Ask Bracher (Questions & Responses)


Question (S-001):
I am frightened. Recently my husband returned from one of several long business trips. He has never been under such pressure to sell products, raise capital and keep his board happy. We talk, as we have for the twenty-nine years we have been married. He considers me his best friend and sounding board. So, this is what scares me.

We were talking about his job, where he is the president, and he said that things were rough, so rough that he hopes he is dead before they ever get this rough again. What can I say or do to help him?

Now, more than ever, we need our friends and loved ones. It is their understanding and support that will sustain us. Your husband sounds overwhelmed and why not? These are rough times. Keep the doors of communication open. Continue to listen. If this is a one-time conversation, the listening may be all that is needed. If the conversations continue over an extended time so that it is clear the conditions are not temporary, then help him plan an exit to a healthier situation. Life is short! Handle with care.

Question (S-002):
Three months ago my wife came home from a "Business Opportunity Meeting" she was invited to by someone at our church and she was very excited. She said that a couple of people who spoke at the meeting were showing off checks for over $25,000 that they had received in monthly bonuses for putting together sales organizations selling vitamins and herbs. No matter how much I told my wife that this sounded like some kind of shady pyramid scheme she said we could use the extra money and she was, "going for it".

So far, after spending $700 on product and training materials, she has made a grand total of $140 in commissions. More troubling is that my wife has gotten many of our friends and relatives into her little enterprise. I think she has too much pride to admit she's been had by visions of "striking it rich". She still insists that with more time and by recruiting even more friends and relatives that she will start making big money. I'm worried that the only thing we're going to end up with is a bunch of damaged relationships from the people my wife has encouraged to join her business crusade.

Is there any chance that my wife's business can pan out? Should I force her to give this up before any more money and time are thrown away?

Obviously, you love your wife, care about your friends and are concerned that your wife's business skills may not match the needs of the enterprise. Losing any of the above can be costly … therefore: Ask your wife if she is motivated by the mission of her new enterprise or by its promise of dollars. In all likelihood, your wife needs to make her own decisions, so you help best by asking her the right focus questions.

Generally, among the successful people I know, all know profits are the by-product not the goal. If the product is good, it will sell assuming it is properly capitalized, marketed and supported. Most business owners, such as your wife, develop budgets for enterprises and once the investment capital is exhausted, they decide to dig deeper or say "enough" and close the doors. Check the company. Check your wife's plan. Be open about the budget. Make the decision. Move on. Integrity is to be maintained, personally and professionally.

Question (S-003):
When are we going to get serious about keeping promises to our children? Our marriages? Our values? Our societies? Isn't it time we start keeping our promises?

Yes, it is time to address promises. We make them all the time. We can help to rebuild moral tone of our society. We demonstrate our promise keeping when we show up on time (or even early). We honor promises when we listen attentively and not judgmentally.

We keep promises when we work for the pay we take. We keep promises when we nurture children, ours and those of others. We keep promises when we encourage others to "try", and congratulate them when they address disappointment appropriately.

We keep promises when we thank those who have helped us. Promise making and promise keeping are the foundation of trust, respect, dignity, autonomy and relationship.

Make a list of your promises made and kept. If they fail to match up, retrace your steps and fulfill the unfilled commitments. Sometimes the "magic" words are no more complicated than saying: please; thank you; and/or I am sorry, I made a mistake.

Question (S-004):
How is it that in these post 9/11 days and the "War on Terror" we wear flags, wave flags, put up posters in support of those yet let the other guy die for us? Where is our responsibility?

Every person in a family, community and society has responsibilities. If you are doing the job you are supposed to do: learning and growing, contributing, supporting, honoring, and investing in the future; well, there is a good chance you are contributing.

As far as "the other guy dying for you" -- there are those who serve in the military and have chosen to "be in harm's way." Others boarded planes on 9/11/01 and died because they happened to be the innocent victims of homicidal terrorists. Remain productive and supportive on behalf of your society. Freedom has never been free; it is not now, nor will it be tomorrow. Our responsibilities are the same as before: work and remain vigilant at whatever you do and wherever you are.

Honor those whose service lies in other endeavors.

Question (S-005):
I am a Catholic who feels betrayed by the behavior of the Catholic Church, most typified by Cardinal Law in Boston. Even though he has resigned, I am left feeling that (the) integrity of my Faith remains damaged. What can the Catholic Church, or Cardinal Law, or even I, do to repair the damage and begin to rebuild the trust?

