Posts Tagged ‘morals’
CHRISTIANS AND CORRUPTION
© 2011, Vicki Hinze
WARNING: This is a no-edit zone….
The news is rife with stories on corruption right now. Investigation upon investigation is underway. Story upon story breaks of corruption—money for payback on political support, political supporters receiving special favors, including the subordination of governmental loans, congressional members purportedly cashing in via insider trading tactics—there are so many mentions and reports of corruption it’s hard to keep them all straight and even harder not to be overwhelmed and feel hopeless for the fate of our nation.
Each person has a voice and has the right and opportunity to use it to oppose corruption on a national scale. That is a freedom we enjoy and many of us exercise it. Yet corruption isn’t simply a matter of corruption on a grand scale, it is also a matter of personal corruption and responsibility and accountability. And if you’re a Christian, you have a greater responsibility to oppose it. The following verse is a guide for Christians, and also a warning:
“If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” –2 Peter 2:19-21
Studying that verse in the context of the bigger picture—beyond self and into family, community, then nation—we see the responsibility we all bear, but the greater accountability on corruption on believers.
Note that “escaped.” That is a precise word, selected no doubt for a specific reason. We are all vulnerable. We all face temptation. If we are disciplined enough and fortunate enough to resist—it is a choice we make—then we have escaped the challenges associated with corruption and the resulting consequences of it. How many times have we heard that the cover-up was worse than the crime? There’s a reason for that.
You don’t have one corrupt act and then that’s the end of it. No, it’s like ripples on the water and the problems associated with the original act just widen, broaden and deepen.
Before we dare to think we’re not and never have been corrupt, we need to review our actions. Ever accidentally walk out of a store with something you intended to purchase and not go back in and pay for it? Ever accept the wrong amount of change and not return it? Ever note that something got missed and didn’t appear on your bill but not mention it to the sales clerk? What about getting a reduced price on something that shouldn’t have been reduced and not telling the cashier that your bill was less than you know it should be? Ever buy something from someone, owe payments on it, and just never repay them?
But those are just money-related corruptions. What about cheating on a test? Copying someone else’s work? Taking credit for someone else’s idea? Claiming something to be true that isn’t true? Rationalizing something you’ve done to justify doing something you shouldn’t have done? All of those things, and so many more, are corruption, too.
If you don’t know Christ and you do not escape corruption, that’s bad. But if you know Christ and don’t escape corruption, that’s worse. Why?
Because you know what you’re doing is wrong and you choose to defy Christ and do that wrong thing anyway.
We can forgive a child who makes a mistake. The child is an innocent with no malicious intent and simply knows no better. We are not absolved but are required to teach the child better so that in future the child has the knowledge and wisdom to protect him/herself.
You know I’m a simple woman, so I break big concepts into bites to digest. Okay, so a simple example to illustrate what I mean.
If a child touches a hot stove, the intent isn’t to harm the stove or to take advantage of the stove. It’s far more likely that the child is simply curious. Those of us who know if the stove is hot the child will be burned have a responsibility to warn the child that the stove could be hot and s/he could be hurt so s/he shouldn’t touch it.
Simple, yes. True, yes. If we have no intent to harm (the intentions in the heart make a huge difference in our spiritual responsibility) and we do not understand the spiritual consequences of our actions, then we are not dealt with as harshly as if our intentions are malicious and we do know those spiritual consequences and we act on them anyway.
When you know Christ (are aware [accessing His wisdom and knowledge]) and what you’re doing violates, and you choose to do it anyway (intention [exercising your free will choice]), then you’re held to a higher standard and are held more accountable because you do not have the innocence of a child.
You know better and act deliberately. That makes your actions more corrupt.
I’ve been thinking about this a great deal, as I’m sure many of you have, with word of corruption being in our faces at every turn. In the grand scheme of things we have and use our voices, and that is good. But we must also, I believe, start at home, start with us.
Christ loved the church—His people—and he despised corruption. We saw His reaction to it at the Temple when he upturned tables and expressed His outrage at the moneychangers for their disrespect. They were corrupt, dishonoring God.
