What Happened to Our Integrity?

What Happened to Our Integrity?

In this pre-Super Bowl week, our attention turns to Coach Bill Belichick and Quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and their deflated balls. How is this a debate? I heard a guy say, “The Patriots beat the Colts so bad in the AFC Championship game; it really didn’t matter if the footballs were under inflated”. Really? That is his defense? That is like saying, the bank robber failed to get any money at his bank robbery attempt so he should not be charged with robbing the bank. Cheating only matters when it affects the outcome of the game? Since when is cheating at any degree acceptable? It should be an admission that the cheater is inferior and needs to cheat in order to over the lack of skill and knowledge to succeed or win. What happened to our integrity?

The dictionary defines integrity as adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character, honesty. I believe integrity is doing the right thing when no one else is looking. Has winning become so important that integrity goes out the window? I am not just picking on the New England Patriots or even the NFL; I am talking about our society as a whole. Let’s even forget about sports and cheating. There was a time when the truth mattered and it was more important than winning or success. What happened?

We have politicians that make speeches that are recorded, get caught in a lie and the media covers the lie up. We have an ex-football star stab two people to death with DNA evidence set free.  We have over 7.2 million married couples with secret bank accounts, so their spouse won’t know about their secret spending.  We can’t seem to figure out how to stop a 50% divorce rate. According to a Stanford University study, in 1940 20% of college students admitted to cheating versus today 98% of students admit to cheating.  This means only 2% of our next generation of college grads are going to be honest. These are only the statistics from the people that admit cheating or the ones that get caught. What happened to our integrity?

I am aware “Leave It to Beaver” is not a reality, but where does this end? We now have politicians not leaders, we have commentators not news reporters, we have Wall Street corporate raiders that pay off judges allowed to prosper immorally and trusted officials teaching our children that molest them. We seem to rewrite our history in order to form our agendas versus just telling the truth. Bad is good and good is bad. Maybe the book 1984 was just 30 years too soon. We use political correctness to change the meaning of our words and history to suit an agenda. As George Orwell was quoted “it’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words”. Saying something bad or using an offensive word carriers a stronger sentence than an act of murder.

I realize there are still a whole lot of honest people today, but it does seem harder to find them than back when I was a kid. Just remember doing the right thing with friends, family and clients will never go out of style. Success and winning is the ultimate goal, but not at any cost, certainly not at a cost of lacking integrity. Sorry for my rant, but enough is enough.

“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”—George Orwell 1984

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at www.freedigitalphotos.net


Tim Wilhoit is owner/principal of Your Friend 4 Life Insurance Agency in Nashville, TN. He is a family man, father of 3, entrepreneur, insurance agent, life insurance broker, salesman, sales trainer, recruiter, public speaker, blogger and team leader with over 27 years of experience in sales and marketing in the insurance and beverage industries.

48 Responses to What Happened to Our Integrity?

  • Perhaps the biggest reason people break their integrity is trying to achieve something they want in the face of what normal channels allow. In essence, it’s disregard for established norms, mores, ethics, and laws in pursuit of fulfillment.

    Working to achieve an agenda is fine. Breaking the rules is not. Workplace fulfillment need not come at the expense of others.

    Therefore, I offer the following salient points to ponder. They have helped me strengthen and maintain my own integrity, and they may do the same for you:

    Be honest. People don’t like doing business with those they don’t trust.

    Work hard. It’s amazing how fulfilled people can be when they simply do an honest day’s work.

    Consider that every action has consequences. In large part, integrity is defined by what you do when no one is looking.

    Avoid the appearance of wrong. Good reputations can be marred by innocent actions that simply appear questionable.

    Be yourself. Trying to be someone other than who you are often leads to trouble. As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.” In other words, know yourself and be yourself.

  • Lynn, that is amazing insight, you are spot on! Thank you for sharing.

  • Appreciate your pointing such an important subject Tim.

  • Society can corrupt your honesty, if you yield to the cultural times. Integrity is inherent with honesty but one never loses integrity, just compromises with deceit. Courage comes from fear of the unknown and being honest will test your integrity. People pay attention to beacons, so lets be that light that shines with integral values and who knows just maybe one will take root. Thanks Tim.

