A standard of behavior based on mutual respect becomes crucial in order to live a life of truth and meaning. If we all gave in to our impulses, our society would crumble. Of course, many attempt to justify their impulse-driven actions and rationalize them at an individual level. For instance, if an individual lends a friend a book but this person never returns it, in retaliation, the individual takes something of value from the friend when the opportunity presents itself. The individual can justify to themselves, and even say to the friend, I took this valuable item as a payback for the book you never returned.
If something like this happens only once, yes, we can let slide; however, if this symptomatic of other integrity eroding behaviors, the real question becomes, do you want friends who behave in that manner? Also, what does that behavior eventually do to you over time? How does it affect the way you think in regards to integrity?
It is important to maintain our code of conduct independent of others’ actions. The system of behavior we hold is to keep ourselves in check, regardless of how others decide to act. If others want to engage in destructive acts, we do not have to join in. Our action step can mean immediately getting away from those individuals and avoid being in their presence in the future.
When you are long enough around people who are dishonest or unethical, there could be a temptation to lower our beliefs due to these influences, but this can lead us down on a path to immorality and self-destruction. When uncertainty is prevalent, our values serve as an anchor to keep us in place and not drift off due to the tides of the moment.
A decision not to kill (outside of self-defense) strikes me as sensible. In most situations, taking life is an extreme response to a temporary problem. The majority of murders in today’s society are happening as a result of anger and greed. Domestic disputes or criminal conduct where that type of resolution of a problem comes as an expectation seem to cause most of these killings.
For law-abiding citizens who pay their taxes and work for a living, nothing in modern life should come to that point. Understanding the need to act on not killing means undertaking a lifestyle that supports that belief. Criminal behavior or engaging with individuals who do so becomes a non-grata. Knowledge of the importance of this step allows one to choose appropriate measures to avoid taking life outside of situations where evasion might not be a viable option.
A commitment to not stealing appears to serve as another obvious standard. If one has ever lived amongst thieves, you understand the danger of their presence. The mistake of dropping a ring or other valuable outside of your apartment door or accidentally leaving your gym locker open means those valuables are now gone. Usually, the issue is not really about the item; one can always replace material goods. The action of theft speaks to the lack of a moral center. It is a violation of civic trust. Trust serves as the bedrock of all relationships. The more trust one can have in an individual, the more risk one can take. For instance, if I have a business partner I trust entirely, the chances I take are significantly higher. Now imagine having a partner that you know is a thief; how much effort will you put into the business? Would you want that person handling the finances?
Thievery causes a breakdown in relationships. This kind of greed only serves the individuals committing the crime and hurts everyone else. An individual’s honor is worth more than any material item. Once people realize they cannot trust you, then the value you serve to an intimate relationship, company, or community instantly drops.
Sexual misconduct or abuse should be a behavior that should not even cross someone’s mind; but unfortunately, that’s not the case. The amount of damage and harm such conduct can have on victims’ lives and their families is difficult to quantify. Ramifications of sexual abuse can linger on for generations if the issues do not get adequately addressed – e.g., therapy, counseling, etc.. All kinds of chaos can spawn from this very greedy and selfish line of behavior. It goes without saying how the impact of this misconduct on people, especially children, can cause severe destruction in their lives. For all the misfortune that follows this type of conduct, we must keep our impulses under control.
There are many other ethical behaviors one can adopt to embody an honorable way of life. It goes beyond what one can list in an article. The vital action step becomes to undertake these beliefs and have self-awareness around your efficiency in meeting your standards.
Anyone can memorize eloquent words and then use them in a public setting to appear virtuous. The issue strictly resides with one’s Behaviors, not someone’s title or grandiose words. Our standards are ultimately for us, so we act as assets to ourselves, our loved ones, and society at large.
Ask yourself are you living up to your standards? If not, what are you willing to do to start being the person you know you really want to be?
Vertis Williams is a Positive Habits Life Coach and a Mindfulness Trainer. He is a regular presenter at employee and team-development events. Contact him to request more info on his Workshops or on his Coaching Services! Click HERE to Request a Complimentary Habit Coaching Session!