Opinion: Heal our broken world by acting ethically

  • Throughout history the wisest amongst us have developed ethical axioms intended to enable societies and their members to survive and prosper. Dreamstime/ TNS

Published: 5/21/2022 6:02:12 AM
Modified: 5/21/2022 6:00:16 AM

Michael L. Fischler of Holderness is a professor emeritus of Counselor Education and School Psychology at Plymouth State University.

In reflecting on the tragedy in Ukraine it’s especially disheartening to realize that none of it had to be.

The conflict is the byproduct of a tyrannical, narcissistic, myopic human being who made some really bad choices. And while Putin’s “bad choices” may be unusual in their scope and barbarity, our tendency as humans to make “bad choices” is anything but unusual.

While I profess no knowledge of what may be going on in Putin’s mind relative to his bad choices, I know that when the rest of us make bad choices we typically feel some degree of regret, and then fear over facing the consequences.

Rosa Parks and Matshona Dhilwayo help us to understand what may be going on in the mind of the victim of one’s bad choices, along with that which may contribute to the perpetrator’s fear of facing the consequences.

“There’s just so much hurt, disappointment, and oppression one can take… The line between reason and madness grows thinner.” – Rosa Parks

“If you kick a lion when it’s down, God help you when it gets up.” – Matshona Dhilwayo

Throughout history the wisest amongst us have developed ethical axioms intended to enable societies and their members to survive, prosper and avoid having to face the consequences associated with making bad choices.

Listed below is a cross-cultural sample of ethical axioms developed in diverse cultures, during diverse times, and in diverse geographic locations. Please review them, and as you do so take mental note of significant times when you’ve adhered to the axioms, and times you didn’t, and how your behavioral choices affected your life.

■“What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher? What is a bad man but a good man’s job? If you don’t understand this, you will get lost, however intelligent you are. It is the great secret.” (“Tao Te Ching,” #27, Chinese)

■“Force, no matter how concealed, begets resistance.” (Lakota, Native American)

■“Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain; and regard your neighbor’s loss as your own loss, even as though you were in their place.” (Taoism/Chinese)

■“Repay evil with good and lo, he between whom and you there was enmity will become your warm friend.” (Islam)

■“An angry word is like striking with a knife.” (Hopi, Native American)

■“A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.” (Judaism)

■“I have one major rule: Everybody is right. More specifically, everybody — including me — has some important pieces of truth, and all of those pieces need to be honored, cherished, and included in a more gracious, spacious, and compassionate embrace.” (Ken Wilber, American)

■“One should do no harm to any living being, neither by thoughts nor words nor acts.” (Jainism)

■“Be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Christianity)

■“To practice Right Livelihood, you have to find a way to earn your living without transgressing your ideals of love and compassion. The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others.” (Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist, Vietnamese)

■“What you offer you will get back. If you feel hatred, the hate boomerangs back. If you offer love, it will be returned. As you give, so shall you receive...” (Roger Walsh, American)

■“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” (Dalai Lama, Tibetan)

■“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (Viktor E. Frankl, Austrian)

Now that you’ve completed your review of the ethical axioms, consider what you’ve learned and what it is that contributes to individual and worldwide suffering.

While we may have little control over “Putin,” politicians, or family members and friends, we do have the ability to actualize what Frankl refers to as “the last of human freedoms… to choose our own way.”

What way can you choose that may be different than the way you chose yesterday? Will you choose to traverse a pathway infused with ethical behavior, or not? The freedom to make that choice is yours, and the healing of our broken lives and world really does lie in your hands.

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