Self-Growth: Building Character And Integrity

ace mindset Sep 05, 2021

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It's been said that character is defined by what you do when you think no one is watching. What an illuminating concept that is.

Many people have a public face and a private face. 

There are always going to be parts of ourselves we don't want the world to see. Typically, we tend to hide the aspects that would not be viewed favorably by society.  A well-adjusted individual would not comfortably show their sense of greed, lust, jealousy, pettiness, fear and so on. We also tend to hide our weaknesses. Unless we are participating in an eating contest, no one needs to know that we can wolf down a gallon of ice cream in an hour, do they? (unless that's you thing - no judgement here) ;-)

Most people are "good" at their core; decent, loving, compassionate and kind. However, even those we perceive to be good people are capable of unspeakable acts. How many times have we heard a convicted murderer's family member or friend say, "I just can't believe he would be capable of something like that. It's so unlike him." The killer projected one identity to the world, while secretly they were someone else entirely. 

Okay, most of us are not murderers. Yet, even those of us who would be considered "good people" often think nothing of stealing, cheating on our mates, or worse. What does that say about our character? Is it wrong only if we get caught?

How many times have you done something that you probably wouldn't have done if others had been there to see it? Would you feel embarrassed if these things were brought to public awareness? Did you act on your impulses only because you felt sure no one would ever find out?

In some earth religions, there is only one imperative: Harm None, at least not purposefully; which basically covers all angles in two words. Do nothing that would cause harm to yourself or another. Seems simple enough. 

Yet, in these examples there are gray areas, aren't there? Sometimes it's hard to tell what's right or wrong. If we find money on the street and pick it up, is that stealing? Does it make a difference if it was $5.00 or $5000.00? If we lie to protect someone's feelings, is that wrong? If we take some paper clips home from the office, is that stealing? Does it "harm" the company, really? If we point out the mistake of a colleague to save the project, is that mean? Would it have been better not to speak up and wait for the colleague to be ready to hear it then tell them to fix it before pointing it out to the group?

In situations like these, how do we know the right course of action? How do we balance integrity with our impulses and desires, especially when we have good intentions in the first place? I think it can help to examine our motives and the possible consequences. What is our intent in each situation? What do you hope to gain from it? Could our actions harm another, or ourselves? If our actions became public knowledge, would you be okay with that?

Maybe some of you are rolling your eyes, thinking, "What's the big deal? So what if I take a few things from work, or embarrass my colleague? What they don't know won't hurt them." That may be true, but doesn't it hurt you in the long run? Don't those actions detract from the kind of person you are? Don't they dim your inner light? If it's true that we are all connected, then isn't it also true that harming another means harming ourselves? By disrespecting others, we disrespect ourselves. We are our own judges. In the deepest part of ourselves, we know right from wrong.

We're not perfect, and no one is expecting us to be. We all make mistakes and do things we are later ashamed of. We are human, after all. But there is a big difference between making a mistake, and purposely doing something we know is wrong or will hurt someone’s reputation, for example. We may try to fool ourselves at times and justify our actions. Maybe your colleague doesn't want to go to happy hour with you or spend time talking about other colleagues with you, so you try to convince yourself that it's okay to have to point out the mistakes they make. Or your employer gives you a crappy raise, so you decide to make up for it in other ways, like stealing supplies or transferring funds from a budget to keep a subordinate from being successful with their project. They asked for it, right? You certainly have the right to do these things, and probably no one will stop you. Our greatest gift in life is Free Will. Unfortunately, it is also often our greatest curse. There are always consequences to our actions, whether they come now or later.

In the end, it's all a matter of personal accountability. Do we want to be a person of character, or not? It doesn't matter if we get caught or not. What matters is that we are defined by our actions. If I take something that doesn't belong to me, I am a thief. If I cheat my colleague out of their reputation, I am a jerk. If I don't want to get caught, I probably shouldn't do these things in the first place. The truth has a way of making itself known.

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Want to know more about Alignment?  Check out my podcast episode.  This time, I'm the guest!

Alignment & Success Strategies for a Healthy Work Experience

July 21st, 2021

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