The MOST Important Question is….?

As part of the process of my writing "Character Counts: Bringing the Rotary Four-Way Test to Life," I had the occasion to pose this question to my Rotarian email list and the Rotary International group on LinkedIn: Of the four questions in the Four-Way Test, which one do you think is the most important and why?  I have to admit that it's been very exciting to see the responses you come up with. Not just because Rotarians have shared their individual thoughts with me, but because it seems it's sparking conversations at the Club Level!

I've already had three separate conversations with Rotarians around the world who have shared this question with their own local members and they've reported back what their club has shared!  I shared the first set of responses in my email follow-up. You can see some of the detailed replies in the email here.

Overall the numbers I came up with based on the responses to my original question were as follows:

Q1 Is it the TRUTH  57%
Q2 Is it FAIR  29%
Q3 Will it build GOODWILL 14%
Q4 Will it be BENEFICIAL  0%

Subsequently, I heard back from Jack Butcher from the Federal Way Rotary. He had raised my question at his club and reported back what their findings were.  Again, you can click here for the details, but their numbers were a bit different:

Q1 Is it the TRUTH  51%
Q2 Is it FAIR 18%
Q3 Will it build GOODWILL 3%
Q4 Will it be BENEFICIAL 28%

Now, I've heard back from another club, Rotary E-Club of South Africa One. After hearing from their members, the results shook out like this:

Q1 Is it the TRUTH 35%
Q2 Is it FAIR 20%
Q3 Will it build GOODWILL 15%
Q4 Will it be BENEFICIAL 30%

What I found particularly interesting were some of the explanations for why members had chosen the question they voted as "most important."  Here are a few of them...

"I think without TRUTH none of the other parameters will be achieved. Truth underpins every thought choice decision one makes. It defines the moral compass for other relationships that result from the three others."

"The last test is the most important of the four. It is an old orator's trick called 'end stress.' That is, the stress (or the most important thing) is left until last (or, the end...). This way, it is the last thing people hear and it is what they are left thinking about as they leave. Of course, the other way to look at this being the most important of the tests is that if it is not beneficial to all concerned, then it is not fair to one or more of the parties concerned, meaning there is not full truth in it and it won't create goodwill or better friendship."

"My choice is IS IT FAIR TO ALL CONCERNED. To be fair one has to be honest. Fairness undoubtedly brings benefit to others and certainly fairness enhances friendship and relationships."

"I think for me. “Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned” would be my choice. Does it uplift not just for the sake of it but does it really help everyone in a community, school or Country."

I have the full list of all 20 responses I received and I plan to share those on the Character Counts book webpage.  If you'd like me to send you an advance copy, please email me and I'll respond personally.

What I'm finding is that those Rotarians who respond have very insightful comments about why they picked the question they selected as MOST important.  What's even more interesting is that, in every case, they are exactly right! The Four-Way Test is inherently self-reinforcing in that, in order for any of the test to work, all of it has to work.  One might say it's the "ultimate truth table!"

I keep saying that, as I write the book, I'm not sure who is gaining the greater benefit - my eventual reader audience or me, myself now!  I find that I'm learning a lot about Rotary and its members, sure, but I find I'm also gaining new insights daily into what character itself means, and why being a person of character is massively important, particularly at a time where running fast and loose with the truth and other virtues seems to be the norm.

Of course, none of us -- even the best Rotarian -- is perfect and we have all suffered from lapses of character, some small and some true whoppers. But we are challenged by the Four-Way Test to really stop and think, before we say something or do something, about the possible impact of our next action. "How will it affect me and others around me?"  Because, just like social skills, the goal of the Four-Way Test is to ensure a positive outcome.

How about you? Will YOU bring this question to your club?  If you do, email me with results and I'll send you a copy of the Character Counts book when it's published as a thank you!

As a side note, the Rotary Character Counts Campaign is still underway: can you take a moment and check it out? I appreciate your participation -- we still have a ways to go to reach our goal! If you can't contribute, I would love it if you'd share it with your friends/family/Rotarian network! Please help me reach the funding goal so I can bring this LIFE!

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