Don’t trust the trustworthy

Posted: February 21, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

It’s never the shady character we need to worry about.  It’s always the guy we trust that is our downfall.


Jesse Jackson Jr.

We all know a slippery slope when we see one.  However, it’s funny how we think just because we see the slippery slope before taking the road we believe we can navigate the most dangerous parts of the path.  The point of the warning isn’t to help navigate through the slop but to avoid the slop all together.  I’m sure once he shares his story Jesse Jackson’s warning will be much like all of the other disgraced  public figures prior to his own tale.  I’m sure he reasoned to himself why he should help himself to campaign funds but, I’m more interested in those he convinced to take part in his scheme.

Why would they help in such an obviously illegal plot?  Why wouldn’t his wife raise a red flag.  She is after all a seasoned lawyer.  Why didn’t Jackson Sr. recognize something was afoot with his son’s life style (maybe a whole different topic)?

Stealing $750,000 in campaign funds is not a simple task that one person or a couple of people can do.  It takes a corrupt organization to pull off the scheme.  There are checks in balances in place that prevent things like this from happening.  So, the Jacksons needed collaborators to help them in their fraud.  The Jacksons were a very well respected couple within their district.  The community and their supporters counted on them to help move the community forward.  With this comes a trust that is extremely dangerous when betrayed.  But danger in the traditional sense.  The worry isn’t that you will be cheated out of money or benefits.  But this betrayal goes to the heart of human nature.  The ability of people you trust to get you to do things you would not normally do.  To go against your own morals.

The Jacksons’ story reminds me of a report I heard on NPR Planet Money some months ago.  A mortgage lender was sharing how he went to several people for help in creating fake mortgages.  To his surprise every person that he asked to support his criminal activity didn’t hesitate in saying yes.  The reason they gave was that they trusted him.  Over the years, like the Jacksons he built a reputation as a man of integrity   He had done so much good to this point in his life that the people he approached with the scheme didn’t give it a second thought.  They figured that if a man that has displayed such integrity to this point would ask them to do something unethical or even illegal it must be OK.  He was in a sense their moral barometer.

You see, we know not to trust the untrustworthy.  It’s the trustworthy we have to question.  So many people fall for cons because the Bernie Mahoffs of the world seem extremely trustworthy.  Their record’s are impeccable so, when they come to us with opportunities that seem too good to be true we take them at their word instead of following our normal logic.  The lesson in this tragic fall from grace is that you have to stay grounded in your own morals.  You have to constantly run scenarios through your mind like, “If this was on the front page of the NY Times would I be embarrassed.”  You may not just save yourself but also the very person that you respect and is asking you to betray your shared morals.


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