I never bought stock in Enron. But in terms of losing money, I might as well have. My worst stock purchase ever? Two thousand shares in a firm that made, as I recall, copiers. The stock plunged so low it went through a 100 to 1 reverse split. In other words, the company replaced my 2,000 shares with 20 new shares worth the same total. But the price kept on plummeting. In the end I sold it all for 35 cents. I'd have been better off with shares of Enron. Then, at least, I could auction off the stock certificate on eBay as a collector's item.
Of course the story of Enron is not primarily one of investors who made a bad stock pick. Sadly, it's of company executives who allegedly lied to most everyone. It's of an accounting firm that cooked the books. It's of regular employees trapped in ownership of the stock and not allowed to dump it while top management maneuvered for their own advantage. Perhaps most of all, it's a cautionary tale reminding us all of the need for integrity in our dealings with one another - the integrity that quashes greed, thwarts selfishness, undercuts dishonesty. The integrity that comes from the Almighty and that is in such urgent demand today.
What's next? The fallout from the Enron collapse will include hundreds of lawsuits - and new regulations governing accounting practices, as well as revised guidelines regarding employees and their 401(k)s. And, hopefully, tighter rules for political contributions.
But all that fallout will be more productive if it's paralleled by a renewed commitment to the prayer that underpins integrity. Such prayer tends to bring forward solutions even in the midst of a swirl of accusations and attempts to conceal evidence. Such prayer is effective because it springs from the source of integrity itself. And that is the God who is unwavering divine Truth.
In the immediate aftermath of a scandal, it's hard - but important - to challenge the notion that people inevitably rip off one another, given the chance. What are much less heralded, but much more significant, are the countless instances of selfless acts of giving. It is our natural inclination to express honesty and integrity, unselfishness and generosity - all of which derive from the Divine. These qualities are consistent with God and therefore with our authentic God-given nature.
Often we see beautiful evidences of people acting on these right impulses. Sometimes we do not. But always that spiritual inclination to be honest abides within each of us - even if it's buried so deep as to be indiscernible. How do we go forward without becoming either cynical on the one hand or gullible suckers on the other? How do we pray without being naive?
Note this Bible passage. God is recorded as saying, "Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another" (Lev. 19:11). Is that a command from the Almighty? Yes. Is it instruction and rebuke from Him? Certainly. Is it also a promise? Absolutely. And in its status as a promise is the very basis for regenerative prayer. Try to hear in this verse God's own voice promising you, "Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another." How wonderful! The God who is pure Truth sees in each one of us such integrity that He assures us we won't steal, won't deal falsely, won't lie. It simply is not in our true nature to do so.
As we embrace this promise from the Almighty, we make a healing thrust. We help establish integrity as integral to the nature not just of ourselves, but of everyone everywhere. We fortify the inclination within people to act in accord with their conscience. And we hasten the uncovering of hidden corruption.
The acknowledgment of God's promise is itself a prayer - one that helps keep us all on the right road. Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy once wrote, "Honesty is spiritual power" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 453).
As we continue the prayer that grows from God's promise, we'll increasingly discern within men and women their true status as people of integrity. This makes dishonesty more foreign to each of us. It aids earlier detection of the next Enron. It may eventually even diminish the likelihood of such a happening.