trying to find a seat amongst the 200 or so other students. I’m saying my excuse me’s to a couple of dozen knees as I listen to the professor say,
“This class is about morals and ethics. Let me ask you this: Who among you is immoral?”
I raise my hand and continue to the empty seat in the middle of the row. As I turn to sit, I notice for the first time that all eyes are on the only raised arm in the room – mine. Oops.
“You there. What’s your name?”, the professor says. I tell him the name of the only immoral person taking Philosophy 101 and he says, “What makes you immoral?”
“Because I do immoral things,” I answered.
This was not going so well. I wet my lips with my tongue and looked around. I thought I recognized one girl from a mixer that we had attended the other night. It was hard to know if it was her because on that night she was bleary-eyed and puffy faced from drinking. Wait a minute, wasn’t that a guy from my dorm who told me about an organized ring of students who sold last year’s history tests?
I was tired of being the center of attention, so I was ready when the next question came my way,
“What sort of things do you do that are immoral?”
“Are you lying now?”
The professor smiled and moved on.
To me, the professor’s question should have been met with a roomful of raised arms. The obvious truth is that most college students are immoral at least some of the time. But, experience has shown that people are not willing to assign negative attributes to their own behavior. Not when it comes to their morality while in college and not when it comes to their behavior at work.
When sales are down, my experience has been that sellers will blame conditions first, other people second and admit their own shortcomings third.
If the sales manager were to come into the weekly sales meeting and ask, “Who among you isn’t doing everything possible to generate revenue?” my bet is that an organization would be lucky if even one seller had the courage to raise her hand.
But, just like in my Philosophy class so long ago, the room should have many raised arms attesting to the obvious truth that there is always a little more that each of us can do.
Then and now, there is no shame in admitting an obvious truth. The shame would be to go on as before without making any adjustments to our behavior.