2 min read

If you're going to sell your integrity, get a good price

"Heaven knows how to put a proper price on its goods."
-Thomas Paine

I bought some headphones off of Amazon the other day. Wore them, decided I’d rather stick with my tried and true Bose QC-15s. On the return process there’s a dropdown that says, “Why are you returning this item?” If you select Accidental order or Unauthorized purchase you don’t have to pay return shipping. If you select No longer needed/wanted it’ll cost you $5.

There’s this internal struggle. Online returns should be free, right? It’s the cost of not having a showroom, right? Besides, it’s only $5. Not like Amazon’s not going to miss it, right?

My integrity is probably the most valuable thing I own. It reduces stress. It gets me opportunities I wouldn’t get if people thought I lacked it. It improves the lives of people around me and fills me with warm and fuzzy feelings that help me sleep at night (and with a 2 month old, I’m all about things that help me sleep at night).

Most of all, once I give up my integrity, it’s super hard to get it back.

But at some point in my life, I’m going to lie, cheat, or steal. So maybe it’s more pragmatic to shift the internal dialog from, “Should I ever give up my integrity?” to “Under what circumstances should I give up my integrity?”

We don’t give up our integrity for free – we sell it in exchange for something else. Too often, that something is just a little bit of convenience (avoiding an awkward confrontation), a little bit of money (an extra billable hour), or a little bit of pride.

If I’m going to sell my integrity, I might as well get a good price on it. “It’s only $5” is entirely the wrong way to look at it. It’s like the Devil came up to me and said, “How ‘bout you give me your integrity, and I’ll give you $5?”

Hopefully I’d at least say, “Only $5?”

I mean, if I’m going to trade in some integrity to get something out of a megacorp, I should go for a fully-tricked out Mac Pro. But in the absence of the opportunity to score a big ticket item, I should place a proper price on the most valuable thing I own, lest I accidentally spend it on something that is, in the grand scheme of things, rather cheap.