658: Personal Ethics and God

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Most of have a system of personal ethics we try to live by – a set of foundational beliefs. We try not to be hypocritical, even though sometimes we are. For example, most of us believe telling a lie is wrong, and then, we tell a lie anyway – when it is convenient, to get us out of a sticky situation, to save face, to avoid punishment, to avoid social discomfort (so-called white lies)….we actually DO lie, even though we philosophically believe that telling a lie is wrong. That is the essence of hypocrisy, and most of us are guilty of it.

Once you realize that you are actually a hypocrite in some situation dealing with one of your personal ethics, you have a conscious or unconscious choice to make – and either way you go, realize that you have actually made a choice. You can change the behavior to match your foundational ethic, and tell no more lies, OR you can change your ethic to match your actions; lies that benefit you are OK. Even if you just keep doing what you have been doing (being a hypocrite – telling lies and thinking yourself an ethical person who believes that telling lies is wrong) that is still a choice, and arguably, that is the worst choice of the three. It is also the choice that most of us usually make, because the other two choices (both clearly ethically superior choices that align your beliefs with your actions) mean that you will have to make some changes, and change is difficult. People are lazy, and change is difficult, involving work and thought and effort, and most of us are not up to that challenge, sadly.

If you believe you are a servant of God, just being an ethical person yourself isn’t enough. God expects you to put action to your beliefs (not just private philosophical thought) and actually do some work for the Kingdom. Sitting on your butt in your reclining chair might mean that you are doing no harm, true, but you also are a pretty useless servant of God, sitting there doing nothing but being harmless (and useless, too). Are you waiting on God to miraculously drop opportunity into your waiting, prayerful lap? Well, yes, He CAN. He usually DOESN’T. Get up and do something. He will let you know if you are not on the right track, what with Him being God, and all.

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And for the love of aforementioned God, don’t take pride in your character flaws. If you recognize a character flaw in yourself, guess what? God, in the form of the Holy Spirit’s conscience within you, has pointed out that area of your life and personal ethics (or lack thereof) that HE wants you to work on. That’s why you have come to recognize that aspect of your character and personal ethics as a flaw. The longer you go without correcting that flaw, the more difficult it gets to fix it, because you get really, really good at justifying your behavior to yourself, explaining to yourself why that flaw is not such a flaw, and how you aren’t really supposed to expend the effort to fix it, because, after all, God made you that way. That is the essence of disobedience. God didn’t make you that way – you did that yourself. You KNOW it’s a flaw. Flaws need to be corrected, especially once you have recognized this is a flaw you possess, and the fact that you don’t want to give up this flaw that you possess is part of your disobedience.

Whatever this flaw that God’s finger is on – you know it. You know it is something that you need to fix, you are just lazy, and possessive, and comfortable with it, and you don’t want to give it up, and do the necessary work, put in the necessary effort, to correct it. Realize this,  if your motivation to improve needs a little kick start: you are denying yourself blessings because of your willful disobedience. God knows He told you about it. You know God told you about it. God knows you know. You are being disobedient in not addressing this thing He wants you to give up and correct. Disobedience separates you from God and His blessings.

Prayers not answered? Be obedient to God’s prompting. Struggling? Pray and ask for the will and the strength to do what you have been told to do. Let go, and give up what you have been asked to fix. Yes, it’s work. Breaking any bad habit is work. But, you can do it.

And the blessings of obedience are worth it.

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338: Personal Motivation

People all over this world accomplish things large and small though their own personal motivation. Motivation can be a powerful force for both good and bad. Unfortunately, like a great many things that matter a great deal, personal motivation remains a nebulous, abstract concept that is fluid and flexible, and not remotely the same (inspiration or results) person to person. It’s complex, even though we all recognize it when we see it in action.

To make motivation even more confusing a concept, it is even fluid and changeable within a single individual, depending on  the circumstances.

I saw this in action in Harrison Ford’s movie “Bladerunner.” Ford’s robot-hunting police officer character is interviewing an individual in order to determine whether she is, in fact an individual (human), or if she is, instead a cleverly programmed human-imitating, life-like looking, android robot.

He asked her a series of questions that illustrate the changeable and sometimes contradictory notion of human motivation. He asks her what would she do if she found a neighbor’s child abusing an animal. She answers she’d report him to the authorities. Then he asks what she’d do if she discovered her own child pulling the wings off of flies, and she answers that she’d take him to the doctor to get help. Then he asks her what she’d do if she discovered a wasp on her own arm, and she instantly, with no apparent recognition of or concern for the inconsistency of the logic of her own motivation, answers “I’d kill it.”

People are like that. Which way I am gonna jump in any situation depends on a great many things, including the mood I am in at the moment, how others have treated me today (or even yesterday/last week/anytime in my previous life history), and even maybe what I had for freaking breakfast – let alone the enduring moral or ethical values I govern my life by.

Some of us make an honest and sincere effort to govern our lives by motivations of enduring moral and ethical behavior, grounded in a profound personal sense of ultimate truth and values.

Others go into politics, or become criminals – but then, I repeat myself.

221: Insolence

I teach school, grades pre-K (4 year olds) to 12th grade (17-19 year olds). I am no stranger to insolence. Yeah, I remember back in the dark ages when I was a teenager and knew everything worth knowing, and my teacher mom was an idiot, an old fuddy-duddy, she was plain uncool and just not with it. It still amazes me how much smarter she got in the few years it took me to reach the advanced age of 21.

Still, being confronted with teen-aged insolence still manages to raise the short hairs on the back of my neck. Anybody who has seen a snarling cat or dog who has THEIR fur ruffled and fluffed up with the adrenaline rush of fury knows full well the sensation of your own fur raising, prickling at the back of your neck. It is a glorious rush of feeling I now recognize and understand, and have learned to control (most of the time), so that I don’t actually kill people. What it does now is get my mental wheels turning, weighing options as to how best to address this child who has challenged me.

Most of my students will tell you that I am a very easy-going teacher, slow to anger, and willing to provide a second chance to correct a mistake. However, like when I was raising my own children (not the children of others I am raising five days a week in my classroom), I have learned that the motivation is the primary determinant of whether to offer a second chance, or whether to stomp them into the dirt instead.

People make mistakes. Mistakes are unintentional, and we learn from them. Mistakes are not things we punish people for, unless the mistake becomes a lazy habit, and there is no correction after multiple reminders. Most of the time, it can be clearly seen that the problem was a mistake. Sometimes, though…..

Sometimes, it is not a mistake. Sometimes the child flops his big, hairy toe over the line you have just drawn in the sand, and dares you to do something about it. When that happens, you must address it, and without hesitation or delay. There is a reason God made you bigger than your children. It is so that you as their parent can gain the upper hand of authority when they are small, and then gradually transfer to them adult freedoms and responsibilities as they age and it is appropriate to do so. When done properly, you have few problems as they grow larger and more autonomous.

When not done properly, you have my students – who raise the short hairs on the back of my neck.