In every life, every day, we are tempted. We make choices. And our choices carry consequences far beyond what they might appear at first glance. We need to look deeper. To really think about our actions and reactions. To weigh the real costs of corruption in our lives.
Joel Osteen gave a sermon once that spoke of expecting the best. He talked of being our best and doing our best. Of not settling but encouraging us to continue to aspire to be our best selves. There’s much wisdom in that advice. Note that we’re not passive people in the process. We’re engaged, working at being and doing our best. We’re aspiring, planning, striving.
I believe that corruption exists in our society because we tolerate it. If we didn’t tolerate it, it would stop. That’s not idealism, that’s practical impact. If the consequences of corruption were steep, few would willingly pay them. Instead, they’d modify their behavior and make wiser choices.
The challenge is we’ve been negligent in enforcing consequences. And doesn’t that too reek of corruption?
When we neglect to enforce consequences, we suffer a kind of diminishing return effect. It’s again like a child. If s/he asks for something and you say no, then no it is. But if the child asks again and again until you say yes, then you have a diminished return on no. It doesn’t mean anything because you’ve trained the child to nag you until you give in—and experience has taught that child that you will.
In this, there is the problem but there is also the complication of the problem which is the lack of enforcement. And while it’s easy to relate the real costs of corruption in physical terms, there are far more emotional costs and more still, as Peter told us, in spiritual terms.
The answer can’t be dictated or legislated. It has to begin within. In the mind and heart of each person. We have to gather wisdom and knowledge and then choose.
I’m working through this and the more I do, the more I see that every person has a direct relationship to the problem. To do nothing is doing something.
As it seems is so often the case, the examination of the challenge begins with the individual. Striving to make wiser choices, ones that are in line with Christ’s teachings, ones that do not minimalize consequences or suppress them.
From the time I was a little girl, my folks used to repeat the “every action causes a reaction” and the one about cause and effect. I wonder if people aren’t hearing those warnings anymore. I wonder if the elders aren’t speaking them.
I spoke to a friend on this subject this morning and she said that the still small voice we hear inside warns even those who aren’t believers that right is right and wrong is wrong.
The temptation is to agree. But I agree from the point who has had a lifetime of lessons and guidance on a path of faith. To me, that’s the Holy Spirit guiding me. Communicating with God. Yet I wonder for those who don’t have a basis—far too many are strangers to God and His Word—how those people identify that still, small voice. I wonder if they do instinctively know right from wrong when so many in influential capacities have lost their way and broken with even basic ethics, morals and values.
I know we’re poorer for it. As individuals, as a society, as a nation.
But we’re not all lost or hopeless or helpless. Our nation is ill; no disputing that. But it can be healed and we’re told of the restoration that will come as a result.
In that too, we’re not passive. We have to do our part and turn away from corruption and call down those who are corrupt. We need to use our voices constructively so that we might heal and then our land.
WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
Once upon a time there was a man named Charlie. He had a wife, children and grandchildren. Charlie lived his values, and his children did, and he hoped his grandchildren would. He was blessed in life and so when his grandchildren were old enough to enjoy a family vacation together, he took the whole bunch of them on one.
During the vacation, he and his littlest granddaughter were walking together and she spotted a shiny penny on the sidewalk. She stopped, bent down to pick it up, but then paused and left the penny on the concrete then ran to catch up with her grandfather.
He asked her why she hadn’t picked up the penny, fearful that she hadn’t learned the value of money. That she’d come back with a comment about it being “just a penny” and of little value.
She didn’t. She smiled up at him, and said, “I’m leaving it for someone else to find, Grandpa. I’m lucky enough.”
Grandpa, in relating this story to me, had a tear in his eye. His granddaughter knew the value of a penny and the value of values.
Charlie has passed on now, but he was gifted with knowing his granddaughter would do just fine in life. She understood the value of a penny.
When he related this story to me shortly before his death, I was moved by it, and it raised a question in my mind. When do the rest of us decide we’re lucky enough?
By nature we’re ambitious people. I think that comes to us in the survival instinct package. Ambition is a good thing. It encourages us to strive to be better, to tackle that which others deem impossible. It gives us the determination and drive to keep trying in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, to keep seeking solutions long after many would give up.
