I’ve long thought about developing my personal set of ethics and principles and actually writing them down, but I never got around to it until just now.
Naturally I would say I do have ethics and principles; I’m not just acting capriciously day in and day out. I do like to be spontaneous at times, but even then I am generally guided by certain principles and concerned about how I may affect others. However, if I have a “code” of ethics, to this point I must admit it is rather nebulous, as a whole, because I haven’t really organized my thoughts. My blog is the perfect medium for me to delineate the shape of such a code, because I seem to think most clearly when I am writing. I know, I know, it may not seem like I am at all clear, ha ha…
One caveat before I begin: I really have little idea of how this will turn out, and I may not have time to get even a small fraction of the way to a point I would consider “completion”, because I have a good movie to watch tonight, so my time is limited. That’s OK, because by my way of thinking, a code of ethics can be rather open-ended and constantly evolving. I need not place artificial constraints on it, such as “There must be 10 Commandments, no more no less!” I will go as far tonight with this as I feel like going, and I reserve the right to edit and modify it later or really at any time. 🙂
First of all, it seems as though it should go without saying that I value the “Golden Rule”. I wish to treat others as I wish to be treated, which is to say with love, respect, compassion and understanding. The difficulty with this, over time, is hanging on to this principle for dear life, even when I feel that others are not applying it toward me. I take things way too personally at times and get frustrated with some people, and so I can’t say I always do a good job at patience. Of course I appreciate it when people are patient with me, when I screw up, and I want to do better at returning the favor.
Love — the principal here is that it must be unconditional to be true. No strings attached. I have been terrible at this in many ways over the years. The older I get and the more I write my blog, the more evident it becomes that this is can be a big rut for me. I’m trying so hard to critique myself constantly in terms of asking, “Am I doing this truly just to be good to someone, or am I subconsciously expecting something in return?” I feel so much better about myself when I can honestly pass this litmus test.
Respect — there are many forms and ways in which we can all respect and disrespect people every day. I think I do well at this one, when I grade myself. One example of this ethic is that I do not comment negatively on others’ physical appearance, and I do not comment at all even if they themselves are doing it at the time, like in a group of friends joking about how “out of shape” they are. I think it is disrespectful for a number of reasons: (a) if someone complains or even just “jokes” that they are fat or bald or whatever, I do not believe in reinforcing their own potentially harmful, negative self-image; (b) I honestly try to see the best in people, and I do not care what their outer appearance is; I care about what is in their heart; (c) who am I to judge, anyway? so I don’t; (d) I’m convinced that we all, to some degree, believe that there is at least some truth in every “joke”, such that if I join in, I risk hurting others when they think to themselves, “hey, maybe he really thinks I am a klutz” (or overweight, or what have you). Likewise, I wish to be treated with respect, and deep down I would rather not hear how skinny I am, because I can’t even help it, it’s genetic, and I’ve always been this way. Furthermore, I don’t think skinny is better! I would rather have more meat on my bones so that if I get old I won’t whither away!
Compassion and Understanding — I try to be a good listener, and I really try to set aside my own constructs and to put myself in the other person’s shoes, as they are describing their situation. It’s OK to “relate” by explaining my own experience and comparing it with theirs, but only to show why I feel I am even qualified to understand their problem, not to hijack the conversation and make it about me. I think I do fairly well at this, and my friends and family are generally good listeners as well. The other part of this ethic is learning how to convey compassion without being condescending, patronizing, or self-righteous. Good listening is an art and science — which I have not yet mastered — that requires saying as little as possible but also just the right thing at just the right time in order convince the other person that one is really listening. I do horribly at this with my wife sometimes (truly sorry, Karen, and I continue to work on it). On the other hand, at times I do really well, like when I am doing my Hospice volunteer work.
That’s the first part of my code. The next part, I think, will deal with more specific, day-to-day type situations that benefit from what I consider to be good ethics.