The four in­sid­i­ous ob­sta­cles to eth­i­cal sta­bil­ity

The Signal - - OPINION - David W. HEGG David Hegg is se­nior pas­tor of Grace Bap­tist Church and a Santa Clarita res­i­dent. Eth­i­cally Speak­ing” runs Satur­days in The Sig­nal.

Ever leave a sit­u­a­tion or con­ver­sa­tion and re­gret the way you acted? Ever found your­self won­der­ing “why did I say that, or act that way?” You’re not alone! We all can look back on things we said or did that were not the best rep­re­sen­ta­tion of who we re­ally are, or at least want to be.

What we want, in all cir­cum­stances, is some­thing called eth­i­cal sta­bil­ity. That is, the abil­ity to re­main sta­ble and bal­anced, act­ing and re­act­ing in line with our per­sonal ethics re­gard­ing good be­hav­ior. Eth­i­cal sta­bil­ity re­sults when we act in con­form­ity to our in­ter­nal set of per­sonal be­liefs and stan­dards, rather than al­low ex­ter­nal cir­cum­stances and sit­u­a­tions to in­cite us to un­eth­i­cal be­hav­ior. Eth­i­cal sta­bil­ity demon­strates it­self in a high level of self-con­trol.

But, even the most eth­i­cal peo­ple can lose con­trol of self when cer­tain un­eth­i­cal tox­ins find a place in their souls. These tox­ins di­lute the very con­vic­tions meant to pro­vide sta­bil­ity in sit­u­a­tions where cir­cum­stances en­tice us to re­act badly. We would all do well to rec­og­nize and guard our­selves against these in­sid­i­ous in­vaders which, if al­lowed, will bur­row deeply into our hearts and minds leav­ing us sus­cep­ti­ble to be­hav­ior we will later re­gret. Here are a few of them.

Bit­ter­ness ranks high among those at­ti­tudes which, if al­lowed to re­main, can turn a bal­anced, joy­ful per­son into a time bomb. We’ve all felt it, that ca­pac­ity to go off on some­one in a way that even sur­prises us. Bit­ter­ness is the residue of wrongs suf­fered that we in­ten­tion­ally store up in or­der to feel good about act­ing badly. Bit­ter­ness seems like jus­tice to us, since for­giv­ing and for­get­ting would mean the other per­son got away with it. But ac­tu­ally, bit­ter­ness is an acid that eats its con­tainer, bit by bit, plung­ing the soul into a sea of seething cyn­i­cism and out­right ha­tred. And we all know how pow­er­ful such a con­coc­tion can be, and how dis­rup­tive to re­la­tion­ships.

De­fen­sive­ness is also the enemy of bal­anced, be­lief-based self-con­trol. We’ve all been around those peo­ple who have an ex­cuse for ev­ery­thing and are quick to launch a scathing at­tack on any­one fool­ish enough to cri­tique or cor­rect them. This de­fen­sive pos­ture is re­ally the fruit of the root we call pride. Once ar­ro­gance gains an up­per hand in the mind, even the strong­est con­vic­tions to the con­trary can be mauled by this lion of the soul. If we are to be good neigh­bors, good hus­bands, wives, and par­ents, and good cit­i­zens, we sim­ply must beat down our pride with the twin ham­mers of ac­cu­rate self-anal­y­sis and hu­mil­ity.

A third ob­sta­cle to eth­i­cal sta­bil­ity is a soft prag­ma­tism demon­strated too of­ten in the easy and fre­quent use of de­ceit. By this I mean the habit of telling lies, big or small, when­ever con­ve­nient. It can be half-truths, ex­ces­sive ex­ag­ger­a­tion, eva­sive pre­var­i­ca­tion or sim­ple, straight for­ward, bold-faced lies. And while there are myr­iad rea­sons such habits are just plain wrong, they also make hash out of any set of eth­i­cal bound­aries. Ha­bit­ual de­ceit de­fines a per­son with no in­ner con­sis­tency, no ad­her­ence to any rules of au­then­tic re­la­tion­ships, and cer­tainly no sense of ac­count­abil­ity to the most ba­sic stan­dards of right and wrong.

Lastly, I would call guilt a mas­sive ob­sta­cle to per­sonal eth­i­cal sta­bil­ity. Where guilt re­sides, it does so be­cause we have be­come so adept at ra­tio­nal­iza­tion. Guilt can be dealt with and re­moved, but only when ad­mis­sion, con­fes­sion, and resti­tu­tion are ac­com­plished in full. But, in­stead we ra­tio­nal­ize away the re­al­ity, and de­ceive our­selves into think­ing we can mask the guilt. But it fes­ters, and grows, and be­comes the erup­tive fuel for out­bursts of anger and other poi­sonous be­hav­iors that ul­ti­mately, leave us with the added guilt of re­gret.

So, what do we do? Re­main vig­i­lant against bit­ter­ness, over­com­ing it with for­give­ness. Un­der­stand what a hy­per de­fen­sive pos­ture says about you, and re­al­ize cor­rec­tion is ac­tu­ally one way to be bet­ter. Be in­ten­tional about telling the truth, re­gard­less of the con­se­quences, and be­come a per­son who doesn’t need to lie about who and what they are. Lastly, rid your soul of guilt through sin­cere con­fes­sion and resti­tu­tion. Af­ter all, the God who made us also of­fers to us for­give­ness through faith in Je­sus Christ. Seems to me that’s an of­fer worth con­sid­er­ing, and a model worth im­i­tat­ing.

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