Ambition is a good thing. A healthy thing. But it is not blind.
Blind ambition not tempered by values—like integrity, compassion, ethics, morals—isn’t good or healthy. It is seeking some desired goal at any cost. Any cost. Hurting others, hurting yourself, leaving a heap of figurative corpses in your wake as you step over, around, or on them to get where you want to go. Blind ambition is shallow and the results, even if you manage to get where you wanted to go, are hollow.
You will never be fulfilled exercising blind ambition. It is the road to many things, but contentment or anything constructive is not among them. When you look back over your shoulder and see all those you stepped on, hurt, all the wrongs you committed to make the climb, you are no longer blind. You see every wound inflicted, every wrong done, and rather than contentment, you experience regret and remorse and self-loathing. You ask yourself, “How could I do that? Why did I do that? Look at the impact of what I did?”
Personal responsibility and accountability can be tough taskmasters, and you can’t escape them. They’re not coming from others, though they could. No, the toughest taskmaster pricking your conscience, weighing on your soul and wearying your spirit is within you. You can’t put it on ignore. You have to live with it. That’s the yang of blind ambition’s yin.
So the moral of this little chat is to address the question: “Are you lucky enough?”
Before you answer it, remember Charlie and his littlest granddaughter. Remember the penny.
But most of all, remember the value of the penny.
© 2011, Vicki Hinze
WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
These are tumultuous times. Everything and everyone is in an uproar over something or many things. If it isn’t hurricanes on the coast, it’s hurricanes on Wall Street and in Washington.
We look at this, and too often see only the bad. There’s plenty of it and since bad news sells, that’s what we hear most, so this comes as little surprise. It is however an unbalanced view and one that, if we don’t guard our minds, can drive us into despair.
As believers, we know that regardless of worldly influences, God is in control. We know that there is purpose and reason and that evil done to cause harm, He can turn for good.
We also know that this conversion process is two-part. We do our part, God does His–and He is respectful of our free will.
This is the best reason to guard our minds. If we focus on doom and gloom, God will respect it as our wish. If we focus on solutions and finding value or good in the opportunities brought to light, then He’ll respect that.
So the question becomes, What do we want respected?
You can look at the economy and see a lot of people have been hurt. I’m no exception. A dear friend asked me the other day if I’d been hurt by the stock market challenges. I replied that the best I can figure at the moment, I’ll have to work ten years after I die before I can retire.
Now, you might think that’s a bad thing, and it is. But what if instead, you think about it differently? Okay, so retirement and traveling is a pipe dream now. Honestly, it was just something to look forward to, not a passion, but maybe for others it is a passion. So for the sake of illustration, let’s say it was a passion and I’m bitterly disappointed about this.
I have two choices:
1. I can stay disappointed and live the rest of my life bitter.
2. I can look for something good and enjoy the rest of my life.
Staying bitter holds no appeal for all the obvious reasons. Dissatisfaction and discontent leads to a life of regret and disillusion until it’s too late to have a life to live. So I’ll take the looking for something good route.
Sounds easy, this choice. But it’s hard to find something good in losing a lifetime of savings that is evidence of years of hard work. But that’s on a physical level, and in the grand scheme of things, that’s a small share of eternity. So it’s wise to shift to a big-picture look on a broader canvas.
It’s in that broader canvas that I–that we all–can find something good.
Shifting focus, I ask, what will I do during these years I thought I’d be retired? What new purpose(s) will I adopt? What deeper purpose on my current purpose can I now reach for? What can I do now that I would not have been able to do before? What new dreams do I now have time and the motivation to pursue?
Looking ahead, I see opportunity, potential to continue to grow and be a positive influence. I see hope and I’m enthused. Actually, looking ahead, I’m excited.
Yes, there will be hard times. Yes, there are wrongs that need correcting. Yes, we do have a lot of work to do in every area imaginable. Entity upon entity failed, and they all need to be fixed. It won’t all be pleasant. It won’t all be fun. It won’t all be easy.