The current mess in the Roman Catholic Church is awful. Some small percentage of the clergy has broken laws.

Whether they have broken moral, civil or criminal laws are for someone else to judge.

Regardless of titles or tasks, whether in business or religion, leaders who break the rules of relationships, violating trust, put at risk their organization's future.

With reference to your own course of action, please consider this:

1. Institutions (business, government, religion) are bigger than any fraction of irresponsible individuals;
2. Learning from mistakes (big or small) is the key for growth and renewal. Most of us have learned more from failure than from success;
3. People in power who hide behind laws and precedents prolong their own pain, and fail to capture the real moment for meaning. They withdraw from learning and minimize the possibility for a constructive legacy; and,
4. For you, the response seems clear: maintain your values and support the institution you love.

Question: (S-006)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 12, 2003

"In faith - as well as life - integrity does matter"

The sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church has not been handled well by those in charge. In your opinion, will that part of the Church suffer in membership growth in the years ahead? Will other faith based groups or churches be tarnished by what has happened with the Romans? In other words, do people at large see a difference in religious groups or do they just lump them all together?


Society is tarnished by abusive behaviors. Such behaviors corrupt, and when ignored, degenerate from corrosive to destructive. They cost any institution its reputation, productivity and support – financial and otherwise. It is bad business for the church. It is bad business for government. It is bad business, period.

However, human beings do perceive differences, both subtle and obvious. At least one can assume such thoughtfulness of those who see inappropriate behaviors whether in business, politics, or the church. When stresses increase and individuals feel fears, economic or cultural, there can be a tendency to “close ranks” and “harden” judgments.

At this time in history, integrity is under attack, whether by commission or omission, and levels of trust are eroding in too many areas.

Short-term: People may lump religious leadership into one category or another.

Long-term: Society will “right” itself and balance will be restored.

Short-term: Those looking for reasons to discount spirituality along with organized religion will find “reasons”.

Long-term: Those predisposed to take spirituality seriously will continue to do so. Even imperfect religious organizations, founded to spread the message of love, compassion, repentance, and forgiveness, will experience certain renewal and restoration.

If leaders in government, business and education can change how they function by becoming more responsive to their constituencies, then religious leadership can as well.

Conclusion: Maintain the long view of history and have faith in the common sense of most people. Legitimate values remain. Know your own, seek those who share your priorities and be ready to “blow the whistle” on those who attempt to corrupt that which you hold precious. After all, integrity matters.

Question: (S-007)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on February 12, 2003

"Idea dispute leaves one friend hurt"

About 15 months ago, I was winding down from a set of tennis over drinks with one of my best friends. As we were talking, I suddenly had an idea for what I thought was a clever new product concept. When I told my friend the idea he smiled and said something like, “Yeah, that would be great”. The idea drifted out of my consciousness almost immediately, as I assumed it had for my friend.

Last week I was catching up on local gossip with my wife. She casually informed me that my friend’s wife told her that her husband has just sold his rights in a new product to a big company with nationwide distribution. As it turns out my “best friend” had developed my idea – designs, patents, copyrights, etc. – and then cashed in on it. When I confronted the friend he said that he didn’t really think I was that serious about my idea and that it wasn’t til months after I told him the concept that he thought it might be worth pursuing.

I was devastated. I probably don’t have any legal rights to my idea, but it’s not the money part of this that’s plaguing me. There has been an integrity break with my long time friend that is irreconcilable. Yet, our wives and kids are inseparable. How can I be true to myself, and at the same time minimize the impact of my issues on others?

Your concerns are understandable. Your friendship has been tainted by what you feel has been a breach of trust, honesty and possibly some of your own naiveté. So, how do you minimize the impact of this disappointment, not only for you and your buddy, but also upon your families?

There are three relationship "checks" that could minimize damages to your friendships:

1. Assuming that you will not elect to call together the other friends who gathered with you after the tennis match many months ago and ask them to "reconstruct" the conversations regarding the source of the idea; and assuming that you have no desire to participate in any kind of legal action, then you are completely clear that the issue is really more about the friendship than the dollars. If you pursue any legal recourse, the consequences to the relationships may be serious. Make your decision and don't look back.

