This I Believe

Sarah - Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Entered on March 24, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: integrity
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I believe in the freedom of integrity.

I am an accountant and a mother of three young children. I have been thinking about this belief a lot lately as tax deadlines approach and as I work through some difficult projects with clients at the same time that I am trying my best to teach my children how to live a life of integrity in a world that demonstrates inconsistent beliefs in integrity.

As parents, we teach our children that “honest y is the best policy” and that we should “treat others the way we would like to be treated.” My husband and I teach our children that the reason we have rules is not to make life more difficult for them but rather so that things will go well for them. We teach them that living an obedient life actually leads to more freedom rather than more restriction since life seems to go better for us when we follow the rules.

I believe that this principal applies to us adults as well. I have felt freedom myself in living a life of integrity in my personal and professional life. I know that by actually paying nanny taxes, reporting non-1099 income, and even reporting the purchases that I have made out of state and paying state taxes on those, I won’t be afraid of a tax audit should I ever have one. And I know that, coming from this perspective, I can advise my clients to make choices of integrity without being a hypocrite. I believe that advising my clients to “follow the rules” from a financial perspective—treating their employees right, paying the appropriate taxes, reporting income properly, and developing good financial procedures—will free them from concern over unemployment or tax audits, unnecessary fines, and lawsuits. I have also seen the opposite to be true. When business owners have chosen to make decisions that they believe will serve them or their companies the best in the short term but may be “bending the rules” a bit, they have been subject to audits, have been sued by disgruntled employees, have paid fines and interest for delinquent taxes, and have opened their companies up to embezzlement.

I instruct my clients along the same lines as my instruction to my children: Not following the rules is actually more difficult and more restrictive than following the rules in the long run. One action lacking integrity needs to be covered up by another lacking integrity, and so on. Our country saw this spiral playing out in the headlines with the Enron scandal several years ago. I have seen this same spiral play out on a smaller scale with individuals and small businesses.

So I’ll continue to instruct my children and advise my clients to live lives of integrity—not because I want to make life difficult for them, but because I want life to go well for them and I want my clients’ businesses to be successful. I believe that integrity ultimately leads to freedom.