But let’s face it. In these areas, we’ve been lax and apathetic. Anything neglected is always going to need repair. We get to be a part of those repairs. We have a voice in deciding how they are repaired.
We get an opportunity to renew ourselves and to define or redefine our purpose. To really think about what we want to do with this “found” time. And we face all this knowing that God is with us and He’ll respect our focus and free will.
And maybe, once the shock passes and the fear settles, we will see that in these troubling events we have also been blessed with a divine gift:
The chance for a fresh start.
I’m going to embrace this chance. Grab that chance with both hands and hang onto the hope and promise it holds. I’m going to be grateful for it, because I know that in seeing this opportunity, for me, God has already turned the intended harm to a good thing.
The beauty of it is that for a long time I’ve worried that as a nation we were on the wrong road. Morals and values and ethics were sliding down that slick slope at warp speed. I don’t wish this meltdown had happened, but it has; it’s here, and that’s that. Now, we get a chance to think about where we’ve been and where we are and to decide if that’s where we want to be and if we’re heading in the direction we really want to go.
Collectively, we’ve suffered a gaping wound. Collectively, we can let bitterness keep the wound open and seeping (and suffer the infection that comes with it) or we can heal by focusing on what good can come from this. We know we’ll gain wisdom from knowing what got us here and what we learn on reshaping our futures.
We can have faith and focus on our personal and collective fresh starts.
c2008, Vicki Hinze
Warning: this is a no-edit zone…
For most of the past decade, I’ve been answering questions for other writers–nearly 2,000 of them, when you combine my library group and the Aids4Writers group at Yahoo. Some responses, I share with the others on the lists. Some are too specific and personal to share with anyone other than the person who asks.
Over the years, I’ve been asked just about everything that can be asked on the writing craft, the business, and about life as a writer. Many inquiries have set me to seeking expertise. Many have been heart-wrenching for the challenges presented in them. They’ve kept me on my toes, and a huge number of them have made me really think about many different things.
But in all these years, and in all these inquiries, I don’t think I’ve received one more sobering than one I received earlier today from a writer who clearly is in a hard place. And because I realize that it’s all too easy for all of us to awaken and discover ourselves in a hard place, I am addressing this through the group.
When I received this inquiry, my initial reaction was to fire off a response–quick–but I realized that careful consideration–thoughtful, careful consideration–was required. You see, this inquiry impacted the writer. Not just the work, or just one aspect of the writer, but regarded a topic so intricately woven into the fabric of the human being herself that it cannot be separated from the writer.
And something that significant requires all the care one has to give.
So I’ve spent the day thinking about this. Accomplishing little else, because the weight of this challenge is heavy; the burden bulky and unyielding. And so I’ll share with you now my thoughts on this issue, and I hope from all the recesses of my heart that it will be sufficient to help.
In examining deep characterization and focusing intently on bad qualities in people, the writer writes: “Only now I’m so incased in finding those bad qualities in people, I can’t see the good ones any more. Where did all the good people go, how do I draw those good and decent characters out so my stories have equal balance. NO, please do not tell me to let Calgone take me away; I seem to have lost sight of what balances the person. Suggestions welcomed how do I reconnect and write the good stuff again?”
When I read the full text (what’s above is an excerpt), I thought, this is one of the reasons so many writers become alcoholics and engage in drug use–to escape; seeking refuge. Many writers fall to depression. Many grow cynical and some despondent.
We don’t want to do any of that. It’s all destructive. We’re constructive people. And yet we do focus so intently, feel so deeply, engage so strongly that we can become victims of these things unless we take precautions–and unless we are disciplined in our actions and are determined to not become victims. It’s not easy to see, hear and feel all we do and not be adversely impacted. And yet our profession requires that we be impacted to write with clarity, conviction and authority. And that’s a paradox that often lands us center square in a dilemma.
We must engage. We can’t disengage and do our jobs well. So what do we do? How do we engage without becoming victims?
We control our engagements and, as I suggested in The Common Sense Guide for Writers, we write with passion and compassion–and that compassion includes being compassionate with ourselves. We write with passion or we aren’t convincing. We write with compassion because those we write about deserve it–it’s part of the respect package that every living thing deserves–and we, the human beings in the writers, require it.