2. Find an opportunity to clarify with your friend the nature and depth of your concern. There is always the possibility that you miscommunicated the seriousness of your business idea and your desire to solicit feedback about its viability prior to your own implementation. Regardless of how this conversation turns out, you will have learned: ways to improve the clarity of your own communication; the receptivity of your friend to share ownership for the "foul-up" in your relationship, and, more effective ways to discuss proprietary information, even among friends.

3. Remember that "integrity is congruence between what you say and what you do, as well as what you say about what you did". If you avoid legal confrontation and find a shared ownership for the problem - then the relationship can emerge even stronger than before. You own some of the responsibility because you discussed a business idea without fully disclosing (or possibly even fully understanding at the time) that you intended to make it your own.

This may have been an expensive lesson. What was or is at risk are money, friendship and family relationships. Count the costs and learn from the experience.

Question: (S-008)
SACRIFICE FOR SUCCESS (02-12-03) by James F. Bracher - a letter to the editor concept

Today, Wednesday, February 12, 2003, three newspaper articles presented me with information that caused me to write to you about my concerns with integrity. Two were editorials and one was a report on actions by a school board.

Concern # ONE relates to members of a board of education who are accepting what seems like the "easy road" for high school athletes, rather than the demanding road of learning and growing. The Salinas Union High School District trustees vetoed a proposal Tuesday (02-11-03) to keep some students from participating in sports or other extracurricular activities if they couldn't pass an exit exam by the start of their senior year. While the details of this state-mandated regulation sound demanding, so is finding one's way in harsh economic times. Sports and extracurricular activities may be important - but they must never replace the building blocks of civilization: language, communication and the self-sufficiency skills related to math and science. The Monterey County Herald, in a story written by M. Christina Medina, quotes a board member,
Mr. Alan Styles espousing this rationale: "Some kids go to school just to be able to play sports and join activities. We can't take that away." Here is my first question: Is that integrity in educational leadership?

Concern # TWO emerged from an editorial in The Californian (02-12-03) entitled: "Community college budget plan cuts to bone". The editor's words hit me very hard: "The community colleges could receive some of the biggest hits in the state's effort to erase its record budget deficit. All departments must face their fair share of cuts, but those aimed at community colleges place them at the brink of disaster and should be rethought. The whole purpose of community colleges in California is to make higher education affordable and accessible to everyone. But that door would slam in the face of many deserving Salinas-area people, young and old, who rely on Hartnell to be there for them. Governor Davis". . .a man who claims to be the education governor, and a state that wants to create jobs and turn out an educated workforce, only sabotage their goals by allowing such cuts.

"Here is my second question: Is that integrity in political leadership?

Concern # THREE comes from concern about the next generation being prepared to cope with extremely difficult economic circumstances that seem likely to remain with us for while. Mr. Bob Herbert, of the New York Times, wrote about how difficult it is for individuals to find jobs. He related a story of people in Chicago who lined up in the freezing cold on the false hope that a nearby Ford assembly plant might be hiring. To the dismay of the thousands waiting, there were no jobs. The title of his editorial is "U.S. job picture looks grim". He illustrated the difficulties of out of work people. "Joblessness is right up there with war and terror as an ingredient contributing to the high national anxiety. If you want to see desperation close up, look at the eyes of the increasing numbers of breadwinners who can't find work" Mr. Herbert put together a clinching statement, "Another enormously difficult problem is the hard core of jobless, undereducated young people, ages 16 -24m who are roaming the streets with nothing
constructive to do. There are 5.5 million of these out-of-work youngsters, and that number is growing.
Here is my third question: Given the priorities portrayed in my first two questions about the integrity of educational and political leadership, what ought we be doing to restore confidence in our economic system for the next generation?

I do not have the necessary information to judge the behaviors of educators or politicians, nor am I an economist. What is clear to me after living 57 years, and working with business leaders for three decades, is that liberty is never free. Building our future demands the very best in education for every individual in our society. These are demanding times that require extraordinary efforts. Success requires sacrifice, whether economic, political, religious or educational.

Our economic engine is fueled by knowledge, innovation and perspiration. Good minds, like agile bodies, require diligence in practice and perseverance in achieving high performance over time. The world we live in, and in which we must compete for customers, has not decided to give us "market share" only because we are charming people; rather it is because we have enjoyed the best, most open education system in the world . The competitive-edge will always belong to those who work hardest to remain prepared for changing circumstances. Such preparedness requires the very best that education can provide.

