Chuck Gallagher, an internationally known speaker on ethics, comes to Olympia this week. Though some form of integrity, authenticity or alignment with universal principles appeared on my "top ten hot topics" long ago, ethics didn't make the list until recently. Frankly, ethics seemed a bit stuffy. It's through various forms of crisis that my opinion of ethics lifted out of the basement of general malaise. Had I only known the right question to ask, I would have discovered that success is rooted in ethics.
If you or I were to ask 100 successful people what makes them successful, we’re likely to get 100 different answers. If we dig deeper and ask, “Is identifying and acting in accord with your values an important part of your success?” we’re likely to discover that most, if not all, of those 100 people will say “yes.” In other words, ethics, rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture or belief system, are at the heart of achieving success. Nevertheless, choices are made everyday that lie outside of a rigorous adherence to central values – choices based on short-term gratification rather than long-term success. When our choices individually or as a society don’t align with core values, it’s simply a matter of time before a bubble, built on illusion, festers and begins to grow. Unless a correction is made, that bubble will pop, and depending on its scope, the negative consequences impact a handful or millions and millions of lives.
Perhaps nowhere is that bubble more evident than in our economy. But misaligned choices are not limited to our economy. Unethical choices have built illusions in our health care and education systems, in how we use energy and how we care for our planet and in how we relate to one another collectively through our politics and individually in our families. We find evidence of bubble after bubble growing to a point of crisis.
It’s easy to point our finger “out there” to blame others for what’s not working. It’s far more difficult to overcome the pain of admitting the shortcuts we’ve taken and their ultimate consequences in our lives. If that was the end of the story, few of us would endure the pain of introspection to discover the root cause of: a failed marriage, addiction to drugs, poor relationships with others – whatever the problem that confines us to a prison of our own making. If there is an impediment to achieving positive results in one’s life, it is resisting the pain of admitting who we truly are and what we have done to confine ourselves to the prisons we find ourselves in.
As a CPA who orchestrated a Ponzi scheme, Chuck Gallagher made an unethical choice that earned the consequence of actual prison. He says, “While it wasn’t easy to look in the mirror and see my reflection – see the impact that unethical choices had on my life to that point, it was incredibly worthwhile.” Every choice we make in life will have either a negative consequence or a positive result. The outcome we receive is directly connected to the choices we make. As we live our outcomes, the more aware we become of how our choices impact the results we live, the greater power we have to produce the outcomes we desire. Choices made without self-integrity or ethics result in negative results, while choices made with self-integrity result in positive results.
We will influence the world; how is determined by the choices we make. Wherever we are, whatever we do, the choices we make have impact. The simple ethical choices we make and the way we live our lives has greater influence on others than we can imagine. So many times we consider “ethics” related to the major choices of life when rather, the greatest impact seems to be whether we make day-to-day choices based on a firm ethical foundation.
Chuck Gallagher (www. chuckgallagher.com) is a guest Thursday morning on 96.9 KGY radio. On Feb. 6, he speaks at the Unity Church of Olympia (www. unityofolympia.org), 1335 Fern Street, during the 10 a.m. Sunday Celebration Service and again for an afternoon workshop called, “Choices: Negative Consequences, Positive Results” that begins at noon.
The Rev. Deborah Olive is the minister of the Unity Church of Olympia, serves on the advisory board of the Association of Global New Thought and co-chairs spiritual social action for Unity Worldwide Ministries.
Perspective is coordinated by Interfaith Works in cooperation with The Olympian. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Interfaith Works or The Olympian.