In a world of bad behavior, some rules to live by
In a world seemingly awash in bad news and behaviors, it is easy to forget some ethical high ground remains. But it does. If the parent of Western philosophy, Socrates, was right, ethics is essentially what we believe is the right way to live, and we do know from many times and cultures and religions there are some basic beliefs. Here are a few: • It is better to tell the truth than to lie.
• It is better to treat people fairly than mistreat them.
• It is better to live in peace than war.
• It is better to do no harm to all living beings than make them suffer needlessly.
• It is better to treat our planet respectfully than abuse it.
• It is better to be humble than haughty.
• It is better to think for yourself than be controlled by others.
• It is better to live a good life than waste it.
How do I know these things? Most of the world’s major spiritual traditions tell me so, but just as important I know these beliefs through my life — not just when I lived them but when I did not.
There is a kind of order to life, call it karma, in which good or evil will be returned to you.
I also know from my life experiences that being able to be clear about what one believes is only half the battle; the real struggle is in living the few basic beliefs that speak as loudly. How you live is just as important, if not more, than what you say you believe.
Cognitive dissonance. These are two somewhat obscure words when pieced together say a great deal about what’s wrong with our culture today.
The basic meaning of these words expresses what happens when you feel that what a person is saying is not what they believe, that they are trying to put one over on you.
There’s a more common word for this (B.S.) but there’s a great deal of it going around these days.
It’s fed by political leaders who seem unable to tell the truth, media outlets that only promote one side of any argument, or religious spokespeople who say one thing and live just the opposite.
In declining cultures, facts no longer matter, everything is relative, the only game in town is winning, and people in power prey upon others, especially the weak and vulnerable.
In vibrant cultures, facts matter, truth matters, everyone winning matters, and people in power serve others and not lord it over them matters.
It’s easy to be cynical, toss up one’s hands and retreat to some safe corner of your world thinking you can hide. You can’t. The other great truth of life is that everything is interconnected, including your corner of the world to the world community. So, what can you do? First, be clear about where you stand and what you won’t stand for. Second, speak out, call out those who say one thing and act differently.
It’s not just the squeaky wheel that gets the oil, but any oil at all.
And third, start with yourself; if you cannot be an ethical person, don’t lecture others about their faults. Look at your own first.
Here is one ethical rule I found in thirteen different world spiritual traditions that if applied could change our corner of the world:
Treat others as you wish to be treated.