Everyone can tell you about their values and the lines they refuse to cross. Most people, however, when put in a situation where they have to stand behind their words (usually meaning they will lose something), have been doing enough mental gymnastics through their entire lives that they are ok with “bending” their beliefs a bit.
The world today allows many people to talk and think themselves up (even more through social media), thanks mainly to the fact that they are not facing wars, slavery, torture, and other morally-charged live-or-die situations. The one bright side of living through those horrible circumstances is that they gave millions of people the chance to die for their honor. To be heroes that remained consistent to their beliefs until the end.
Loss aversion is the biggest reason why honor is scarce. Honor demands the courage to face loses gracefully.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year is that the world is full of people that talk about their values, but when push comes to shove, they will find a way to bend the meaning of their words. This has become my strongest heuristic when it comes to personal and professional relationships, since people with flexible values are naturally untrustworthy.
The paradox, as usual, is that for those with integrity, the world elevates them and gives them even more, because they are the leaders that all of us, deep inside, crave to become.
Paraphrasing Nassim Nicholas Taleb, when asked about his greatest achievement in life:
“I’ve learnt to never compromise. […] Life is not about self-satisfaction but the satisfaction of a sense of duty. It is all or nothing. Nine out of 10 would be total failure.”