Integrity in our society means that we accept the demands for mentoring the next generation with reference not only to the costs, but also the commitments(emotional, financial and educational) that we must make. There is not time to blame anyone for our difficulties. Our single and only legitimate response is to "be an example" that demonstrates core values of intensity, sensitivity and follow-through:
The future must be about learning about and serving the "greater good". To answer your three questions, then:

1. Is that integrity in educational leadership?

Answer: Athletics are important, but should never become the "tail that wags the dog" in our educational system. The answer to your question would seem to be "no".

2. Is that integrity in political leadership?

Answer: A huge budget deficit requires tough choices. If there are other valid alternatives for reductions than the mortgaging of the educational future of our next generation, then the answer would be "no."

3. What ought we be doing to restore confidence in our economic system for the next generation?

Answer: Take steps to ensure that honesty is rewarded and hypocrisy rooted out in all of our institutions; make the pursuit of public employment an honorable legacy contribution for the gifted instead of the preferences which sometimes make such service a safe haven for some who are under-qualified or unqualified. The process should begin with parents teaching accountability to their children--and modeling it for them in practice! This is something you and I can do, and do today.

Question: (S-009)
Leaders in the Moslem religion have been quick to say that they are a peaceful religion, yet these same leaders have not spoken out against either terrorism itself, or the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. Where is the integrity in this?

One positive assumption is that religious values affirm life. Religious traditions generally emerge when groups of individuals are trying to make sense of their identity, how they should treat one another and the sources of their values. It has never occurred to me that any caring spiritual leader (or tradition) would encourage death and destruction.

Global events (floods, famines, diseases, wars, tidal waves, fires and other disasters) occur with or without permission or blessing. Current circumstances on the world stage can easily create misunderstandings between and among races, cultures and nations. There is almost always wisdom in taking the longer view that there is merit in withholding judgment of others "unless we have a walked a mile in their shoes." Unless or until we do, we will not understand and appreciate their positions.

Regarding the religious leaders of Islam, perhaps many would choose to counsel peace if they were free to do so. Extremists of practically any persuasion can propel others into unthinkable actions. Definitely, advising religious believers to pursue the radical destruction of other cultures lacks integrity. There are hundreds of millions of Moslems for whom such behavior must be totally unacceptable.

Just before we become too quick to condemn others, we ought to think about the actions of some of our own ancestors. In the early history of the United States, individuals who were considered to be witches in New England were burned at the stake by very self-righteous Christians. Our history books report that zealous believers in the Middle Ages, both Roman Catholics and Protestants, were guilty of crimes against humanity with punishments and murders they carried out against one another.

It is neither good religion nor wise business to stereotype people. With a global economy built around inter-dependence, we would be well advised to seek common values and work to build bridges of understanding. We will live longer and better with concepts of forgiveness. Integrity demands that we recognize differences encourage mutual respect and uphold our own principles.

Question: (S-010)
As parents of two pre-teens, my husband and I are concerned with some negative trends in our community. These days there is far too much focus on accumulating wealth and the seemingly mindless acquisition of things. We each work and have been able to do pretty well financially. We spend lots of time with our son and daughter and have become concerned that many of their friends, and several of our peers, seem to be caught up in the rush to show how many new things they can own. New cars, clothes, furniture, vacations - well, it is becoming overwhelming. As a couple, we are asking if our own
integrity is under siege.

We want to be like others, yet we feel increasingly pressured to go to fashionable places that others like and buy items that commercials promote as essential. We are seeing in our children a gradual tendency to take just about everything for granted.

Have we compromised our values? Have we lost our integrity? We remember that
money is the root of all evil and we are feeling guilty. What should we do to
re-establish integrity in our lives?

First of all, money is not the root of all evil; but the love of money is the root of an awful lot of evil. A long time ago, a friend reminded me that we can spend years working to own things that end up owning us. His counsel was to be careful and avoid being controlled by the items we have purchased.

Wealth is not defined by how much individuals have, but how little they need.

Only you can be certain if you have compromised your values or lost your integrity. However, you may find a definition of integrity helpful in establishing a baseline in establishing appropriate principles and behaviors for the future.