  • Thomas, that is great insight and I agree with your premise about situations. However, you and I both know people in the same situation one will do the right thing and the other will manipulate it. That’s the integrity I am writing about. Thank you for sharing.

  • Thank you for speaking out what many people have thought but not stated. Like you said, I am not sure what happened or where it went but we are severely lacking INTEGRITY in todays world. I have a favorite quote that I try to live by and remember daily… (in which I have on my personal business cards) “The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.” Zig Zigler May we all remember the importance of Integrity with your article!

  • Lori, thank you for your kind words. I am a huge Zig Ziglar fan and can’t believe I didn’t use that quote. Thank you for reminding me.

  • This is great for conversation, the concept in America seems to be win at all cost. Our values have become so watered down, I hope that we can find an answer here.

  • Avoid the appearance of wrong. Good reputations can be marred by innocent actions that simply appear questionable.

  • Single greatest lesson to teach your kid.

  • Great article Tim! I was shocked at the lack of integrity I witnessed (and still do) when I ventured into insurance, so yes, it’s everywhere sadly.

    If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.

    ~ Alan K. Simpson

  • Tim, your comments are spot on, sadly…

  • Kudos on a great article. Very well said!

  • Nice article… too bad you are correct!

  • We have lost a lot of issues over the decades that I have been in this business. Sadly I would not have thought that we would have lost integrity on so many levels. We have. And if advisors have designations this is of no consequence and it does not matter. It may even be a crutch!

  • Ladies and Gentlemen ….. we have truly lost focus on what is important if we are even entertaining this conversation. With all due respect, are we really believing that a professional football team took the time and effort to reduce the voume of air in the football by exactly 1 pound so they could gain the upper hand on their rival? Please people, get real!!Yes, I am from New England but I also subscribe to the old fashioned idea called “common sense”. The Colts got their butts handed to them. It had nothing to do with someone mysteriously deflating footballs. The Colts and the officials all handled the same footballs. So these experts didn’t notice anything during the game but some genious figured it out afterward? Don’t we have morer pressing problems in our lives than this? I guess that I just don’t understand where our priorities are.

  • Tim, I’ve been in the insurance business for 31 years and my father has been a football coach for 60+ years. There’s a lot more cheating and unethical behavior in the insurance industry than there is in the sport of football. There are so many great stories, and character-developing experiences in the sport of football that its not fair to focus on one unconfirmed event. Tom Brady & Bill Belichick have been great representatives of the sport of football, but they are under the microscope of the public eye. The Patriots in general have stayed out of the tabloids (other than Aaron Hernandez), they are for the most part well behaved, they don’t make outlandish comments to the media, and they are involved in their community. If you want to rant about society’s problems you can certainly find some better examples than Brady & Belichick.

  • Well said Mike. I guess that I violated my own message by even commenting. I have dedicated a large portion of my career to combating Insurance Fraud. Still, i find tbese words troubling when we have much bigger fish to fry. Speaking of which, I had better go start supper before my wife kicks my butt! Best regards!

  • Am I really reading these comments correctly? You people agree with Tim? Mike said it best! This cannot be happening. Am I actually part of this industry? You must be kidding me! I Mean no disrespect to anyone but come on people …… we are talking about the really important topics that are troubling the world today? We have an incompitent President in the White House …. (i’m sure that this comment will stir up some crap) and are being threatened by stupid terrorists but we are having a discussion about some imaginary conspiricy theory about deflated footballs? HELLO PEOPLE!!!! More inportant stuff happening in this world!!!This is incredible! I am done with this conversation. I am ashamed that I even took part in it. It is an insult to my intelligence. I thought I was reading an article about the degredation of our industry’s principals ……. and it just turned out to be about the Colts and Patriot’s football game? WTF?

  • Peter, others…Re-Read what Tim wrote: Integrity….it is much more than about what may or may not have happened with the Patriots. It is about Society as a whole.
    Thank you Tim for sharing. You are spot on.

    The Stanford study is what scares me! 98% admit to cheating in school today:( Don’t they teach ethics anywhere but in LUTC classes any more?

  • Bob…..I agree that integrity is crucial. I have based my career and reputation on this. But really? Defated footballs as a basis for this principle?

  • Tim, “Great” Article, and this is also timely! I liked it so much that I forwarded it to my newsletter subscribers, with your name as the author, and have received some very nice comments . . . Thanks You!

