Can you fly? Arms spread wide, can you stand outside and leap from the grass beneath your feet and launch into the air?
Could you rob a bank? Gun leveled at strangers who look at you with pleading eyes, could you forcibly take money that you didn't earn?
You cannot do what you believe is physically impossible or what you believe is morally unacceptable.
There is an episode of the police drama, Flashpoint, that well highlights this very point. A young woman, kidnapped as a child, lives in the house of a man who has told her that the home is rigged with a form of electric fence that will kill her if she tries to leave. The police work with her throughout the episode to help her understand that her beliefs about the home and the outside world are incorrect. Fear fills her face as she struggles to assimilate this knowledge to leave her virtual prison. It goes against everything that she thought she ever knew to be true.
No matter how outrageous or illogical, your beliefs shape the world as you know it and inform you as to how you can fit into it. Ultimately, your beliefs shape you.
What are your beliefs? If you were to list your beliefs and values to help define who you are and the person you want to be, what would you list? Almost no one does this, but as an exercise, it's crucial. It establishes the culture you create in your home, communicates to others how to interact with you, and helps you stay on the path best suited for you.
Anyone who has grown up in a chaotic home knows the random nature of the so-called "rules..." situational ethics and not solid principles run the day. A rule applied one day is absent the next. Those in the home suffer the stress of never knowing what's acceptable and what's not. It's one of the reasons why people esteem those with a firm moral core. Agree with it or disagree, you know what to expect.
The Boy Scouts, for decades, gave its youth a moral code that each boy committed to memory, comprised of twelve characteristics labeled as "Scout Law."
"A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent."
The Boy Scouts gave this code to its members to help form the culture they wished to instill among the ranks.
Few people actually have a written personal code that they could recite. A person might act in a certain way and when asked why they behaved as they did, they might pause, stumped by the question. "I don't know. Just seemed like the thing to do. I guess it's what my parents taught me."
Religion provides a moral code for some people. Sharia Law, the Ten Commandments, the Principles of Hinduism...
Regardless of the source, has there been an ethical guide in your life - bright lines that lit the path for you in helping you make decisions?
Your personal code guides your actions. Not everyone is religious, but everyone has some sense of right and wrong. Not everyone agrees, but everyone subjectively follows guidelines of some sort.
As an exercise, if you could narrow your moral compass down to simple points, what would they be? As an example, they might be:
It's important to consider your personal rules of life. Try to whittle them down to as succinct a list as you can; it forces you to really consider what you believe and why. These condensed points should be easily remembered and easily recited.
- I will obey the law.
- I am responsible for my things.
- I want to treat other people like I want to be treated.
- If it's not mine, I won't touch it.
Your beliefs are the foundation of your personal culture and the culture of your household. If you don't have a culture firmly established, then you and yours might react without thought to circumstances and thus have an inconsistent approach that brings about inconsistent results in life. Flying by the seat of your pants? Well, it's exhausting.
No matter what strengths or talents you have, your beliefs should apply universally to every situation. No matter what you choose to do, your beliefs are at the heart of any action.
Your deeds define you.
Your beliefs define your deeds.
If your beliefs are unconsidered and inconsistent, then you will appear unreasonable and confusing to others for your inconsistency.