I held a grudge against Exxon for over a decade because of the way they handled the Valdez incident. I wouldn’t buy gasoline at an Exxon station, and I wouldn’t invest in any mutual fund that held Exxon stock. I can hold a grudge (i.e., a righteous indignation) for a long, LONG time. You might think I was angry about the environmental damage, but that wasn’t it. I was angry because Exxon’s first reaction was, “It’s not our responsibility.” Yes, it was their tanker; yes, it was their oil; yes, it was their employee at the helm; but, no, it was not their responsibility that the oil ended up in the ocean. That was the captain’s fault. They shouldn’t be expected to clean up what he spilled.
I didn’t see it that way. I still don’t. I did, however, over the past few years, use the incident and my strong emotional reaction to it to explore my own inner world and to get a better glimpse at some of my own dark shadows. I asked myself, “Where am I not taking responsibility? … Where am I blaming someone else?” I thought I had done a pretty good job of sorting through all of that until now.
Now there’s British Petroleum, and the shadows are back. I was pleased when I heard the company spokesman say, “We take full responsibility.” I thought, “Good for you!”
And then I remembered that I own BP stock. Instantly, I wanted to dump the stock. I didn’t want to suffer financially for something “they” did. After all, “it’s not my fault”!
“You sound just like Exxon,” said a small, quiet voice inside. “You are part owner of the company; what makes you think you’re not responsible?”
My inner wisdom tells it like it is; it can ask some pretty tough questions. It takes my own self-righteous indignation and holds it up as a mirror. There I am, squirming and wiggling and trying to find a way out. Just like Exxon.
Oh, I could find a multitude of justifications and rationales for selling my stock. But the real bottom line for me is this: I invested in BP because I thought it was a responsible company. And now, as they are taking responsibility, there is a part of me that doesn’t want to have anything to do with them. What a hypocrite!
So, I have made a decision. I’m holding onto my stock, and I’m going to do my share. As part owner of BP (no matter how infinitesimally small that part may be), I, too, will hang my head in shame and regret. I, too, will say, “I’m sorry.” I want my company to do whatever it can to make it right, even if I lose every cent of my investment. My integrity calls for me to put my money where my mouth is. It’s time to hold myself to the same standards I want the rest of the world to live up to.