ROSE NOLEN: Fewer people living with scruples

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

When I received my real estate license I signed up with a broker in Kansas City who had known me for a long time. When accepting my agent's license he told me straight out that I would never make it in the business because I had too many scruples.

As it turned out he was right. After working for about two years under a couple of brokers, I finally threw in the towel when a big piece of the inspected roof fell off of a house I had sold to a family two months earlier. Fortunately, no one was injured. That was the end of my real estate career.

That, however, was only the beginning of my problem with having scruples. Growing up in a working-class neighborhood, everyone I knew had scruples. The difference was that a lot of people, I found out, only acted upon them when it was convenient. For example, they weren't willing to lose a job or sacrifice a close relationship because of them.

The source of my lifelong problem has been: What do you do with your scruples when they get in the way of other things that are important to your success or happiness?

So, for most of my life I've been watching people in the public eye who claim to have scruples and see how they handle them. I can tell you right off the bat that politicians are not good examples. For instance, at the moment, they have caught on to the fact that fewer people read newspapers and books these days and depend largely on word of mouth information. So some of these politicians have gotten into the horrendous habit of telling humongous lies and spreading them around until they are told over and over again, causing the non-reading public to believe them. Very often, nice people are falling victim to these lies. When people repeat the lies, how do you scrupulously debunk them when they believe with all that's in them that they are true?

Actually, I suppose it won't be long before words like "scruples" begin to fade from our vocabulary as standards of behavior continue to drop. Civility in the political arena is rapidly becoming nonexistent. It's sad that Americans, especially those with young children, don't demand decorum within their elected bodies. I'm glad I'm relieved of the responsibility of trying to teach kids right from wrong, because if they follow the examples set for them from the top down they probably don't see any reason to behave otherwise. While certainly there was the severe beating suffered by Sen. Charles Sumner from Rep. Preston Brooks on the floor of the Senate in 1856, I thought we had grown up a tiny bit since then.

Now it would seem that in every field of endeavor, misbehavior is the rule governing our relationships with one another. No matter how many times cyber-bullying is condemned, it seems to flourish. Although people resent my saying so, as far as I'm concerned, it's all attributable to the breakdown in authority.

When the people in charge of whatever venue are stripped of their ability to control whatever happens, then things are bound to get out of control. It's what happens when the law rules that individuals have the right to do whatever they want to do. Such rules place everyone else's rights in jeopardy. You see, I no longer have the right to safety and security if my neighbor has the right to run his motorcycle under my window every hour of the night and day.

The Founding Fathers obviously assumed that those responsible for interpreting the U.S. Constitution would not lose their minds.

I admit that having a few qualms have prevented me from taking advantage of certain opportunities that might have possibly put a few pennies in my pocket. On the other hand they have spared me a lot of heartache and pain. Growing up I was always fortunate to have around a small chorus to remind me that I could get in more trouble in five minutes than I could get out of in a lifetime.

These days, I look around at people willing to lie, scheme and do whatever they have to do to earn favor or make money. Their best friend could stand on the corner and tell them all day long that it won't be worth it in the end, but I doubt they would listen.

Imagine growing up in a world where you don't know who to trust. Wow, what a place to live.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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Ellis Smith November 16, 2010 | 3:59 a.m.

Gee, Rose, are we to assume that only those who grew up "in a working class neighborhood" have, or at least pretend to have, scruples?

Actually, we erroneously thought ours was a "lower middle class" neighborhood. That's because the federal government neglected to send some flunkie to knock on our respective doors and explain to us that we were not lower middle class but poor.

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