  • Thanks for all of your kind words Robert, Rob, Renee, Gerry, Kim, Christina, Bradley, Bob and Van. I appreciate it!

  • Peter and Mike, I knew writing this that I ran the risk of an angry Patriots fan that would take the article to a place I never intended. My point was never the Patriots or Brady or Belichick, if anything it was the absurdity of the media coverage. Seeing this coverage of “cheating” pales in comparison to the “cheating” by our politicians, media, Wall Street, etc. I believe this article is spot on with what we all face in today’s society, especially our insurance industry. Mike, we agree there is way more cheating in our industry than the sports industry. However, half the world does not tune in on Feb 1st to watch us sell a life insurance policy, so I believe the example was timely but certainly not the only point. As I state in the second paragraph take sports out of the equation, we have a REAL issue today with lack of integrity, which is the ONLY point of my article. Sorry to ruffle the Patriots loyal fan base, forgive me.

  • My best to all. No offense intended. That is one of the more precious parts of being an American. We are free to express our opinions! Go Pats!

  • Peter we totally agree on our freedoms! Best of luck to you and your Patriots Sunday my friend.

  • Thank you Tim. I respect your professionalism and integrity! My very best wishes for your continued success. I really am not that involved……I like the Seahawks as well. I just hope that it is a good game…..with no deflations. If I may be of assistance to you now or in the future, I hope that you will not hesitate to ask. My very best regards!

  • Tim, I’ve been reading a lot of history in recent months, and it’s my conclusion that the general pervasiveness of integrity that may have existed in our society in a begone era is a romantic notion. I believe, instead, that the communication revolution best expressed by the Internet allows you and me to be aware of the breakdowns in business and other social interactions far more easily and frequently than was able to be seen in earlier generations. For example, most people think that the horrors of ISIS jihadist fighters is of a magnitude of depravity and scope rarely seen before. This view, I have discovered, is totally erroneous. There have been MANY, many previous times when marauders slaughtered innocent peoples en masse in terribly horrific situations. Other examples of bankers and financiers in Mesopotamia and Rome fleecing the small business owner or land owner also exist. —- The subject is too large to do it justice in this forum; but thanks for the opportunity.

  • Marty, that is an excellent point I had not considered. True lack of integrity goes back to the dawn of man but with today’s technology, information is so readily available that the ‘lies” are gleaming. Thank you for sharing that, you really have me thinking now.

  • I don’t know what happened and really don’t care. I’m from Dallas and have always liked the Pats organization especially since Belichick and Brady. They kinda remind me of Coach Landry and Roger Staubach when I was much younger and the Cowboys were a Cut Above the rest and a Classy operation; well deserving of the title America’s Team!

    Having said that, I do wonder how 12 of the 13 balls on one side of the field were a pound or so under-inflated by halftime and the balls on the other side of the field were still properly inflated. I’m sure something happened and I’m equally sure that management had absolutely nothing to do with it; I will lump Belichick and Brady in with management.

    Having owned a business with 37 employees, I can state with absolute certainty, that bad things can happen within any organization, by a lack of ethic, integrity and extremely poor judgement by one or more of the mental midgets who slip through during the hiring process. It happens, and It is what it is! Enjoy the Super Bowl!

  • Ha ha ha ……well said. I am embarrassed because I think that I lost the point of the message through all of this. I agree with Tim in the fact that our business seems to have lost some of the integrity. We are in the customer service business and at some point, we have lost our way. I have been on both sides of the industry and claims is the end user product of an insurance policy. As dedicated professionals, we have to maintain our duty to serve our customers to the very best of our ability. By the way, I admired coach Landry very much. The Cowboys are great too……Tony Romo is under rated in my opinion.
    I liked Troy Aikman too!

  • Think the real issue is the win at all cost mentality. Where it is acceptable to do anything as long as you win. We too often categories people as winners and losers- glorifying the former demonizing the latter. People want integrity only when it fits their own personal biases and even frame what integrity is by those biases,

  • Tim and others, we all need to focus on what we can control , not what others choose to do.

  • What a great article and so very true. We live in a world where winning means more than honesty and integrity

  • I read posts rarely and post far less often, but felt the need to drop my 2 cents in here. Our insurance industry is all about 1 lb. differences.

