Thursday, February 5, 2009

When I know better. I do better.

The problem in my life and other people's lives is not the absence of knowing what to do, but the absence of doing it. Peter Drucker

Yesterday was a tough day.

At Christmas, a client had requested a trip home on his 'Christmas WishList'. "I haven't seen my kids in several years," he told me. "I need to go home and start over again. I need to rebuild my life away from here."

When my daughters heard his story, they had stepped up and said, "We want to help. We'll pay for his ticket." I was pretty proud of them and while I didn't tell the client who had offered to help, I was delighted to be able to tell him, "You're going home."

"Give me a couple of weeks to earn some money to take home with me," he said.

"No problem," I replied. "Just let me know when you're ready and we'll get it organized."

In the intervening weeks, someone came to me and said, "You know he's running away from something."

"Is there anyone here who isn't?" I asked.

"Yeah, but if you help him run away, you could be in trouble."

Concerned, I called Bob* into my office. "Before we make the arrangements," I asked him, "I need to be sure there's no unfinished business here that needs to be taken care of. Is there anything I should know about?"

I watched his face carefully. He didn't blink. But there was a momentary freezing of his eyes, as if a light had suddenly pierced his pupil and frozen it, for just a second, just one quick moment. He didn't blink. He didn't take a breath. He shook his head and replied, "No. Nothing. Of course not."

I had no proof that he was lying. I had asked. He had denied. But there was something in his response that bothered me. I thought he was lying but, I couldn't tell him what I thought I knew without other ramifications.

I checked with front line staff to see if anyone had heard about issues Bob might be facing. No one knew anything about it. They all agreed, "He's a good guy." "I feel for Bob," one staff replied. "He really misses his kids. He's worth helping." "No way Bob would lie. He's been on the up and up since he got sober," another told me. "He's been working hard on his sobriety. It's been eight months since he was high," a supervisor said and completed his assessment with what everyone had told me. "He's a good guy." Several staff even offered to chip in for his ticket because he had impressed them with his willingness to grow and work towards changing his life.

The news for Bob kept getting better. An outside organization came forward with the offer to provide Bob a free ticket home. The money my daughters and others had raised to buy the ticket could go towards funding his new beginning when he got to where he was going. Bob had also chipped in by finding odd jobs and yesterday he came to me and said, "I'm ready to go home. I've saved up enough money. How soon can I go?"

"As soon as we can arrange the ticket," I told him. "But first, we need to do a background check so that I can assure the organization providing your ticket that everything's set to go."

And that's when the circumstances in his life became a problem limiting his actions.

That's when Bob had to step forward with the truth.

Why do good guys lie? Why do any of us lie?

To avoid the truth. To avoid the pain of being found out. Being thought of in ways we don't want to think about ourselves. To avoid being hurt. To avoid hurting someone. To avoid facing the consequences of our actions. To avoid turning up. Because we are afraid. Because we can...

We know lying is the wrong thing to do. We lie anyway.

We know procrastinating is the wrong thing to do. We procrastinate anyway.

We know what we need to do. We do the opposite anyway.

We know the right thing to do. We choose not to do it.

We are 100% responsible for our choices.

It was a good lesson for me. When I first met with Bob to ask him if there were reasons he couldn't go, I could have asked him to complete the background check then. But, because I had asked him the question, and he had responded with a vehement 'no, there's nothing stopping me', I had hesitated to do the right thing. I didn't want to offend him. I didn't want to undermine his sense of self-worth by asking for proof he was telling me the truth.

In the end, my hesitation cost me peace of mind and helped create angst in a situation that didn't need it.

Doing the right thing often requires doing the difficult thing. One of my patterns is to avoid confrontation. I didn't want to have a confrontation with Bob. I wanted to believe him, even when I was pretty sure he was lying. To find the truth, I went about gathering information in the hopes I'd get my answer, without ever having to confront Bob with what I believed to be the truth.

In the end, Bob revealed the truth, but I had still acted without integrity in my quest to find my answers.

Integrity is very important to me. I am 100% responsible for my actions.

And, I'm 100% responsible for how I act today. For everything I do and say. I can forgive Bob. And, I can forgive myself.

When I know better. I do better.

I know more today than I did yesterday.

Today, I am better for my knowing.

The question is: Where are you not doing what you know is the right thing to do?

*Not his real name. Some details changed.

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