Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

Corruption - Staining Social Dignity

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As cases of national and statewide political corruption and scandals abound, will there ever be a resurrection of trust in those who claim to serve the people? For the survival of our democratic ideals and free society, I can only hope that ethical leaders will prevail, uphold their stated moral commitment to serving the citizens they represent, and renew that trust. As Thomas Jefferson said, “Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence.” Any corruption, whether in the halls of government, in corporate offices, or in our own home dismantles the very foundation of what defines a respectful and ethical society. Corruption severs personal and professional relationships, destroys confidence in the systems that serve the people, and deteriorates any faith in those who lead those systems.

Several definitions of corruption include, "moral perversion, depravity, perversion of integrity, corrupt or dishonest proceedings, putrefactive decay, rottenness." Although corruption has existed for centuries, it is not an excuse to ignore the consequences of corruptive behavior, nor sit idling while it negatively impacts our economic, political and social norms. The gains that result from corruptive behavior are never gains associated with content of character, integrity, personal honesty or humility. Rather, they are gains associated with greed, power, ego, narcissism, nepotism, self-centeredness and the absence of integrity. Corruptive gains are self-serving, materialistic in nature, short lived and never result in an enduring benefit for a citizenry. As Tacitus states in The Annals of Imperial Rome, “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” Could that be any more accurate today?

Corruption is not just an external public issue to be monitored, but also a private internal evaluation of your own behavior. You are the chief executive and chief operating officer of your life. What are the principles and core values that guide your life's decisions? What are the behaviors that will make your life successful and honorable? Are you vulnerable to the temptation of corruptive behaviors, or solid in the principles that define your character and your legacy? I hope you would acknowledge and desire the latter.

There is also a direct relationship between corruption and the presence or non-presence of accountability in a society. As excuses and the blame game dominate the social mindset, corruption will only become more prevalent, and become the norm rather than the exception. Why? The less accountability there is, the greater the odds for fewer consequences for unscrupulous behavior. The fewer the consequences, the more tempting corrupt behavior becomes. A cousin to corruption is exploitation. To exploit is, "to use selfishly for ones own ends." Where there is corruption there is exploitation, and a partnership that has historically wreaked havoc on societies on a global scale.

As a leader in your own life, and the lives of others, what example are you setting as it pertains to accountability, and ethical behavior? Do your behaviors align with values associated with living a principled, respectful, decent and dignified life? Do your actions generate goodness, or harm to yourself and those around you? What lessons do our children learn when corruption is sensationalized, and used as leverage for gaining profit and power? One lesson learned is integrity, ethical conduct, and decency is irrelevant to living a fulfilled and purposeful life. How sad is that? As former Indian President Abdul Kalam said, “If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.”

As a citizen, parent, community leader, or any other position of influence you may hold, it is imperative to take a stand for what is right and ethical. To set an example of integrity, honesty, thoughtfulness and decency is the antithesis of corruption. You will honor yourself, your community and most importantly your family when that example is exhibited. The "Golden Rule" of treating others, as you would want to be treated, remains a cornerstone in evaluating your personal and professional character. Make each day a golden day.



Exemplary Character - Takes Earnest Effort

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A revised version of a Warren Buffet quote I heard recently stated, "Give your children enough to do something, but don’t give your children so much they do nothing." This particular thought is applicable beyond children and parenting. It is a theme where the latter endangers the very fabric of an independent individual and society. To be given much, without participating in earning what you have, creates a false sense of comfort and self-respect. You may have comfort on the outside, and a perceived external importance because of what you may own, but there is little internal comfort, satisfaction, and peace of mind when it is not earned.

A purposeful life stems from effort not ease, and doing not stagnating. This is not to say we as a citizenry do not help those who cannot help themselves. However, teaching, mentoring, and setting an example of proper work ethic, resiliency, and determination to those who have the ability to contribute, is essential to helping create healthy individuals, families and communities. Mismanaged and abused entitlement programs are a prime example of how providing too much without requiring a degree of effort and accountability into what one is given generates apathy, lack of work ethic, lessening of a desire to persevere, and debilitates any sense of self-worth. It is also detrimental to an understanding of the importance of accountability, self-reliance and initiative.

To believe you should be provided all you wish for by another person or entity is a catalyst for personal destruction. You can never be rich in thought, spirit, heart and soul when there is no effort made to earn the life you desire. As Helen Keller said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” A platform of personal core values is the starting block to transform a mindset of lethargy into creating a meaningful life's legacy. If no core values exist, there is nothing to act on, no accountability for behavior, and therefore no sense of what it is you stand for and believe in. As a result, any character development is fundamentally impossible, since character development is based on the implementation of values.

What values are you exemplifying in regard to character development for yourself and those around you? A child being raised in an effortless household will develop an effortless attitude. A child, who is surrounded by dishonesty and apathy, will be dishonest and apathetic. Children being given so much they do nothing, and expect more, will most likely be nothing and expect less of themselves. What core values are you discussing with your children, and are you acting on them? Are your words aligned with your behaviors? As Abraham Lincoln said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” To disavow the need for alignment undermines all principles of ethical parenting and leadership.

Of course you want to provide for those you love, for it is part of taking accountability and ownership for what you have created for yourself, and your family. It is also a natural desire to want your children to have a better life and have as many opportunities as possible. However, it is essential to balance what you give to an individual, with how you create a level of appreciation and respect for what has been given. To attain a respectful character requires several primary factors including, * a knowledge base of the values you believe represent what is most important to you to be respected, * a consistency in behavior that reflects those values, * aligning what you practice with what you preach, * a continuous internal awareness of the example you set each day, * and the understanding that character is earned never given.

As Father’s Day approaches, may we all acknowledge the important role of fathers, mothers, and family in developing characteristics of a healthy character for our children. These should include a belief in the values of effort, self-discipline, determination, selflessness and an understanding that you earn self-respect and a sense of personal satisfaction. It is, and has never been given, but rather earned every day in the efforts one makes in the lives of others.



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