“Never compromise your integrity. Once you lose it,
it’s impossible to get back” ~ Unknown
The unfortunate events that unfolded last week at Penn State University involving child molestation and the apparent inaction of long time head coach Joe Paterno should remind us that you can’t take a day off from integrity. Maintaining your personal character and integrity is not a part-time activity only to be exercised when it is convenient. This applies to everyone but even more so for anyone in a position of authority or leadership.
The thing that, to me, is almost as disturbing as the actual molestation of who knows how many young boys, is that so many Paterno loyalists are willing to acquit the coach of any culpability in this horrific ordeal. When Paterno was informed of this 10 years ago, he sought the easy way out. He simply notified someone else (passed the buck) and apparently washed his hands of it. How many additional young lives were forever tainted due to the coach’s inaction and failure to follow through? That so many people are more than ready to excuse the coach for his inaction is a dismal testimony to our society. Have we really become such a society of degenerates that we will readily excuse anyone who has reached legendary status, as has Coach Paterno, that we are willing to allow these legends lapses in integrity and character to the detriment of others? If so, what does that say about us as society?
My purpose here is not to render guilt; I certainly don’t know all the facts of what transpired. My purpose here is to reinforce the importance of living every single aspect of your life with character and integrity, and to illustrate how quickly compromising our character and integrity can ruin all we have worked for. There can be no denying what Coach Paterno accomplished throughout his storied career. He holds countless records, although many are as much a testament to his longevity at Penn State. I believe he began as Penn State head coach during the Lincoln administration. I’m just kidding of course, but he has been there for over forty years (he actually began as an assistant coach in 1949) and has influenced thousands of young lives. Certainly Joe Paterno did a lot of ‘good’ things throughout his career, and yet this lapse of judgment, this failure to take appropriate action, is what the coach will likely be remembered for.
Actions (or inactions) have consequences. These consequences are multiplied for people who accept roles of leadership. How pathetic it is that these young victims had no one that was willing to do the right thing – first and foremost to stop what was happening – then to make certain it never happened to anyone else. Instead, what they got was so-called leaders willing to bury their heads in the proverbial sand.
Ours has become a society of false idols. We equate celebrity ship with infallibility. A vast number of people are willing to overlook not just minor character flaws, but criminal offenses. This is why O.J. Simpson got away with double homicide. It’s why rap artists can beat their girlfriends to a bloody pulp and people still continue to buy millions of their records. It’s why so many rabid fans were willing to let Michael Vick off the hook for animal abuse. It’s why so many people thought, “no big deal” when the President of the United States had sex with an intern then lied about it under oath!
It’s time for us to right the ship. If we do not hold people accountable for their actions then we as a country are just as guilty as everyone else who knew about these disgusting events and failed to act. Living our lives with character and integrity is a full-time occupation.
Monty Rainey is a District Manager working in the self storage industry since 1996 and currently overseeing 21 stores in the Austin & San Antonio, TX area. He is also a leadership coach and public speaker. For a free consultation, please contact Monty at 830-743-2139 or visit his website at http://www.montyrainey.com .