Wednesday, June 4, 2008

On Sincerity (Repost from 11/13/05)

Practice what you preach. Act with integrity. These phrases are thrown about frequently along with words like genuine, credible, authentic, sincere.

In the days of the Roman Empire potters and sculptors would fill cracks or imperfections in their work with wax, then glaze it over before selling them at market. When I first heard this, I imagined these beautiful pieces eventually weeping during the heat of the day, the wax melting under the sun, God’s spotlight. When a piece of work was flawless, or the craftsman one of high integrity, a seal was placed on it that read, “sine cere”, a Latin term meaning, “without wax.” These were obviously the most desirable pieces and held up under the toughest of scrutiny.

How often do people today live with sincerity, without wax? It’s easy to impugn public officials; sadly many have not performed well under the spotlight. However, looking inward, I recognize I too have been lax.

In an effort to improve efficiency with my team at work, I have insisted on certain process steps be followed. Yet as I reflect, in expediency, I myself have failed to follow those steps. At home, I have lamented the children to sit up straight, only to later find myself slouching on the couch, mouth agape, staring into the television. How often have others told their kids to clean their rooms only to find stacks of papers, post-its and books strewn about their own office? And how many have shouted, “Stop yelling, it’s not polite.”

Do as I say, not as I do. That’s practicing hypocrisy, not integrity. Others could easily reply, “I can’t hear what you’re saying, your actions speak so loudly.”

Some seem to live by what Jack Canfield calls the 18/40/60 Rule. At eighteen, you think everyone is looking at you. At forty, you don’t care who is looking at you. At sixty, you realize, no one was looking at you. There may be truth to that, but if you are a leader, people are looking at you. They are looking at your imperfections, your weaknesses and your ability to handle obstacles.

I believe if you know your mission and your core values and if you live on purpose and if, as Ken Blanchard says, “you are committed to your commitments”, then you are acting with authenticity. There may be flaws or cracks -- resist the urge to fill them with wax. Instead, think like Michelangelo, rather than hiding any blemishes, keep them exposed and work them into the final piece of art, your life and you will have lived with integrity.