Thursday, April 10, 2008

Integrity in a Dog-Eat-Dog World

The lack of judgment and personal responsibility that has led to the present housing debacle, as well as to the turbulence on Wall Street, have set me thinking about my own rules of integrity. What have I learned that rings true in a cosmic sense, not necessarily in a worldly sense?

I take my cue from the physician's Hippocratic Oath: "First, do no harm." I think this is an important concept for us all, not just physicians. I can't harm others and get away with it. This has nothing to do with whether or not I get caught, it has to do with the eternal balance of the universe, which will return to me what I have given. I might not like this, but I have to admit it 's fair. It will do me no good to be clever enough to hide the way or ways in which I'm doing harm. What I do will eventually come back to me like sheep returning to the fold. It may not happen immediately, but it will happen.

Most of the things I do, or that anyone does, are preceded by thoughts, emotions, and desires that impel us to act in certain ways to get what we want. If what we want harms others, it's easy to rationalize and convince ourselves that the end justifies the means. Well, it doesn't. The eternal balance of things never stops working. I might gain temporarily, or even for a long time, and become rich, or famous, or powerful, or whatever I think it is that I want. There are examples all around me. Those who step on others to get ahead seem to thrive. It's tempting to wonder how I could ever succeed without putting myself before others to get what I want.

But somewhere in my thinking and feeling about what I want and how I will get it, there is a place where the "rubber meets the road," that spot where I know I might do harm in some way, and where I either brush it aside and go on, or where I stop and take a closer look. When I was a kid and had a chance to take something without getting caught, I had to decide whether or not to do it. Not being too clear on the concept then, I took it. This happened in grade school, and it was someone's Girl Scout dues. What happened at the Girl Scout meeting showed me how much my stealing a quarter affected the person from whom I took it.

That was how I learned that even if you don't get caught, you still haven't escaped the consequences of what you do. If it hurts someone, you are responsible for it, and have set in motion an energy that will return to you, all in good time. This must be the way the Universe teaches us to treat other people the way we would like to be treated.

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