Most of us like to think we are honest and ethical people. We want to believe that we always, or almost always, do the right thing when we are faced with a compromising situation–adultery, for example, or cheating on your taxes. A couple of questions might get to the truth a little faster if you don’t mind squirming a bit.
If you travel in your work (assuming you work), have you ever padded your expense account? Ever add extra miles to the mileage report? Ever fudge in other ways to get more money in your pocket at the expense of your employer? According to a New York Times article titled, “A Little Extra on the Road,” padding expense accounts is nothing new, and “Corporate accountants have long known that otherwise law-abiding people commit travel expense fraud. . . . ‘I don’t think people always take the view that falsifying expense claims is a criminal act,’ said John Verver, vice president for services and product strategy at ACL Services, a provider of financial monitoring software and expertise.” The article goes on to state:
“While there are no hard figures on the costs of travel expense fraud to American companies and organizations, estimates range as high as billions of dollars a year. A report last year by the Inc. Business Owners Council, an organization of family business owners, found that business fraud, over all, increased by two-thirds from 2006 to 2009. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners reported earlier this year  that the typical company lost 5 percent of its annual revenue to employee fraud and abuse and 15 percent of that was tied to expense reporting fraud.
“‘For many companies, it’s like being nibbled away by little piranhas rather than being eaten by a big shark,’ Mr. Verver said.”
Little piranhas . . . not exactly an attractive description but worth thinking about the next time one might be tempted to pad their expense account. For those who don’t mind the label, it’s also illegal, but most people doing it don’t think they’ll ever get caught.
Okay, here’s the second question. Do you ever gossip about others behind their backs? Ah, now that one hits closer to home, doesn’t it? There probably isn’t a person on the planet who hasn’t gossiped about others and many times on a regular basis. If fact, in America, we’ve made gossip into a “fun” sport by glamorizing it in many books, magazines, movies and on TV. There’s even a current television series titled, “Gossip Girl.” Cutsey, right? But where is the honesty and ethics in that?
Oh, but we love our gossip . . . until it happens to us.
The damage brought on by gossip can and does destroy people. It destroys reputations, careers (many times leading to unemployment and even long-term unemployment), marriages, relationships, friendships–the list is long and tragic. In fact, it can make a person’s life a living hell. But it’s all done in good, clean fun, right?
In the workplace, for example, “‘Gossip usually is intended to undermine another person and make him ineffectual in his job,’ Indiana University sociologist Tim Hallett said. Malicious gossip, such as that someone is involved in criminal acts or using drugs, damages careers, reputations and even health. It can result in lawsuits for defamation, invasion of privacy, harassment and malicious interference with employability. Both the employer and employees who gossip can be held liable for damages. Gossip also could result in workers’ compensation claims for physical and emotional injury, according to attorney Bob Gregg of the Boardman Law Firm” (quote source here). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg called gossip.
Let’s read a poem titled, “My Name is Gossip” (author unknown):
My name is Gossip.
I have no respect for justice.
I maim without killing.
I break hearts and ruin lives.
I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age.
The more I am quoted the more I am believed.
I flourish at every level of society.
My victims are helpless.
They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.
To track me down is impossible.
The harder you try, the more elusive I become.
I am nobody’s friend.
Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same.
I topple governments and ruin marriages.
I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartache and indigestion.
I spawn suspicion and generate grief.
I make innocent people cry in their pillows.
Even my name hisses.
I AM CALLED GOSSIP.
Good clean fun, right? Right???
Until it happens to us . . . .
The following devotion, while not specifically addressing the issues of padding expense accounts or gossiping, does address the issue of restitution. It’s titled, “Making It Right” published in Our Daily Bread for January 9, 2013:
Making It Right
It was a perfect day for our garage sale—bright and warm. People rummaged through clothing, paperbacks, and mismatched dishes. I noticed a young woman looking at a string of white beads. A few minutes later, the necklace vanished along with its admirer. I spotted her in the street, jogged the length of my driveway, and discovered the missing jewelry nestled in her palm. As we faced each other with the knowledge of what had happened, she volunteered to pay for the stolen item.
Zacchaeus, the tree-climbing tax collector, met Jesus and was changed. He vowed to repay four times the amount of money he had dishonestly taken from others (Luke 19:8). In those days, tax collectors frequently overcharged citizens and then pocketed the extra funds. Zacchaeus’ eagerness to pay back the money and to donate half of what he owned to the poor showed a significant change of heart. He had once been a taker, but after meeting Jesus he was determined to make restoration and be a giver.
Zacchaeus’ example can inspire us to make the same kind of change. When God reminds us about items we have taken, taxes left unpaid, or ways we have wronged others, we can honor Him by making it right. ~Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Help me, dear Lord, to be honest and true
In all that I say and all that I do;
Give me the courage to do what is right
To bring to the world a glimpse of Your light. ~Fasick
A debt is never too old for an honest person to pay.
An encounter with Jesus Christ changed a tax collector named Zacchaeus from a dishonest man to an honest one, to the point where he vowed to repay four times the amount of money he had dishonestly taken from others (Luke 19:8). As the author of the devotion stated, “Zacchaeus’ example can inspire us to make the same kind of change.”
Unfortunately, that’s not so easy to do when it comes to gossip. For the Christian, gossip is sin. Period. And it’s one sin that is impossible to make restitution for as it spreads like wildfire. While it’s true (and absolutely necessary) that if we confess this sin to God (I John 1:9), He will forgive us, it is one sin where the damage caused by it (gossip) cannot be undone to the person we gossiped about–it is irreparable (Proverbs 16:28). Irreparable, because the gossip has spread far and wide and we can’t take it back.
So the next time we think about passing on some juicy bit of gossip, DON’T DO IT. Not only can we not undo the damage we’ve caused by spreading it, it might backfire on us and cause us damage, too.
James 3:5-6 (MSG) states, “A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.”
Read that last sentence again and let it sink in. That is some serious, serious stuff, folks . . . and it’s from the pit of hell. Gossip is not “cutesy,” it’s deadly, and it can take us down with it if we do it. And there is no “making it right” once it’s done.
We can only “make it right” by not doing it in the first place . . . .
Is anybody listening?
YouTube Video: “Rumors” (1986) by Timex Social Club:
Photo credit here