By Erin Hansen

The Rotary 4-Way Test is a central part of Rotary and was created to aid Rotarians to maintain their high ethical standards in both their business and personal lives. There are four questions we ask ourselves:
1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
The thing is, you need to be able to say YES to all four questions. It’s a great way to make sure you are demonstrating integrity in what you do. This isn’t always easy, but it is good for the soul. Here’s an entertaining example…

My dog Scooby loves to dumpster dive. He’s smart enough that he has figured out how to open the cupboard door, and get into the garbage can. Most of the time, he is able to demonstrate some self-control, but once in a while - especially if bacon grease is involved - he just can’t help himself.
Now, if Scooby were a Rotarian he might be able to use the four-way test to help him stay away from that tempting debris. For the first question, “Is it the truth?” Scooby could ask himself, “Hmmmm... do mom and dad like it when I dumpster dive? Truthfully, is this a good choice?” If the answer is not yes, he should refrain. However for Scooby, this is just too much. He is not after all, a Rotarian.

The truth question can be applied in another way as well, which is worth mentioning since like dogs, Rotarians can also make mistakes. This means being accountable for your error and trying to make up for it. For instance, when we find dog-drool sodden garbage shredded into little bits all over the carpet, Scooby could tell us the truth. He could own up and help us clean up the mess. He could learn from his mistake, make reparations, and try not to repeat it. This is what a Rotarian would do.

For the second question, “Is it fair to all concerned”, Scooby could ask himself…
"Hmmmmm….When I dumpster dive, I drag the garbage over to my favourite treat eating spot on the carpet. The carpet will need to be cleaned. Is this fair to mom and dad, who will have to clean up my mess? Also, the garbage I eat will likely include things that, though tasty, will make me sick. I might need to go to the vet. Is this fair to me?" The answer to both these questions is a resounding “NO”. Granted, itmight be fair to the vet, who will save the day and get thanked, but it’s not really fair to anyone else.

Next we have the third question, “Will it build goodwill and better friendships?“ Clearly, Scooby dragging garbage all over the floor will not build goodwill from our perspective as dog parents. Even if Scooby had a little dog friend who happily partook in the feast, this really isn’t fair to that dog either. They will both end up getting in trouble. Scooby needs to think long term, as well as short term and consider multiple perspectives. 

Finally the last question, “Will it be beneficial to all concerned?” Although it may be beneficial for Scooby (and potentially his little doggie brother) to enjoy a wonderful forbidden treat, it is not beneficial for anyone else. On the contrary, once we doggy parents find out about it, we will be annoyed and disappointed. Even if we don’t find out about it, I’m sure Scooby will probably feel guilty and ashamed. This will not be good for Scooby’s mental health.

Obviously, most ‘people scenarios, are much more complex than whether or not to dig out that decadent greasy paper towel from the garbage can. This makes it even more important to pause and consider the Rotary 4-Way-Test. Sometimes it’s hard to remain mindful of it in everything we do, but it’s a great habit to get into and is why you can trust a Rotarian.