I used to take comfort from an exaggerated belief in my own honesty. My New England kinfolk had taught me the sanctity of all business commitments and contracts, saying, “A man’s word is his bond.” After this rigorous conditioning, business honesty always came easy; I never flimflammed anyone.
However, this small fragment of readily won virtue did produce some interesting liabilities. I never failed to whip up a fine contempt for those of my fellow Wall Streeters who were prone to shortchange their customers. This was arrogant enough, but the ensuing self-deception proved even worse.
My prized business honesty was presently converted into a comfortable cloak under which I could hide the many serious flaws that best other departments of my life. Being certain of this one virtue, it was easy to conclude that I had them all. For years on end, this prevented me from taking a good look at myself.