So what we need are tools. Tips on how to do that. And what follows are a few. Note that most of these suggestions are perspectives and attitudes the writer can adopt. Note that they require perspective, mindset, discipline and compassion. Respect for self as well as others. Care, concern, compassion are as important as logic and analysis.
1. Objective Observer. Yes, we study people, their behavior, their actions and motivations. Yes, studying them intently is essential to portraying them in our stories. We get up close and personal. But that doesn’t mean that we absorb what we observe into ourselves. Only that we see, we recognize, we imagine.
Sometimes we do want to adopt new traits or opinions, ideas, attitudes as a result of our observations. But when we do, we should absorb those observations because they make us wiser and stronger people (positive attributes) and not negative ones.
So it’s important to look at people’s qualities–good and bad–and to seek to understand them. But it isn’t essential to us to make them our own. We have to try to be objective observers.
Seek the truth, see the truth, and know the truth. We relate it in our stories. But choose not to accept and absorb the negative aspects of that truth. It is not a part of us and can’t become a part of us unless we choose to make it so. Choose to be an objective observer.
2. Like attracts like. Whether it’s a magnet or thoughts, like attracts like. If you focus intently on negative qualities in people or in situations, that’s what attracts you.and what is attracted to you. It’s universal law. It’s scientifically explained. If all you’re seeing are bad qualities, it’s not because that’s all there is, but it’s all that’s attracted your attention and to all that you’re attracted.
Our protection is in turning this around and playing the flip side. Imagine a set of scales. One side is heavy with Bad qualities. The other side is empty. But if you place Good qualities on that side, the scales achieve balance.
So make a conscious effort balance the scales. That is essential to all human beings but particularly to those of us who spend so much of our time and lives in creative pursuits. Study bad qualities. But deliberately study good qualities, too.
Some writers are more susceptible to negative influences than others. If you’re extremely susceptible, then know it and actively counter it with balance. The fix need not be anything elaborate. In your mind, put a good quality on the scale. Or use a simple list. For each negative quality you add to the list, in an opposing column add a positive one. If the influence isn’t that strong, then study and balance simply by noticing the good qualities in others.
Little things make an enormous impact, particularly in comparison. An example: Today, I was watching the 9/11 coverage on the news. The tragic loss of life, the irrationality of bombing innocents, people jumping out of the towers, all the orphans and widowers and widows… I was as outraged as the day it all happened. Totally inflamed. And then on the screen before my eyes, I saw President Bush shaking hands with people. He stopped to talk to a teenage girl. She bent his ear a good while. He teared up, hugged her, talked and listened and hugged her again, giving her shoulder a fatherly, comforting pat. He walked down that line of people, hugging, kissing cheeks, comforting and caring. Now I won’t say I always agree with this man, but I will say that he’s a good comforter. I saw the change in the expressions in these people. I saw him tear up with them. And I suddenly noticed that I wasn’t as angry. Resolved, yes, as much as ever. After all, the bastards want us dead. But the anger had softened under compassion’s hand.
The lesson in that is to engage but let compassion’s hand soften so that you understand what you’re engaging from an insider’s perspective (passion) but compassion allows you to have a more balanced reaction.
3. We see what we expect to see. When you’re looking at human beings expecting to see bad qualities, you will. You’ll miss seeing the good (even a stopped clock is right twice a day, so there is good in everything) because you expect to see bad.
I’m reminded here of the self-fulfilled prophesy. “I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I can’t do it.” Tell yourself (or someone else) that enough, and they will be believe you. So much so that it’ll come to pass–you or they can’t do it–because your faith in it happening (or not happening) was resolute.
I don’t recall who said this, but I’ve had it written on my favorite quotes wall for years. “Image it and it will be.” We create first in thought and then act to make it manifest. That holds true whether we are manifesting something bad or good.
You made a conscious effort to notice the bad. Thought it, then acted on it. You created that notice of the bad. Make that same conscious effort to notice the good. You know you can create it–you’ve done it already so it is possible to create the notice in good. In creating both, you achieve balance.
