No satisfaction should be had from scamming a faceless corporation or outwitting the system. Being able to get away with a wrong does not make it right.
"The more things a man is ashamed of, the more respectable he is," wrote George Bernard Shaw.
Those who have a capacity to feel and to appreciate shame are fortunate. Their path might not be smoother, but their way is clearer and the obstacles less costly, as their true value is more apparent.
"I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed." Jonathan Swift.
When I was growing up and attempted the excuse, "But everybody else is doing it," one of my parents would inevitably say, "And if everybody was jumping off a bridge, would you jump off, too?" It sounds obvious now, silly even. But their guidance was a gift. Having a strong personal sense of shame is powerful. Along with setting our own standards, we're laying the groundwork for our children as well. Instead of teaching them to fight for their fair share and win at all costs, we should be emphasizing the need to do the right thing regardless of whether someone is watching.
"Shame may restrain what the law does not prohibit," wrote Seneca.
What happened at that New York Wal-Mart was the ultimate blasphemy of Christmas. And those who have shamelessly pushed, trampled and shoved to get ahead need to pause long enough to remember the reason we began giving gifts at Christmas.
Karin Fuller can be reached via e-mail at karinful...@cnpapers.com.