Integrity is congruence between what you say and what you do, as well as what you say about what you did. Parents are responsible for setting the ground rules and behaving appropriately. Parents make mistakes and need to own up to their shortcomings immediately. Children learn the real values of the family by observing what their parents do even more than by listening to what parents say.

Integrity is the keystone of leadership, a critical aspect of parenting. The keystone of values holds the family together at its most critical junction, where behaviors are passed along to the next generation. Integrity enables the family to achieve mission which sustains civilization. Integrity is the strength, unity, clarity and purpose that upholds and sustains all activities. Integrity provides this stabilizing dimension by never, ever,
compromising. Integrity recognizes risks and assumes responsibility. Parents
exude integrity and must be willing to push back against the superficial and
destructive trends that threaten civility and graciousness.
Now is not the time to lose one's parental nerve. The next generation looks to parental guidance to enable it to safely navigate the turbulent times that are a natural part of moving toward adulthood.

What might you do to re-establish integrity in your lives?

  1. take an inventory of what you own
  2. create a second inventory of what owns you
  3. demonstrate to your children what true appreciation for material and spiritual things means
  4. outline with your teens what legacy you want to leave them
    a. money
    b. property
    c. spiritual principles
    d. work ethic
    e. social and cultural tolerance
    f. any variety of values and behaviors
  5. manage schedules with one another to ensure your legacy

The keystone that sustains an archway is similar to the canopy of love and nurture that caring parents provide a family. The work of the archways keystone is constant and may go unnoticed until it disappear or collapses if those keystone values and strengths are not passed along, the family crumbles. Integrity does matter, most especially with the family - the cornerstone of civilization. Don't simply tell them how important values are, show them - soon.

Question: (S-011)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on April 23, 2003.

"Peterson case raises ethical questions"

Dear Jim
I read with interest that the authorities have filed two murder charges against Scott Peterson, to include the death of his unborn son. How on earth can the authorities approve abortion, on the one hand, and charge Scott Peterson with murder for the death of his unborn child? The death of an unborn child is not the death of a person, if abortion is legal! If it is the death of a person (a murder, i.e.), then abortion is murder. Without taking a stand on abortion--a separate issue--where is the integrity in our legal system?

Dear Student of Legal Behavior

Lawyers and juries are now responsible for the next steps in the resolution of those issues related to the death of Ms. Laci Peterson and what has been assumed as the death of her unborn son. Your observations are thought provoking. The legal system is charging Mr. Scott Peterson (the husband of one victim, and father of the other, unborn victim), with two counts of murder.

High profile events that gather the attention of the media can sometimes seem to be on a course (collision or otherwise) that defies explanation. National news stories have now captured the interest of millions and millions of news fans. Your questions do emphasize the seeming contradiction of causing death (abortion, prior to the birthing process) and the ending of a life of an already born and functioning human being. Those who practice law and jurisprudence can distinguish the differences. Did the murderer or murderers take the life of one person or two? Obviously, this depends upon the definition of when life begins?

You asked about the integrity of the legal system and you seem upset with actions taken so far. What we have seen to date is the proposed administration of justice. We know that police officers do not practice law, they administer the law. The officers arrested Mr. Peterson in the San Diego area and brought him back to a Modesto jail cell. In the words of Brian Melley of the Associated Press: "'He'll be charged with capital murder, with an option of seeking the death penalty because Peterson is being charged with a double homicide,' said Stanislaus County District Attorney Jim Brazelton."

You are pinpointing the contradictions between when life begins for those who choose legal abortions and when life begins for those who are charged with murder of a yet unborn infant. Integrity requires that one have a consistent definition of when life begins. There are some who suggest that human life begins only when the unborn can exist outside of the mother's womb. Others define life as early as conception.

The reporting of the events so far might lead one to conclude that this hideous set of circumstance will be tried by the media; but, that is unlikely. Even those who want to convict immediately and harshly will come up against a system that does understand due process and will steadfastly pursue justice – for all parties that have been afflicted and affected by these atrocious deaths.

The integrity of the legal system is not yet in question. When the case is resolved, each of us can then judge the integrity of our judicial system. Because integrity matters, we will watch this case carefully.