We do see what we expect to see, so expect to see good.
I know a young man who had a penchant for trouble. Others expected him to get into trouble and he didn’t disappoint them. When I was consulted on how to help him turn his life around, my advice was simple: Expect his best–and let him know it.
He’ll make mistakes, we all do. But when he does, let him scrape his knees and then help him up and love him through it. Just never stop expecting his best. Why?
Expecting his best is expressing faith in him. Belief in his abilities, capabilities and his judgment. It’s saying, “I believe in you.” And that inspires people to rise to the occasion, to prove to themselves and to you that your faith in them is well placed. It must be sincere. It must be honest. But faith can and does move mountains.
You see, the truth is that you can’t change someone else’s course. Only they are at the helm of their ship, making their choices. But you can inspire them to make wise choices, to consider wise choices worth making.
5. Goodness is like happiness. It doesn’t come from without, it comes from within. It’s a choice we make. We can be good or see good with the same ease we can be or see bad. We decide.
In the 9/11 film footage yesterday, one viewed and experienced many emotions. Shock, fear, outrage–moments of unstinting heroism, deep sadness, great tenderness. In many, suffering the worst brought out the best.
Some experienced the full range of emotions witnessed, conjured. Some got stuck on shock or fear. Some were numb to the shock and outrage but deeply moved by heroism. Some mourned again, as if not five years but five minutes had passed.
Each person chose their reaction. Whether that reaction was deliberate and conscious or unconscious; one s/he drifted into and just stayed. Remember, no choice is a choice.
I’ve seen people whose lives were destroyed. Who had lost everything they owned. Who were dying and knew it. And they were happy. Not at the destruction or loss or at their own deaths, but at the choices they’d made and the lives they’d lived. They looked at their big picture–their entire life–and not the single if significant event–and had few regrets.
There is power in choice. Every day when you wake up, before you put your feet on the floor, you can choose to see good in people today. You can be determined to notice random acts of kindness, kindnesses, the things people do to reach out to one other.
I’m not suggesting you play ostrich and bury your head in the sand against anything bad. I’m not suggesting you play Pollyanna and pretend the bad doesn’t exist. I am suggesting that you choose how you react to good or bad. You choose how much of your focus and attention and emotion you grant it. Choose to see good in people. It’s there. Waiting to be noticed and taken out for a spin.
4. Define good. Society gives us what it deems definitions of good and bad. From the cradle to adulthood others define it, and the older we get, the more definitions we have because our circle of influence widens.
But their comes a time in our lives we don’t just accept or reject others’ definitions. We create our own. And, while we’re not to judge others because we don’t walk in their shoes, know all they know, feel all they feel, we do make judgment values.
Those values vary from person to person. We’re human, so we have a lot in common, and that typically extends to the judgment values we place on good and bad. But we have differences, too.
For example: One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. One’s act of kindness is other’s interference. One’s compliment is another’s insult.
In the same day, based on the same post, I’ve received notes that I’m a bleeding heart liberal and an uptight conservative. An idealist and too rooted in reality. I’ve gotten notes on my books that claim I know exactly what it’s like to be in that position, and ones that say I don’t have a clue.
The posts and the works haven’t changed. What is different is people’s perceptions. Their value judgments.
I can’t make value judgments for others. I wouldn’t presume to do that, or do it even if I had the power or ability to do so. That’s each individual’s right and responsibility. And isn’t it wonderful that it is?
You must decide what is good and what is bad. And resolve yourself to being aware of the difference. Goodness is within and without in equal measure. You can seek it in yourself, encourage it to emerge and nurture it–in yourself and in others. Or not. You choose.
All of this said, remember that we’re all human. We have flaws or we wouldn’t be, we’d be perfect. Judge harshly and you will see more flaws than goodness. But goodness is still there.
And so I close, hoping that this has been helpful. That it’s been enough, and it offers you the tools you need to again achieve balance. I hope that something in it inspires you to seek the good in people. Otherwise, you’re headed for a lonely, bitter existence. And that would be a tragic loss, to and for you, and for others whose lives you might have touched.
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