I was talking to an old friend today about the questionable integrity of an organization we know.
“It’s like North Carolina’s state motto,” she said (she can always surprise me with her arcane bits of knowledge). I didn’t bite — just looked at her and waited. “Well, you know their motto is “to be rather than to seem.” I actually didn't know that was North Carolina's state motto but . . .
“To be rather than to seem.”
It seems to me this is the core of the concept of integrity. You might be evil but if you tell people you are evil and you don’t complain when others are evil to you — well, you have some sort of integrity. It seems to me that many questions of ethics revolve around this concept, and I would argue that many questions of effectiveness do as well. If you are what you say you are in every aspect of your being, people will trust you. And, nonprofits are, or should be, all about public trust.
But, sometimes we lose perspective on the bits and pieces of what constitutes ethical practice. That is why the Nonprofit Quarterly has a column to help you think about such questions. The latest of these columns is attached here is linked below.
Read it and write back to the Ethicist (just hit “reply” to this email) with your own ethical questions. He responds quickly and confidentially. We will print the question and answer (without your name attached, of course) in the next issue of NPQ. In this way, you will help others reflect on their own practice.
Meanwhile, be the same everywhere you go and with everyone you talk to — at least today. I’ll try to do the same. It’s a start.