Question (S-012):
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on September 3, 2003

"Charitable gifts require new study"

Dear Jim:
I am having a problem reconciling what is happening in certain parts of organized religion, and the various scandals including the latest pedophilia mess. Here is my dilemma: if I stop giving to my church out of concern that its leaders are using the money irresponsibly and unethically in dealing with these scandals, then what about worthwhile charitable activities helped by my church donations? I am frustrated and concerned and feel this issue is about integrity. What do you think?

You have raised an interesting and valuable concern. Integrity is at the heart of the issue. It appears that current administrative costs in some churches are high and that some of these religious institutions and charities have engaged in practices that turn off many people, including you. Some have used donations to make settlements to fight their legal conflicts instead of using the funds for the named purposes of the institution. Their decisions to spend financial resources for one purpose after raising the funds for a very different purpose lack consistency and integrity. Many loyal believers have felt betrayed.

Recently, tens of millions of dollars were earmarked in Massachusetts to pay settlements related to lawsuits directed at ordained priests who abused young people. It is unthinkable that the caring and generous parishioners who donated those millions of dollars intended for their sacrificial giving to pay for legal problems created by such destructive behaviors. If this were a business transaction, it might be called "bait and switch" - the unsuspecting buyer is shown one product, asked to pay for it, only to be provided something very different, worth a great deal less. Such an event in business would be described as fraud, with legal and financial consequences. It is common sense that charitable organizations must operate with the same stringent operational rules as the rest of business and society.

The example to which you refer by your question, namely, that of pedophilia, has been one of the most disturbing. However, responsible parish councils, pastors and their congregations are working through that known set of problems. It seems probable that the involved religious institutions and other social service organizations will emerge wiser and with new and stronger self-regulating processes. Usually appropriate solutions emerge after a crisis with both religious institutions and secular charities. It is also true that our society has a network of socially-responsive and critical services that are sustained by organized religion. These charities, and many others, do a lot of good for people who might have no other place to turn.

You may, of course, simply move your money to another church or charity. That is quick and direct and has the virtue of removing you from any need to get involved with those who have disappointed you. You need to decide if
the greater good is served by cutting off the charities with known, visible problems, and shift the money to charities with which you have less connection, but whose reputations are, for now at least, unblemished.

Another and perhaps more prudent approach might be to get involved directly with the institutions you support; organizations engaged in work relevant to your interests. Your involvement might improve their administrative and professional performance. In this way you can continue to support them so long as they are working through their problems responsibly. The larger safety net provided by your charitable institution is thereby protected and even improved.

If leaders of charities you support remain unresponsive to the need for change, then your issue becomes very clear, and you will very likely move your charitable giving to more responsive providers. How wonderful that people with your values are concerned and involved. Integrity Matters.

Question (S-013):
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 1, 2003

"Values and Relationships"

Dear Jim:
In your weekly newspaper column, you offer responses to integrity questions. Where do get your answers? How do you know what is ethical? On what basis do you select the values that support your position? How do your columns reflect your philosophy? I read that you were a clergyman; does that mean you have a Christian bias?

My answers and responses come out of the clarity and confidence that emerge from the single most important human relationship possible: a marriage partner. One way to describe how this connection to values and insight works for me is to talk about a movie that means a great deal to my wife, Jane, and me: A Beautiful Mind.

In 2002, former television child-star, Ron Howard, directed the Academy Award-winning film A Beautiful Mind. Actor Russell Crowe portrays the mathematical and economic genius, the professor from Princeton University, a recipient of the 1994 Nobel Prize, Dr. John Nash. The story of his life was the basis for the film. In addition to Russell Crowe, who played John Nash, Jennifer Connelly played his loyal and dedicated wife, Alicia. Whatever else the movie presented, the power of unconditional love was the cradle for the messages offered.

Dr. Nash received the shared Economics Nobel Prize in 1994 for his mathematical discoveries and contributions to "the pioneering analysis of equilibria in the theory of non-cooperative games", which has impacted 20th Century business and economic activity. Most important of all, John Nash remembered when he won the Nobel Prize after decades of struggling with schizophrenia, the most serious and debilitating of the mental illnesses, that it was his wife's understanding and support that provided him with a context, connection and clarity.

Dr. Nash described himself as a person of circumstances who has been fortunate enough to tell his story through a newspaper article, book and movie. What he also provided via this movie to the current generation was insight related to the power of relationships for healing, and how unconditional love can inspire self-renewal.

