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VIII: Respect the Property of Others

You are a thief!

How does that statement make you feel? If you are picturing a burglar carrying away a big screen or Bernie Madoff with 18 billion dollars of made off with money, you may not think much of it. However, Principle 8: Respect the Property of Others, taken from the eighth commandment, “You shall not steal,” means much more.

Don’t get comfortable with the legal definition used to charge a thief; “obtaining unauthorized control over the property of another with the intent to deprive the owner permanently of the use or benefit of that property,” there are many ways to steal apart from this. Letting work expand to fill your time. Doing work you like while avoiding work that you don’t. Using work time for your own business. It starts getting harder not to see ourselves in those definitions. Any time we give less than full value, letting laziness or greed show up, a theft has taken place.

Colin Smith thinks of living this principle as a railway track with many stations along the way:

…the line is called dishonesty. At the last station on this line you will find passengers who gladly break into other people’s property, raid banks, and run massive fraud schemes. Most people will never visit that station, yet all of us have travelled somewhere on this line. Stealing can be defined as the desire to get as much as possible while giving as little as possible. It is about being a taker without being a giver.
The Ten Greatest Struggles of Your Life

By this definition there is a lot of stealing going on at work, at home, everywhere we take our selfish nature with us.  Are you giving your employer a great value? In the post on the principle of authority we discussed all the people you infuence and are influenced by, are you giving each of them a great value? What about at home with your family. Are you a giver or a taker?

Ray Nash, in his course Police Dynamics, offers a list of 49 character qualities to help leaders recognize the quality of a persons character rather than focusing on the end results of their accomplishments. I have picked eight qualities from this great tool to dig deeper into this principle. Consider each of these a railway track and evaluate yourself on each – if the “end of the line” is a 1, and being a “selfless giver” is a 10 – where do you fit? 

  • Availability vs Self-Centeredness: Making my own schedule and priorities secondary to the wishes of those I serve.
  • Benevolence vs Selfishness: Giving to others’ basic needs without having as my motive personal reward.
  • Dependability vs Inconsistency: Fulfilling what I consented to do, even if it means unexpected sacrafice.
  • Diligence vs Slothfulness: Investing my time and energy to complete each task assigned to me.
  • Generosity vs Stinginess: Carefully managing my resources so I can freely give to those in need.
  • Resourcefulness vs Wastefulness: Finding practical uses for that which others would overlook or discard.
  • Responsibility vs Unreliability: Knowing and doing what it expected of me.
  • Thriftiness vs Extravagance: Allowing myself and others to spend only what is necessary.

The standard has been set by the perfect man who was crucified 2,000 years ago and every one of us will fall short. We all travel on the line of dishonesty, we are all thieves at heart. Our struggle is to recognize that and commit to not acting like one. What does this mean to you and where do you need to make changes?


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  1. Excellent post and thanks for the plug…

    Here’s another one for you from the Ten Virtues of a Law Enforcement Officer:

    As a member of the law enforcement profession, I pledge to honor the sacred trust placed in me by God and the community I serve by guarding the thoughts and attitudes of my heart as I purpose to:

    #8 – Never compromise my integrity through the acceptance of bribes or gratuities in exchange for professional consideration; never steal from or defraud others; and diligently protect property entrusted to my care.

    I plan to post the “Virtues” on the Police Dynamics Blog soon…

    Sheriff Ray

  2. Thanks Sheriff. I am looking forward to reading your post on the virtues.

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