JS Tip 51: Avoiding Stupid II The Four-Way Test

The test, which has been translated into more than 100 languages, asks the following questions:

Of the things we think, say or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?  

I personally never thought about Rotary Clubs until I started going to Uganda.  All over Uganda are Rotary signs around schools, clean water projects, medical centers and local community projects everywhere. Rotary Clubs all over the world are are helping people all over the world.  I guess doing good deeds and helping people is not very controversial, so it is not reported as much as it should be.  And unfortunately, most charities have to have a big name celebrity to get any press at all.  That is just the way it is.   BUT,,,LET'S JUST IMAGINE, WHAT IF, politicians were required to be in a Rotary Club.  Rotary has what is called   "THE FOUR WAY TEST" OF THE THINGS WE THINK, SAY OR DO.



Sounds simple enough  Tell the Truth.  Not a "Spin" on the truth.  Not a portion of the truth.  Not what the politician thinks the public, "the little people", the "masses", need to know of the truth, but tell the Truth.  TELLING THE TRUTH seems to be a huge stumbling block for the vast majority of our politicians.



There again, these words can bring a cold chill down the backs of our politicians.   One would hope that the "ALL CONCERNED" would mean "THE PEOPLE" of the county, state, and nation.  Sadly, a good portion of our politicians might interpret  "All Concerned" as the Lobbyist, and the people paying the politician under the table in corporate stock or goods or cash in a safety deposit box.  You will have to pardon me for being cynical, but I think most politicians would like to change "is It Fair To All Concerned" into "What's In It For Me"



Now God knows, if there is one thing politicians want to do, it is to build goodwill and better friendships...so they can get re-elected.  BUT, and there is a BIG BUT here..If they don't follow steps one and two, they are building  the "perception" of goodwill and better friendships with lies and deceit.  



This is really sad.   Maybe it is just my political lack of experience, but it seems to me that the Republicans ONLY want things to be beneficial to Republicans and Democrats ONLY want things to be beneficial to Democrats.  I get e-mails on a daily basis from both parties.  I can't believe how they tear each other down.  It is really horrible, both parties should be ashamed of themselves.  My fear is that our elected officials would rephrase test number four to read "Will It Be Beneficial To ME, ME, ME".


I am aware that our politicians probably have more information on the issues than I have access to,  but wouldn't it be nice if we could trust them to tell the truth. 

I have seen wonderful and incredible projects all over the world that have been done by Rotary Clubs.  I'm just saying...Would it not  be nice if our politicians  were members of a Rotary Club and followed "The Four Way Test."

I was asked to do a short talk at Rotary today on the third part of the Rotary 4 Way Test: will it build goodwill and better friendships. You might find a tidbit. The 4 Way Test was not invented for Rotary and it fits all of us.

Quotes on friendship:

"One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives."- Euripides, Greek playwrite

Think about your best friend, current or past? What made him or her so special?

"A true friend stabs you in the front."- Oscar Wilde

From Rotary website: In 1932, Herbert J. Taylor wrote down four questions on a small white piece of paper to serve as an "ethical yardstick" for his employees. His simple creation has come to be known as The Four-Way Test. Revered by Rotarians, it has been translated into more than 100 languages and recited weekly at club meetings around the globe

The 4 way test is the filter thru which everything we say and do is filtered.

My topic is: does it build goodwill and better friendships. Why does it matter is we build goodwill and better friendships?

Sam Hemphill, distant relative. Gave copy to children. He went to Wharton, and I didn’t even know what that meant. He wrote pamphlet entitled The Worth of a Man. What has a man been worth to his friends? Has he refrained from indulging in the easy habit of discussing with others the misfortunes and frailties of his friends? Or has he refrained from such practices by always being supportive during the misfortunes of his friends and rejoicing in their accomplishments and happiness? Have his friends been able to trust him and consider him an honest man? Has he been aware of the needs of these friends when a card or a word of encouragement means so much? Have they been the type of friends who know the man and still consider him their friend?

I get the opportunity to volunteer with a first grader at school through Communities In School. The teacher says point to who you are responsible for. Kids point to themselves. True in 1st grade, but in society, it does take a village. We have to look out for each other.

When George’s tenant left the window open and it was raining like mad, I felt compelled to stick my nose in and get word to George. I’d want him to do the same for me.
That reflects our Christian heritage. I’m not a preacher, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express. Sounds a great deal like the Good Samaritan. We are our brother’s keeper.

Does everything have to be one up and one down, one winner and one loser? Is there an opportunity to have a win-win? Collaboration, good will and friendships, can create a win-win. Or at least it gives us something to strive for.