What makes this story so moving centers in the words he shared, at least in the film version of his life, upon receiving the Nobel Prize at the awards ceremony in Sweden, December 1994.

Dr. Nash, as portrayed by Russell Crowe, summarized his values, insights and his efforts to build and then rebuild his life with and through the integrity-centered behaviors of his wife, Alicia, uttering these 101 words:

I have always believed in numbers, in the equations and logics that lead to reason. And, after a lifetime of such pursuits, I ask: what truly is logic? Who decides reason?

My quest has taken me through the physical, the metaphysical, the delusional and back. And I have made the most important discovery of my career; the most important discovery of my life.

It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reason can be found.

I am only here tonight because of you. [referring obviously to his wife, Alicia]

You are the reason I am. You are all my reasons.

Thank You.

These 101 words, when recast through my own experience, help me to form the basis for increasing the knowledge and awareness essential for restoring trust in society, rebuilding faith in institutions and guiding integrity-centered leadership.

Perhaps you will be challenged to utilize this same process for enhancing ways your thoughts and actions can provide for you the answers and direction required in these complex times. Here is my response to how my life and work have unfolded. My words run parallel to what Dr. Nash said when acknowledging the Nobel Prize. His response served as a template:

I have always believed in the potential of the individual, in the capacity of human beings to achieve and contribute. During decades of encouraging integrity-centered actions, for people to be the best they can be, I ask, what is integrity? Who decides which values support appropriate behaviors?

My quest has taken me through theology, teaching, pastoral care, preaching, leadership counseling and now writing. And, I have made the most important discovery of my career, the most important discovery of my life.

It is only in the mysterious equations of interpersonal connection, mutual respect and unconditional love that an integrity-centered life is possible. Restoring trust and confidence in the leadership of any society, regionally or globally, rests upon legitimate interpersonal relationships.

The credit given to me regarding my constructive impact upon the lives of others was made possible because of the unconditional love provided to me by my wife, Jane, who is my best friend, role model and mentor. Her integrity is the source for any trust-restoring leadership counsel that I am able to provide. Indeed, I am fortunate.

The basis of integrity-centered leadership is connection, context and value-clarity. Strong marriages exude this connectedness. Family units understand it and live it. Parents who look with pride, with feelings of accomplishment, upon their child-rearing efforts understand how these multiple dimensions of relationship secure the present and prepare the next generation for the future.

Yes, this movie has a message. Powerful as its story is about a brilliant professor, it is even more about the wife. Perhaps A Beautiful Mind might be re-titled A Magnificent Marriage of Partnership, Perseverance and Unconditional Love. Truly, the husband becomes more and is better because of the right wife. Hopefully the wife says the same thing. Yet, who among us is not better because of the best of those whom we call friend and ally?

Perhaps the most powerful summary of important relationships can be presented in the following words about friendship. This poem stands as a centering point for our marriage in that it is a reminder that we are better because of the love and acceptance of friends (marriage partners):


I love you not only for what you are, but
for what I am when I am with you. I love you
not only for what you have made of yourself,
but for what you are making of me. I love you
for the part of me that you bring out.

I love you for putting your hand into my
heaped-up heart, and passing over all the
foolish and frivolous and weak things which
you cannot help dimly seeing there, and for
drawing out into the light all the beautiful,
radiant belongings, that no one else had looked
quite far enough to find.

I love you for ignoring the possibilities of
the fool and weakling in me, and for laying
firm hold on the possibilities of good in me. I
love you for closing your eyes to the discords
in me, and for adding to the music in me by
worshipful listening.

I love you because you are helping me to
make of the lumber of my life not a tavern but
a Temple, and of the words of my every day
not a reproach but a song.

I love you because you have done more
than any creed could have done to make me
good, and more than any fate could have done
to make me happy. You have done it just by
being yourself. Perhaps that is what being a
friend means after all.

author unknown –

Friendship depends upon substantive connections, and is built upon integrity and holds together relationships while guiding the proper execution of responsibilities. From friendship come confidence, courage and commitment. Upon these three characteristics one can build a life of meaning and impact.

