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Definition of the word of the week (TRUSTWORTHY): Worthy of confidence or belief.

Can you imagine having a possession more precious than gold and then simply giving it away? I’m not talking about giving something of value to help those in need.
I mean simply throwing it away. It defies my understanding.

Credibility is like that. Credibility is one of the most valuable possessions that anyone can have and it is truly more precious than gold. But, it can be thrown away simply by telling a lie. The lie may get one out of a temporary predicament, but at too high of a cost.

I once spent a day with a supervisor named Bill. He went from one location to the next and he asked each subordinate strange questions. This was a little puzzling and I assumed that it was to ensure that “the word” had been accurately disseminated. But, that was not the case. He asked questions to which he already knew the answer. When I queried him, he explained that he was not really looking for the answer to the question. Rather, he was checking to see what the person would do when the person being queried did not know the answer. Some told part of the truth and left out the part that made them look bad, some tried to split hairs to avoid answering, and sadly one lied. The best answer was when the person admitted what he did not know and then sought out the information. So, what purpose did this serve?

After this little exercise, Bill knew who was trustworthy and who was not. He knew that the person who admitted his ignorance and then rectified the situation could be counted on but he could not trust the others, especially the liars and partial-truth tellers. They tarnished their reputation and lost all credibility. Bill’s initial questioning was relatively unimportant but he knew that if the subordinate lied when there was little at stake, then he would certainly lie when there was more at stake.

It’s like the old story of the boy who cried “Wolf!” If you lie when it is not important, people will not believe you when it is important. In the fable, the young boy was eaten by the wolf. Perhaps that is just as well, because a life without honor is simply not worth living.

The following quotations are intended to assist in explaining and exemplifying the word of the week:

How can we be trusted with big things if we’re not trustworthy with things that are small? Don’t allow your finer instincts to become a casualty of the little everyday crimes of ethical compromise. Price Pritchett, Psychologist

The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him. Henry Lewis Stimson, Statesman

What we learn only through the ears makes less impression upon our minds than what is presented to the trustworthy eye. Horace, Poet

Make your judgment trustworthy by trusting it. Grenville Kleiser, Writer

In a hamlet of ten households, there are bound to be those who are my equal in doing their best for others and in being trustworthy in what they say, but they are unlikely to be as eager to learn as I am. Confucius, Philosopher

COL Patrick Beer, the Dean of Students and Commandant of Cadets at Georgia Military College, prepares this study guide each week as part of the institution’s character education program. He welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. He can be contacted by phone at 478-445-2710 or by email at pbeer@gmc.cc.ga.us.