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David Hegg: Looking at credit and the big picture

Ethically Speaking

Posted: May 27, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 27, 2012 1:55 a.m.

In my last two columns, I've been discussing ways to recognize a person's character.

So far, I've suggested that integrity shows up in people who say what they mean, mean what they say and are willing to admit their mistakes and clean up their messes.

Here's another. It speaks volumes about a person's character when he or she is more about results than recognition.

Years ago, a sage put it this way: "There's no limit to what a person can achieve if they don't care who gets the credit." While that may be a bit exaggerated, the kernel of truth is undeniable.

Back in the 1980s, I was employed in the training and development department of a large multistate banking firm. My boss asked me to read a book and write a review of it, which I happily did.

Four months later, that review was published in the Journal of the American Banking Association under my boss's name. He didn't write or change a single word, but he did take all the credit.

When I asked him about it, I was told it was standard procedure for bosses to take credit for the work accomplished by their subordinates. I told him he was really stretching the concept, and that what he did was both unprofessional and unethical. I still feel that way.

This incident serves as an example of a character flaw that plagues us all. It comes preinstalled on the human hard drive, and it is a big challenge for me personally. We all want recognition, and our addiction to it tempts us to take credit for things where our involvement was either minimal or nonexistent. We want to look good, to be thought of as successful, and too often we steal the credit from those that truly deserve it.

But there is another side to this coin of recognition. While our willingness to recognize others rather than hog the credit is certainly a mark of integrity and a host of other laudable traits, it is also an evidence of character when we accomplish something and don't care if we're recognized for it or not.

I remember reading a biography of some famous and successful person in which he wrote something like, "My path to success began the day I realized that, in all likelihood, no one would ever be writing my biography."

And forgetting for a moment the irony of it all, the truth is that once he decided it didn't matter if his successes were recorded for posterity, he began to experience personal and professional success.

Good people care more about getting the results than getting the recognition.

While they are quick to direct praise to those truly deserving, they are unconcerned about being recognized for their own success. They find greater pleasure in accomplishments than accolades, in making good things happen than in making themselves look good.

That's what virtue looks like, and our homes, businesses, churches, schools and government need all we can get. It is not wrong to suggest that the current competition for recognition is crippling our society.

More and more, the national political scene is all about recognition grabbing photo opps and incredible assertions that one person, party or ideology has brought about all the wonderful things we are now enjoying.

Getting the credit has become our national pastime, and it is sucking the marrow out of our creativity, productivity and national conscience.

America's institutions, including the home and the marketplace, are great because of hard work and humility. It is hard work that gets things done, while humility keeps us from caring who gets the credit.

David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. "Ethically Speaking" runs every Sunday.



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