Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking Column • For January 16 weekender, 2016
Some Ethical New Year’s Resolutions
David W. Hegg
I almost titled this column “Things I Wish I Knew When Young” but the fact is, these are all things my parents infused into me during my formative years. They are things I did know, but only now as I near the end of my sixtieth year am I able to look back and see how really valuable these ethical principles have been in my life.
So, in a humble attempt to put some things out there that have helped me along the way, here are a few suggestions for New Year’s Resolutions aimed at sharpening your ethical vision.
Be the person good people are drawn to: Almost all of my personal joys and success to this point have come about because of the love and support of the people surrounding me. While I have no research to back it up, I strongly believe a preeminent factor is attaining happiness and success in life is associating with good people. Much of life is related to influences, either good or bad. Surround yourself with selfish, wonton, undisciplined, vulgar, lazy, arrogant people and you’ll soon find their deficiencies have taken you down the wrong path along with them. And the further you go down the wrong path, the fewer good options will be open to you.
On the other hand, if you fall in with those who are honest, upright, kind, enterprising, disciplined, studious, compassionate, generous, and joyful, you’ll find their strengths to be contagious. There’s only one problem. Those great kind of people want to hang out with other great people. So, set your mind to be a great person. Set your standards high, push yourself to be better each year, and be the kind of person good people are drawn to.
Live for the future, but not in it: This one is a bit tricky. Living in the future means always considering that true happiness and success will come when some future achievement becomes a reality. It is an easy trap to fall into but ultimately it robs today of meaning. If you always see success as over the next hill, your days will always be a bit disappointing. Don’t minimize today by dreaming of tomorrow.
On the other hand, we all should be living for the future. That is, making the most of today in light of its place as preparatory for whatever the future holds. It means making sure that my choices today don’t limit my options tomorrow. Make sure that, in a year or so, when you look back on today, your have no regrets over how you used it
And as you live for the future, but not in it, don’t let yesterday use up too much of today. Yesterday is a cancelled check. Tomorrow is a promissory note. Today is cash, so spend it wisely.
Learn to love hard work, and work hard to love well: Many of the relational fractures occurring today pit our work against our relationships. Too many men and women with unsatisfactory relational lives throw themselves into their jobs thinking financial success and the admiration of peers can be an adequate substitute for love.
The truth is these two necessary components of happy living are not enemies, but allies. A vibrant, satisfying marital relationship only enhances the satisfaction of career. But, they both take focus, discipline, and a consistent and intentional conviction that hard work is essential. Few things are more satisfying than the work-life balance where both going to work and coming home to love are exciting. And don’t forget. Someday your career will come to an end, but if done well, your marriage will still be blooming.
Live in light of the “two-ism” of the universe: Peter Jones has summed up the prominent worldviews of our day as either “one-ism” or “two-ism.” Before deciding what your ethical framework should be, you’ll need to determine whether or not you’ll ever be held accountable for your behavior in this world. After all, working hard to live ethically presupposes there are actual standards of right and wrong not subject to the changing whims of society.
“One-ism” describes the worldview that assumes there is only one component in the universe, and it is material. All things have come about through material processes, through random occurrences, and thus, there ultimately is no true accountability to anything outside ourselves.
“Two-ism” teaches there is the material universe, and there is also the Creator who brought it into being, and holds humanity responsible for the way they live in light of his position as the creator and sustainer of life.
Adherents of “one-ism” are confident there are no ultimate standards, but only the changing desires of society. In that case, there is no compelling reason for ethical living except selfish wellbeing. But, if “two-ism” is true, not only do right and wrong exist, we’ll all be called to answer for the way we have lived. My advice is to live in a manner worthy of the One who gives to all life and breath and every good thing.