The Four-Way Test
In elementary school, my father would head out on Tuesday evenings to attend "Rotary." All I knew was that it was a businessman's organization, and they did businessman's organization things.
In February of 1996, I was returning my U-Haul to a mini storage place after moving to Florida. I noticed the Rotary emblem on several plaques behind the counter. I told the man standing behind the counter I knew all about Rotary, and he invited me to lunch. I became a Rotarian in April of 1996. One of the cool things Rotary does is raise money to vaccinate children worldwide from polio. My father was a polio survivor, and I saw how that horrific virus impacted his life. I was a member of The Palmetto Rotary Club until 2015, serving as President twice and then as a District Area Governor. I became embroiled in a divorce while caring for my mother and dropped out.
In 2020, I moved to Paradise Lakes, and my neighbor John asked me if I knew about Rotary. I did, and he invited me to breakfast. The Land O Lakes Rotary Club met on Friday mornings in the same office building where my office was, so I went. I fell in love with the club and look forward to kicking off every Friday morning with my new club.
One of the things that I love most about Rotary is the ethics. They have a Four-Way Test, which is as follows:
Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
I've found this to be an excellent moral compass. I have relied on this test more than once, personally and professionally.
While performing as a comedian on swinger cruises, one of the Area Governors approached me about my "involvement" on those cruises. I asked him what the issue was. He thought swinging was "unethical" because he came from the viewpoint many share and that "swinging is cheating."
He was slightly surprised when I mentioned that most swingers follow the Four-Way Test in their sexual activities. They are doing what they do with the full knowledge and consent of ALL parties involved. They are telling the truth. They are being fair to all concerned. They are building goodwill and better friendships. What they do is beneficial to all concerned. Cheaters are people who do things without their partner's consent, violating the Four-Way Test.
He paused momentarily and said, "I never looked at it that way."
This past week, I had a situation where I had to stop what I was doing, and call on the Four-Way Test for guidance. When I analyzed this particular situation, it failed all four questions due to a clerical error that wasn't caught for months. Now, it's time to rethink and reassess this issue and decide where to go. This time, I will be using the Four-Way Test again, but applied differently:
What needs to happen to make this the truth?
What needs to happen to make this fair to all concerned?
What needs to happen to build goodwill and better friendships?
What needs to happen to make this beneficial to all concerned?
As I think about the next steps in correcting the abovementioned situation, I'm thankful for Rotary International and their insistence on the importance of business ethics. The Four-Way Test is a powerful tool for personal and professional guidance. Sharing one of the tools I use to guide my actions would build goodwill and better friendships and be beneficial to all concerned.