“A little integrity is better than any career” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I had just exited a meeting with a client in New York state when I was offered the breaking news that the governor was implicated in a prostitution scandal.
My first reaction was, “this is surely a joke, right?” When it was clear the news was authentic, the impact flooded over me. Here is a man, who had created a public reputation as someone who rooted out corrupt public and private officials.
His prosecutions were often very public and left a bitter taste with those in leadership positions in particular the financial community in New York City. There were reports yesterday afternoon that there were cheers of happiness by traders on the floors of some of the exchanges when the news of the governor’s downfall was released.
I understand how people who have felt persecuted by someone may want them to feel some of the fear and pain they and their colleagues felt. Yet, how is this useful?
I believe that this is a time for introsection. I embarked upon a reflection on all the times where I have acted out of integrity with those who have trusted me. How must they have felt? In the midst of those experiences, I sometimes did not understand the consequence to them. I was more focused on my own feelings of embarrassment and shame. Watching the expression on the face of Governor’s Spitzer wife filled me with a sense of pain and bewilderment that others may have felt when they experienced the sense of betrayed by me. This feeling of devastation is sobering and continues to fuel my commitment to authenticity.
The other reflection I have been engaged in is feeling compassion. This man operated in a way that was clearly inconsistent with the way he wanted to live. Why did he act out this way? For sure, I can never know why anyone does something. On the other hand, I can be sure that conflicts waged inside him that guided him to act in a way that he would never want to be public. I can remember the many times when I have acted and wanted others to “keep it quiet”. I am reminded that the true standard for my behavior is that I will be comfortable to have anything I do be reported on the front page of the New York Times. For those times in my past, when I have not wanted to operate with this level of transparency, I feel my own pain and can identify with Governor Spitzer and see that he and I are humans learning the consequences of our living with two standards.
My invitation to each of you is to reflect on what lessons this situation holds for you. What sense of compassion can you extend to this man at this time?