Groucho Marx quipped, "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." Though he is joking, I wonder if he is actually hitting close to home. I need to regularly check in with myself and ask questions like, "Is the thing I'm doing now guided by sound principles?
Principled people are the heart and soul of a society. But who teaches our young people about character? Who teaches them how important it is to be honest and to do what is right?
Even ETHICS classes might not touch on matters of character. They discuss the medical ethics of cloning, stem cell research and genetic engineering. They consider euthanasia, abortion and capital punishment. And they even look at the ethics of governments and multi-national corporations.
But one college professor recently made a disturbing discovery: she assumed her students shared her principles of honesty, honor, integrity, and the like. She taught ethics, but assumed that her students shared her personal ethical standards.
Then one day she dropped an armful of final exams on her desk in disgust and complained that over 50% of her students CHEATED on their social justice exam. (Do you think they caught the irony here?) They'd spent months learning about ethical issues most societies face, but they never discussed personal morality. They could talk convincingly about good and bad behaviors of corporations, governments and societies, but they cheated on their exams. They just didn't get it: cheating is wrong. And can we expect societies, governments and businesses to do better than the people who run them and live in them?
Principled people are the heart and soul of our lives together.
Church leader John Wesley simplifies it for us. In regards to what is right and wrong, he says simply this:
"Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can."
I think those are principles I want to live by.Steve Goodier