is between you, God, and the IRS

“Integrity is doing what is right because it is right even when no one else is watching.”

I used to be a type of a scout leader for young boys.  We had ceremonies, did the classes for badges, and

played games.  We always tried to arrange time in the schedule for outside activities.  We would almost

always play a game called American Eagle as it took no planning or equipment and everyone got to be

involved.  It was simple.  Everyone would line up on one side of a field.  One person would stand in the

middle of the field and call, “American Eagle.”  At that point everyone else would have five seconds to start

to run to the other side of the field trying to avoid the boy in the middle.  The boy in the middle would try to

tag with two hands as many people as he could.  Once tagged you stayed in the middle and tried to tag

the others on the next pass through.  It would go on like this, the boys in the middle calling American Eagle

and the others moving from one side to the other side of the field until there was only one boy left.  He was

pronounced the American Eagle (Interesting to note that the boy standing alone was the winner and called

the American Eagle) and then would take his place in the middle as everyone would line up on the side

and the game would start over.

The boys ranged from about six to the mid teens.  There were obvious disparities in their abilities but we

encourage the older boys to take it easy on the younger.  In order to make it fun for all.  Inevitably, in the

heat of the challenge someone would accuse someone else of cheating.

“I got you!” the call would come out.

“No, you didn’t!” was the response.

“Yes, He did.” someone would validate the accusation.

The response would be, “You only got me with one hand.” and the response would be validated by

someone else.

Left alone the situation would develop into an argument with mean words and possibly a fight.  My role was

to make sure this did not happen.  Yet, I could not be everywhere and see everything at the same time.  

My purpose was not simply to control the boys but to teach them and instill a sense of value, of honestly,

and honor.  After a few games, I began to start the games by going over the rules, the boundaries, and the

definition of integrity which I would have them all repeat - Integrity is doing what is right because it is right

even when no one else is watching.  I would then pronounce that we were running the game based on


Of course we would always have the attempt to tag and the accusation to which I would respond,

‘Integrity.’  Most of the time either the accusation would silence or the denial would dissolve as the tagged

boy would turn to help tag others.  In some cases, the two boys involved would persist.  I would call them

over inquire as to the situation and slowly walk through it.  Most of the time this would illuminate what had

happened and again the situation would be resolved.  In the rare occasion that the two just could not let

go… I would go over integrity again.  Stress the value of personal honor and respect over the possibility of

wining a single round of a simple game.  If this did not work, which it did most of the time, I would just send

them back to play the next game, for by this time the game would have ended and the two would have

missed out.

On one such occasion I had a boy who just could not let go of his belief that the other boy had cheated.  I

ended up pulling him aside to talk with him and explain that he was not helping anyone with his behavior

and that in fact he was simply hurting himself.  As the other boy was again playing the game while he was

standing there talking to me.  The boy obstinately told me that he had tagged the other boy and that the

other guy was out.  He said that it was not fair and that the other boy had no integrity.  To which I had to

step up to a higher sense of discussion and reality.  I explained that the world was not fair.  And it was

possible that he had tagged the other boy, I also said that it was possible that he had missed him with at

least one hand and that neither I nor anyone else could say in all fairness which was true.  In that case, the

decision had to rely on the conscious of the two boys.  If neither could come to an agreement then they

would have to let go of the situation in order to continue playing in order for the system to work.

He said, “I don’t like the system.”

I asked, “You would you like it better when the leaders stood around regulating the game?”

He said, “No.”

I asked, “Why not?”

He said, “Because they often got it wrong and when there was a disagreement they would end up

canceling the game and go back inside.”  (Note: If you can’t control yourself someone else will.)

I said, “The point of integrity is that it can not be forced upon you, it by definition, had to come from inside

and that if you give it time the conscious will usually work on the other kid.  The next time the other kid will

likely respond differently.”

He asked, “But what if he doesn’t?”

I said, “Then you just don’t play with him.”

I also said that I would pay more attention to the situation and to the other kid next time (to see if there was

a pattern of behavior, there wasn’t).  This all seemed to resolve the issue and satisfy the boy.  It also took

up all the time remaining to play and he had missed out on the rest of the games that evening.  I followed

up over the next couple of weeks. Individual incidents occurred every time but none of the boys had a

pattern of cheating.  (Holding on to what someone else does or taking how someone else is personally, if

you can just walk away, only hurts you)

The Point:

You only hurt yourself if you dwell on problems with other people.  It is always good to stand up for

yourself, your rights, and for what is right.  It is also good to know what battles are worth fighting and to

pick the ones worth fighting.  A real calculation needs to be done with specific, complex, and important

situations but in general and for most situations the question to ask yourself is simple, “How is this going to

help me.”  If the boys in the story who could not let go forced the issue all the way until the other boy

admitted his guilt and said, “Yes, you did tag me and I am out.” How could he have known if the admission

was sincere?  How would it have made either boy’s situation any better?     

The Lesson to Learn:

You are not responsible for other people’s morality.  You can not force other people to obey your will,

follow your rules, admit their sins, or believe the way you do.  Trying to do this will only waste your time and

cause you hurt.  You have to let people come to their own understanding and if they don’t you either

accept it or have nothing to do with them.

The Brutal Truth:

There is a right and wrong in every situation.  But our relationship to it is an internal concept and can not

be forced upon anyone.  If someone can not see the truth of a situation even after objective explanation

then there is no point in continuing to push the issue or let it affect you badly.