V is for Values
It is said that the measure of a man's true character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out. Being found out - having our misdeeds discovered, is probably the greatest deterrent to conduct that we know deep down is wrong to begin with. But what if we were certain no one would ever find out? Would it affect the choices you make each day about what to do and what not to do? Hopefully not, but probably yes to some extent.
Knowing right from wrong is fairly simple, living with those rules can be a bit harder. We all know "The Golden Rule", and most of us are familiar with "The Ten Commandments." They are sound, time-tested principles on how to conduct your life. And yet how many of us have struggled from time to time with some of those rules? We often tend to look for the "gray areas", ways that we can rationalize our behavior, which pretty much means coming up with excuses for why we didn't do it right in the first place. Sometimes there are mitigating circumstances or situations, but truly, honestly, usually we just blew it and are looking for ways to avoid the fallout.
Recently, someone I know of was involved in an illicit affair with another married coworker. Not only were they stepping across the lines of wise choices in pursing this relationship, but they were not being very careful about concealing their affair. We all know the signs and symptoms of people in the workplace who are just "much too close" for there not to be underlying reasons. The company they work for monitors the use of the company messaging system, as was clearly stated in their handbook. When supervisors needed further proof of the improper goings on, they needed only to review the exchange of messages between the two offending parties, to accumulate enough evidence to fire both of them, which is what happened. What a sad and embarrassing way to lose one's job. Imagine coming home trying to explain that to a spouse. Not much you can do to put it in a good light, is there?
The issue at heart is the values of the two people involved. Did they believe that what they were doing was ok, despite it being deceitful as far as their spouses were concerned? And, did they really think they wouldn't get caught? It's amazing how many people I know who go through life believing that they will never be caught doing some of the really dumb things they do! In an instant they can be proven so wrong, and end up fired, divorced, or in the case of illegal transgressions, end up in jail!
So it comes back to our core values. What tenants do we seriously adhere to when it comes to our own conduct and the conduct of those we associate with and have relationships with? For me, honesty ranks right up there at the top, as does openness. A half-truth is really not the truth at all, concealing part of the picture is deceitful.... it should perhaps be called a half-lie instead!
Dependability is another big one. I want to be the kind of person who follows thru and stands behind what I say. I don't want to make promises I can't keep, so I take care not to make ones I'm unsure of. I don't want people in my life who don't keep their word either.
Integrity is a big one - doing the right thing, rather than doing what you think you can get away with. If you know better than doing something... don't do it! I had a friend who is an alcoholic. He would ask his sponsor how to avoid falling back into a state of self-destructive behavior. His sponsor responded, "It is simple... don't take the first drink." Life is much like that in all areas, if we risk that first small step, the first tiny act that we know is wrong, it becomes so easy to break bigger and bigger rules. I don't trust people who try to hide behind small transgressions or overlook them in others. If you will tell small lies without it bothering you, you will tell big lies. If you will steal small things without it troubling your conscience, you will steal large things if the opportunity presents itself.
I could go on at length, but I think I'll stop with one more value that is important to me... compassion.... the ability to care about other people, to have a heart for their situations and their struggles. It is easy in our society that is bombarded with violence disguised as entertainment, etc, to become calloused to what we observe - those who inflict injury, be it emotional or physical, and those who are injured by it. It is important to me to stand up and say "It matters," and "I care". It is also important to me that the people I am close to feel the same way. If we are unwilling to take a stand against what is wrong, who will?
I want to be able to look in the mirror each night and know that I didn't consciously make wrong choices that day. Sometimes I will slip, sometimes I will fall, but always I will dust myself back off, readjust my attitude, and try harder the next day to be the kind of person I want to be. Having values, and trying to live by them is important. What we do with this time we call life matters... the choices we make individually affect us all!