Build and be guided by a strong moral authority.

A mother once brought her child to human and civil rights pioneer Mahatma Gandhi and asked him to tell the young boy to stop eating sugar because it was not good for his diet or his developing teeth.

Gandhi replied, “I cannot tell him that. But you may bring him back in a month.”

Gandhi then moved on, brushing the mother aside. She was angry; she had traveled some distance and had expected the mighty leader to support her parenting. But having little recourse, she left for her home. One month later she returned, not knowing what to expect.

The great Gandhi took the small child’s hands into his own, knelt before him, and tenderly said, “Do not eat sugar, my child. It is not good for you.” Then Gandhi embraced the boy and returned him to his mother.

Grateful but perplexed, the mother queried, “Why didn’t you say that a month ago?”

“Well,” said Gandhi, “a month ago, I was still eating sugar.”

This is an example of the moral authority that comes from having a strong, principle-based character.

One of the greatest assets a person or an organization can have is strength of character based on universal principles. These behavioral laws are just as powerful as natural laws and, like them, have predictable consequences. For example, if you jump off a 40-story building, you can predict the outcome. Similarly, if you are consistently honest, you can predict that the outcome will be greater trust, opportunity, peace, and happiness, and a chance for success. On the other hand, if you lie, the result is just as predictable. You will destroy trust, lose opportunities, and perhaps end up in jail.

However, a strong character is not easily acquired. It is forged over time as we are tested and our values and judgment skills are refined and tempered. People who have a strong character withstand tests and temptations by holding true to time-honored principles that have been identified as being good and honorable throughout the course of human history.

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