In my ebook, 10 Steps to #DefineYourself, How to succeed in life despite any obstacle, the first step I discuss is becoming a person of integrity. Although integrity can mean different things to different people, I believe one of the pillars of being a person of integrity is someone who stands up for what they believe is right and stand against what they believe is wrong.
When I was a teenager, my Dad once said to me “I have more respect for someone who stands up what that believe is right – even if they are dead wrong, than for a person who goes along with the crowd just because it is the easier thing to do.”
My father may have intended those words to help me avoid caving to peer pressure in high school, but in reality those words have guided me all through my life when I was faced to decide to stand up and speak out for something I believed in or against something I knew was wrong – regardless of how my peers believed, or even the court of public opinion.
When you do stand for or against something, be prepared to stand alone – at least at times. If you do not believe this can happen, just hop on Facebook and look at a controversial topic and read the comments. Look for anyone who had a different opinion from the majority of commenters. Read how many people pile on that person so harshly that they want to crawl into a hole and pull it in with them.
I personally know the sting of standing up for what I believe in. I have taken stands on controversial topics such as the death penalty, abortion, immigration and politics in general. I have been shunned, ridiculed, ostracized, taken to the virtual woodshed by others for my views, even lost real life friends who I had known for more than 3 decades for standing up for what I believe was right, or against what I knew was wrong.
Most recently, during the semi-final round of this year’s Lord Stanley Cup I took a stand that wound up costing me a friend I had known for over 40 years.
During game three of the St, Louis Blues vs. San Jose Sharks game in St. Louis there was a missed call by all the referees during the overtime period that resulted in the Sharks wining 5-4 over the Blues.
Many Blues fans were upset by the call (and saying they were upset in some case was putting it nicely) including my friends on Facebook I had known nearly all my life.
One of my childhood friends posted a meme of Stevie Wonder with the caption that read “even I could see that penalty”. When I saw that image on his wall, my heart sunk, and I fought back a tear.
In a reply to his post I stated “This is in very poor taste. I have been legally blind since birth. When you use a disabled person to mock or insult another person you are also devaluing the disabled person and the disabled community.”
My friend did not say a word to me, instead he unfriended me.
I regret that I have lost a friend I had known since I was a young child, but I do not regret that I stood up for what I believed in – the belief that all people should be treated decently and no one should use a person’s disability to put down another person.
When you start to stand up for what you believe in and stand up against what you know is wrong, you may ruffle some feathers, but at the end of the day you will be proud that you did the right thing – and that is being a person of character and integrity.