Friday, October 8, 2010

Doing What's Right Even When it's Hard

It's really easy to be moral, ethical, kind and generous when everything is going well. When life is good, it's easy to be charitable. When you have plenty of money and you make a mistake, it's easy to make it right.

The real test of character isn't how you handle yourself when times are good. It's whether you can keep up your principles when life sucks. When you make a promise in times of plenty, do you keep it later on when times have turned tough? If you make a mistake when you're broke, do you make it right even though it's not easy?

It seems like every time I turn around these days, yet another pastor, bishop or pope is making the wrong choices, showing that when the chips are down, their morality was a mere facade. Rather than having the deep, solid morality that we expected from these pillars of the religious community, they've shown that their morals are shallow. Rather than deeply held principles, they have situational ethics.

The Pope's cover-up of the pedophilia scandal, which CNN has exposed even more last week, showed us that when the Roman Catholic Church was faced with protecting its children or itself, it abandoned the children. The truly honest response would have been full disclosure, the very day the first pedophile priest was caught.

It seems that every time Congressmen, Senators or Presidents are caught with their pants down, instead of honestly admitting his mistake, their first response is to deny it happened. Rather than being honest, they rationalize and lie.

When BP's oil well blew up, their first response was to pretend it wasn't all that serious, that the leak was something like ten percent of the actual flow. A truly honest response would have been to say, "We don't know, but we'll find out. It looks bad," and then get to work to fix the problem and let their scientists speak without censorship.

Where do these people learn their morals? In church? I only went to church a few times in my youth, mostly when visiting grandparents who insisted. In fact, none of my brothers and sisters, children, nieces and nephews spent any significant time in church, yet I'm proud to be part of this family. When the chips are down my family members always do the right thing. When we make a mistake, we apologize and make it right. If we hurt someone or something, we do whatever it takes to fix the hurt. We back each other up. If someone has a trouble, we're all there to help.

You don't have to go to church to know what's right. You just have to be a good person.


  1. Nice Blog. I just quoted it at City of Angels blog and linked back to you.

  2. Hi Kay ... thanks, I'm glad you liked it and hope your readers did too.

  3. Nearly 30 years ago a friend of mine was dating the daughter of the owner of one of the largest car dealerships in Las Vegas. I met the man at his house and we had a fun & freewheeling 20 minute conversation while waiting for the young lady to get ready for the evening out.

    At the end of our chat he offered me a job as a salesman (despite my longhair bearded biker appearance).

    He told me, "I guarantee you that you could make a million dollars a year working for me."

    Even though I was unemployed and desperately needed a job, I replied, "I guarantee you that I couldn't. I have a compulsion to only speak the truth."

    His jaw dropped. then he smiled and said, "I guess you're right."

  4. I too am frustrated by the belief system that suggests that being religious equals being moral. Morality is a complex issue involving a number of factors, many of which are unrelated to religious affiliation. Clearly, one's affiliation with organized religion does not pre-ordain one as being moral. I would like to think that the measure of one's morality plays out in how one behaves and how one treats his/her planet and its inhabitants. Jonathon Haidt does some interesting work on morality and I've written recently on this issue as to how it relates to political affiliation. Regardless, hypocrisy is one of the most infuriating "sins."


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