    When we have commercials running in every media on: How quick we quote, the quicker the quote the more you save, pick you own price, you policy may not cover tree falling on your car (you chose that when you picked your own price), get 1 million dollars of life insurance for only $6.00 a month (providing you get hit by a bus on Tuesday), and the ads go on and on.

    If one would believe the ads on TV, one might get the idea that auto insurance is free! Company A is 20% less than B and B saves $478 over company C and C is 15% less than A.

    Our industry lives in a world of honesty and integrity and as a whole we do a GREAT job. Where we often fail is telling people what we do and imply service doesn’t matter and that leads to selling everything at a price and only price.

    A local paint body shop has one of the best ads I’ve seen and they have used it for years. “I would rather apologize for my price than my quality!” is their tag line on every ad.

  • Interesting read, both the article and the comments.

    To Peter, why does it have to be either or. If deflated footballs sparked a greater conversation then lets talk about deflated footballs. We all know that nothing will come of this whole matter. Neither the QB or coach deflated them. If they orchestrated it, no one will ever know. This will be replaced with the next distraction soon enough.

    But if a few people can turn this to their industry or a broader conversation then I hope something like this happens again. Call me naïve but I still believe there are a lot of honest people out there. We need to raise the level of discourse. We need to speak up. “Everybody does it” is a lousy excuse to sink down to that level or look away in silence.

    The sad reality is it takes 10 honest agents (or insert the industry of your choice) to make up for the damage done by one dishonest one. If we don’t hold people accountable and speak up, we let them win by default.

    My grandfather taught me something when I was very young. “The only thing you have absolute control over is your integrity. You can sell or you can give it away, but no one can take it from you.”

  • All great comments and I am glad to have read them because it brought me to my senses. Tim, my apology! You didn’t piss off any Patriots fans or at least not this one.

    My reputatiuon and integrity took me over 30 years to nurture. I will not sacrifice this for any one or any thing. I have actually had the experience where someone will begin speaking about a methoud to defraud either the insurance company or the consumer and I flat out tell them, you do not want to have this conversation anywhere near me. Being a licensed Producer is one of the most difficult jobs I have had. How do you convince someone that it is more important to have the proper coverage than save a few dollars? It becomes painfully true when on the claims end as you have to explain that the reason we are unable to indemnify you is that because the person that sold you your policy was more concerned with selling you on price versus value. That $100.00 per year you saved is now possibly costing you thousands. If we have these difficult conversations up front, at least our customers cannot honestly say “no one ever told me!”

  • I am grateful for all of these great comments shared. It is nice to see so many concerned about this issue in our industry today. Peter, to give you a short answer to your question, some times you have to “burn mom and maim the kids” in order for the client not to focus on premiums and focus on the possible loss. Not always an easy conversation but as Jim stated, “I would rather apologize for a higher premium than why the claim was not paid”.

  • Very well said “Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”—George Orwell 1984

  • amen brother-couldnt have said it better myself

  • Preach on Brother! All that we can do is continue to try and be happy for the people we were able to reach. Be well all! I’m going to do my best to get back into claims. More aggravation but when you receive that call or message from an insured or claimant thanking you for helping them navigate through their difficult time………nothing like it! I live for those moments.

  • One final thought on the subject. . . . I don’t think ‘integrity’ is the natural state of human being; rather, I think it’s an extraordinary state of being. Most people lie and cheat without much thought, but I’m not sad about it (though I am disappointed); I treat it as what’s so. That’s why friendship that is deep and sacred is such a valuable and rare commodity. M

  • Caught the 4th quarter…glad the Seahawks didn’t win…of what value is a win over a cheater?

  • Hi Tim, the Patriots got the luck and pulled off that great play at the end of the game. Whew! I was sweating the entire time. I hope that you didn’t have money on the game. Be well my friend!

  • Peter, congrats to your Patriots! It was one the best Super Bowls I have seen in years. Carroll had a total meltdown on the goal line. Pats are World Champions again. Much continued success my friend!

  • I thought it was over and that the Sea Hawks had a touchdown for sure. Great play by the rookie. Sometimes, that is all it takes. Lesson learned …. always take that chance or risk, you never know what will happen!

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