I am a pragmatist. The real world doesn’t always work that way but it gives us a better path to travel. Does it build good will and better friendships?

Letter in Rotary magazine:
I read with interest your article about The Four-Way Test, but here is why it is wrong and should not be promoted by Rotary: 1) Is it the TRUTH? The truth is variable. It used to be the “truth” that the world was flat. And if you didn’t accept that truth, you were burned at the stake. Then for many years it was taught that the world was round. Now they say it’s elliptical because of the pull of gravity. Which is true? 2) Is it FAIR to all concerned? This seldom works. Is it fair to the villagers in Afghanistan when we have to bomb out a house where terrorists are hiding? The fact is that in life, you can’t always be fair to all concerned, and you have to try to make a good decision about what is best for the majority of people. Or, perhaps, your group. 3) Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? Lawyers know that this is not the way the world works. When there is a dispute, to settle it in an amicable way, one has to reduce the level of unfairness that each party feels, and get the parties to agree to something they don’t like and don’t feel is fair but will accept to avoid further stress and conflict. Arbitrators often say that a good settlement is one where both sides feel cheated. It doesn’t build goodwill, and it certainly doesn’t lead to better friendships, but it does decrease stress and conflict in society. The backslapping, salesman type who is always trying to be liked and create goodwill is a thing of the past, if that sort ever existed. 4) Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned? This is certainly not the way the world works. Almost invariably, what is good for one person is negative for another. There may be some “win-win” situations in life, but it’s important for mature people to realize that not every action can be beneficial or even fair to all parties concerned, and that for life to move forward smoothly, some people have to sacrifice. Merv Hecht Santa Monica, Calif., USA

More friend quotes:

"Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies."- Gore Vidal

"There is nothing in the world I wouldn't do for (Bob) Hope, and there is nothing he wouldn't do for me ... We spend our lives doing nothing for each other."- Bing Crosby

In Sunday School this week we talked about Joy mentors vs joy killers. There are people in the world who bring joy, share joy, make us laugh or smile. They instinctively work to build good will and better friendships. And many of those joy mentors aren’t Rotarians. But the principle didn’t start with Rotary and it certainly works outside Rotary as well as within. Conversely, joy killers are those people who are never happy and perennially negative: the black holes of our little universe.

Many of you saw or met our dog Friday night at Pottery 101. In her advancing age, she has learned to ride our elevator and to bark her way down to the 1st floor. You can teach an old dog new tricks.

Are we joy mentors or joy killers. While it’s hard to change, killers can become mentors. Us old dogs can learn new tricks.

I am interested in how we can continue to build goodwill and better friendships: get to know that new Rotarian, stop and speak, rotate seats a bit, refer business to each other, visit a sick Rotarian? How about in our home lives, in our business lives?

Most of you remember Albert Monroe, a former Rotarian who died a few years back. Sent a note to Hickory welcoming me as their new neighbor before we even moved to town. It was addressed to Ted, Cheryl, Meggie, and the daughter in college. Albert’s note created goodwill and friendship ripples ever since. I tell that story often, and have failed but tried to be a better neighbor and friend in memory of Albert. In my few years knowing Albert, he exemplified the 3rd of the 4 way test, to build goodwill and better friendships. I welcomed my new neighbors the day they moved in. Albert is rubbing off!


The Four-Way Test of what we think, say or do:
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?

This was developed in 1932 by Herbert J. Taylor who was a dedicated Christian businessman in Chicago. It has been translated into over 100 languages and adopted by numerous business and institutions around the world. Perhaps the best known among them is Rotary International which holds the copyright. The Test is applicable to personal, business as well as international relations.

Herbert J. Taylor (April 18, 1893 – May 1, 1978) was the creator of the 4-Way Test of the Things We Think, Say or Do in 1932. This 24-word statement of business ethics was devised in twenty minutes as he set out to save the Club Aluminum Products distribution company from bankruptcy. He was a member of the Chicago, Illinois USA Rotary Club at the time, and later became President of his Rotary club and then District Governor.

In 1944, when he was an international director of Rotary, he offered the Four Way Test to the organization, and it was adopted by Rotary for its internal and promotional use. He served as President of Rotary International in 1954-55. The Four Way Test has been promoted around the world and is used in myriad forms to encourage personal and business ethical practices.

Never changed, the 24 word Four Way Test remains today a central part of the permanent Rotary structure throughout the world, and is held as the standard by which all behaviour should be measured:






Taylor was born in Pickford, Michigan, went to high school in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and later worked as a Western Union messenger boy and then as a telegraph operator.