Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Learning Lessons From the Lorax

Not long ago I saw The Lorax, a movie about a world without trees and a boy who goes in search of them to impress a girl. The boy learns the story of the Onceler who started a new business with a promise not to cut down any trees. When demand for his product increased, however, and he received a little push from some money-hungry relatives, the Onceler abandoned his principles for the money that could be made. Only when all the trees were gone, along with his prospects for continuing profits and his reputation, did the Onceler realize it might have been better to keep his word.

While I think the movie built up a straw man to knock down to communicate its political point, the movie did an excellent job at portraying a very common human condition: abandoning one's principles in order to get ahead. Commonly, people have the intention of living the right way, of being honest and fair, of telling the truth and selling a solid product. Until the chance comes along to make a whole lot of money or finally reach the career milestone we've been reaching for. Then we decide it is okay to fudge things just a little bit because it will be good for our bottom line and no one will notice anyway. We refuse to pay people what they deserve and try to satisfy them with vague promises of a raise in the future because any raise would drop our bottom line and keep us from getting everything we think we deserve. We decide it is okay to go back on our word, hurting someone in order to get ahead. We try to make ourselves feel better by saying, "It's not personal. It's just business." But we know that is just a rationalization. Whether to make money or to get ahead, we slowly begin to soften our resolve and our principles.

When we face those decisions, Proverbs 22:1 reminds us, "A good name is to be chosen over great wealth; favor is better than silver and gold" (HCSB). The author of Proverbs knew that not only is it essential that we maintain our integrity, but that it is also crucial that we preserve our reputation. Sooner or later everything translates into reputation, good or bad. If you don't treat or pay your employees fairly, they won't want to work hard for you. If you go back on your word to customers or vendors, they won't want to trade with you because they can't trust you. If you cut corners in order make a cheaper product, people will eventually stop buying your product. Eventually everything that we did in order to increase income in the short-term ruined our reputation and our chances for profits in the long-term until all those things we convinced ourselves weren't that bad have eroded our integrity and we have become an empty shell. We might have money or position, but nobody wants to work either with us or for us.

Every day we face a choice: do the right thing and guard our reputation or focus on the bottom line regardless of the collateral damage. Will you try to get everything you can as quickly as you can? Or will you preserve your reputation? Think twice before you answer; your good name is too important.

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