Question (S-014):
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on January 21, 2004

"Age question not designed as privacy invasion"

Dear Jim:
Earlier today, I pulled into the car wash, rolled down my window and requested their ten- dollar service. The efficient attendant, a young woman, was smiling, and then came the bomb. She asked if I was qualified for the senior citizen's discount. Not knowing how to respond, and being in my mid-fifties, I asked what age one needed to be for the discount. When she said 65, I wondered how beat up and tired that I looked. Should this question be asked? Is this business operating with integrity when it allows employees to risk embarrassing folks with age-sensitive questions and assumptions?

So, you look a little older than you had thought. Do you remember how old that people who were even forty-five looked when you were quite young? Was her question about your age intended to intrude upon your privacy or be attentive to ways her company might help you to save a few dollars? For the number of times this question about senior citizen discount qualification steps on toes, there are probably ten times more instances when the customer appreciates the concern and the thoughtfulness of the car wash ownership.

The integrity issue is yet to be assessed. Since our column speaks of eight integrity-centered attributes, let's review this event and make note, with an underline, of how behaviors can be surveyed against standards of appropriate conduct. What really matters in this situation is not so much the young person's question about age, but rather your response. Did you accept the discount, knowing you did not deserve it? The integrity-centered response is the truth. You are not 65 and ought not to accept the offer. If you did, were you being honest? No.

Pushing ego aside, were you gracious in how you treated the employee? She attempted to assist a person who she believed deserved a little extra attention, financially. She was attempting to be professional and productive. Did you demonstrate respect and discipline with reference to how you responded to this person? Did you thank the person for trying to be helpful? Did you control your own negative emotional reaction, recognizing that your uncertainty and insecurity about your appearance might not accurately reflect the motivations of either the person asking the question or the organization that believes the question about age ought to be asked? Were you kind?

The circumstances in which we find ourselves might not do as much harm to us as can our responses to them. It is not simply what happens; it is how we handle things that reflect our character. As the older participant in the encounter, and perhaps even the wiser and more mature individual, were you able to exhibit the right behavior? It is not appropriate to react and shake this employee's confidence. She was doing her job by carrying out her company's policies. She behaved with integrity. Did you?

Question: (S-015)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on June 7, 2006

"Kleckner was his name, preparedness his game"

"As a first semester college freshman, in 1963, I was diagnosed with pneumonia. Dr. Kleckner, Dean at Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Illinois, acted swiftly and made sure that my autumn semester was concluded before Thanksgiving. He enabled me to take all final exams before returning home to Missouri for the holidays to regain my strength. He secured a place for me, as a second semester freshman transfer student at Whittier College, Whittier, California, allowing me to continue my studies and retain my student deferment. With healthy lungs, Dean Kleckner made sure that I could return to Elmhurst while retaining all Whittier College transfer credits.

"Soon to become President Kleckner, he continued to coach me. Once, and only once, I stood before a Homecoming crowd and spoke "off the cuff" on behalf of the student government. The following Monday morning, at 8:00 a.m., he gave me a stern lecture about preparedness. It was not a two-way discussion. Accepting any assignment is a moral commitment to be prepared - no matter when and no matter where. Proper prior planning prevents poor performance. Famous retailer, J.C. Penney may have originated the phrase, but Don Kleckner knew how to instill it.

"On November 17, 1973, at 3:00 a.m., California time, then Chapman College President, Don Kleckner, took another call from me. After listening to my concerns, he suggested that fear and anxiety are often effectively conquered with planning and preparation. After thanking him, I stayed awake until I found a memorial statement that described how I would like to be remembered."

When I die, I hope that those who knew me best will say that, "Jim Bracher did not fear the weather and did not trim his sails, but instead, challenged the wind itself to improve its direction and to cause it to blow more softly and more kindly over the world and its people."

"A photograph of my teacher and mentor of 43 years graces our board room, a constant reminder to my wife, Jane, and me, of Dr. Kleckner's wisdom, wit and generosity. According to Don, attitude determines altitude for those who are prepared."

Integrity and relationships lessons:

  • Contact friends, especially mentors, when you think of them. Be pro-active or risk regret.
  • Make each encounter memorable by being supportive and positive.
  • Listen more than talk; paying attention to the feelings and needs of others.
  • Share important lessons learned with others.
  • Write down how you want to be remembered: epitaph/memorial statement.
Measure your integrity by how often your actions fall within the shadow of your memorial statement.

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