for release Friday February 4, 2005
by Melodie Davis
What You Do Stays With You
A well-known city’s advertising slogan is “What happens here, stays here.”
Now I’m no prude and I get the humor—and as some have pointed out, there really is nothing vulgar going on in the ads, only in the imagination of the viewer. And that is part of the seductive appeal of the campaign.
“It’s a campaign that started three years ago and has grown into a popular catch phrase being used by everyone from talk show hosts to phrases used in movies and television shows and it seems there’s no shortage of ideas [for new commercials],” according to Randy Snow, creative director of R&R Partners, longtime marketing firm for the Las Vegas tourist board.
But what I’d like to tackle is a mind set that really goes much wider than a clever travel advertising campaign.
If we ever think that what we do in one forum doesn’t affect the very core of our being and subtly change our relationships, we are a sad people, and a sad country.
It’s about integrity.
One of the ads shows a middle-aged businesswoman flirting with her limo driver and ends with that tagline, “What happens here, stays here.” It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to imagine all sorts of things. That situation—being all alone in a limo with a driver that offers complete seclusion and privacy—or a hotel room with a cute and muscular bellhop—well these are situations where a marriage partner has to have a solid commitment, or the temptations and thought that “no one has to know” can be easy to succumb to.
And of course integrity goes beyond sexual relationships. It includes public integrity by government workers and officials, academic integrity among students and faculty in the educational setting, right down to whether you pay for the copyright protected music you download off the Internet.
The recent football movie “Friday Night Lights” is noteworthy not for its portrayal of yet another underrated team to state championship finals, but for Coach Gary Gaine’s overall coaching philosophy which he finally interprets in the locker room at the half time of the team’s final game. He tells them yet again he wants them to “be perfect” – but not in the way the town and parents and everyone has been pressuring them all season (that the only way to go out with heads held high is to win the state championship). No, he tells them, perfection is being able to look your teammates and everyone else in the eye and tell them, “Hey, I gave it my all, I did everything I know how to do, I did my best.” That is a lesson that can stick with these kids long after the hot lights are turned off and their brief run to glory is just a high school memory.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says integrity is “primarily a formal relation one has to oneself, or between parts or aspects of one’s self; it’s also connected in an important way to acting morally.”
Coach Gaines couldn’t have told those kids in that high-pressure moment that the important thing was to give it their best, if he had operated from a mind set that said that winning was the only thing that counted. In other words, his words and actions matched the person he was.
On the flip side, the team’s star (who sometimes intimated that his skill was “natural” and that he didn’t have to drill as hard as the other guys) learned the hard way that fibbing about the condition of his knee when he desperately wanted to play, ultimately and unfortunately meant the end to his dream for a scholarship at a top football school.
Perhaps these seem like unusual examples to use in thinking about integrity. The dangerous thing about catch phrases and slogans like “what happens here stays here” is the way these ideas infiltrate our thinking and behavior and we think that yeah, we work hard, we live a moral life, we deserve a “weekend off” for our good behavior. It’s the old line we used on our parents to justify an indiscretion, “Everybody does it.”
How about this for a catch phrase: “What happens to you or what you do stays with you, becomes a part of who you are.” Not likely to catch on in the tourist industry or Hollywood, but maybe it has the staying power of teachings like those which came from Jesus long long ago: “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a person ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony slander. These are what make a person unclean” (Matthew 15:18-19).
The good news is that we can be forgiven, and our slate wiped clean in God’s eyes. We can ask for forgiveness from others, and must learn to forgive ourselves. These things are not easy—because if they were easy then forgiveness would be cheapened. But for those who grieve what they did in a moment—or several moments of indiscretion—you can start over and live with absolute integrity from now on.
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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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