The 1964 Comet slowly pulled to a stop. My dad was proud of his beige-colored classic with its “3 on the tree” column-mounted manual transmission shifter. I was in the backseat but was anxious to arrive at our destination. It was one of those exciting opportunities for me, a homeschooled preacher’s son, to hang out with some friends away from home or church.
I was pushing the front seat forward to hop out of the passenger side door before the wheels stopped rolling.
Before I could shut the door, my dad leaned over and told me 8 words. He had repeated them to me many times before that day. And he would repeat them countless times afterwards.
“I love you. And remember whose you are.”
Many children are raised in a home where they rarely hear their father say “I love you.” I was not one of those kids. I heard it often. And I believed it.
But those last 4 words were not a promise of affection. Rather, the phrase “remember whose you are” was a gentle challenge. A firm reminder of a fundamental principle.
My dad was telling me to stay true to what he had taught me.
Remember the things I’ve taught you.
Remember the things I’ve told you about God.
Remember that God can see you even when I can’t.
Remember God loves you more than I do.
He wanted me to be the same person away from the home that I was in the home.
The temptation to be duplicitous is not limited to childhood. The world offers an allure that negatively impacts us. It dangles a fleeting mirage of reputation or wealth that convinces us to abandon integrity.
And business is uniquely full of these opportunities.
You teach your children to be truthful. And then you mislead your clients and your own employees.
You read emails about how to be kinder to your wife. And then you speak harshly to work associates.
You strive to uphold a reputation within your community of honesty and integrity. But when given the opportunity in your business, you seize every chance to take advantage of another if it pads the bottom line or advances your professional goals.
You work hard on projects when everyone is looking, but procrastinate and are ill-prepared for the tasks over which there is little oversight.
The person you are in the dark is very different than the person you are in the light.
But it is what you do when you think there is no accountability that reveals true leadership and virtue.
That is why the wise king who wrote Proverbs pleaded with his son to not forget his teachings about wisdom and character.
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:1-4)
The upside down business idea is this: Leadership is proven as much in private as it is in public.
Your reputation will be made or marred by what you do when no one is looking.
Guard your heart. Protect your reputation. Not just for a moment. But for a lifetime. Not just for show. But for peace. And you will find “favor and good success in the sight of God and man.”
Remember that Someone loves you.
And remember whose you are.