What has prodded me to give a sermon about integrity? A recent article in USA Today detailed some of the activities of welfare cheats Judy Keen, USA Today, 9/16/10, p. 3-a. Many of these cheaters have spent a lot of their time and energy concocting lies and fabrications which have enabled them to receive substantial amounts of illegal welfare payments. But now many states have improved methods for detecting these cheaters. Cheaters are now being caught and face “penalties for welfare fraud. . . up to 10 years in prison.”
To me it is astounding how many cheaters there are. For example, in San Diego County, CA in 2009, it was found that 24% of the 23,671 applicants for public aid had “inconsistencies”! Given the current harsh economic conditions, it may be tempting to compromise integrity for short term gain.
In the long run, however, economic gain is easier and more psychologically rewarding if one is truthful. Millionaires rated integrity [being honest with all people] as the number one factor out of 30 that explains their economic success. Note that these 733 respondents represented the top 1% of the wealth holders in America (see Chapter 2, Success Factors, in The Millionaire Mind). Jon, one of the respondents and a wealthy entrepreneur, attributed much of his success to what his father taught him about integrity: Never lie. Never tell one lie. If you tell one lie, you will have to eventually tell fifteen more to cover up the first lie. In turn, each of these 15 requires 15 more or 225 lies and on and on.
For many of these welfare cheats they really had the equivalent of a full time job just maintaining and protecting their lifestyle built around lies and the fear of criminal repercussions. In fact, a woman in the article lived a lie for 17 years, relentlessly and cleverly proclaiming that: She didn’t know the identities of her childrens’ father had received $222,704 in public assistance. DNA tests identified the man who fathered a minor child stilling living in the home. . . the woman pleaded guilty. . . . If this woman had allocated the same amount of time, energy, and intellect into going to college and working, she wouldn’t be a convicted felon who is now facing jail time.