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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

K Haridas NairCharacter lapses have a way of revealing itself. A serious in congruency between rhetoric and walking the talk exposes us at the most embarrassing of moments. Besetting sins can only be addressed as we acknowledge our weaknesses. This is possible through developing the capacity to examine ourselves and our living.

Why do people who have attained significant achievements suddenly fall apart? Steven Berglas author of 'The Success Syndrome' states that people who achieve great heights but lack the bedrock of character to sustain them through the stress that success brings are headed for disaster. He believes that they eventually suffer from one or more of the four A's namely arrogance, aloneness, destructive adventure-seeking or adultery. The latest victim to fall from grace is talented golf star Tiger Woods. Such examples are readily available in all our societies.

Does this not call into question the challenges that choice presents when one has to decide to act morally or otherwise? What basis underlie the choices we make on issues of immediate interest or long term commitments? How do we manage today's stress? Is it instant gratification motivated by emotion and feeling, a rational choice or a restraint guided by moral and ethical convictions.

Perhaps this calls for a new look at the role of moral absolutes in our decision making and choices. In a world where reality defines culture and behaviour we witness questionable business ethics, peer pressure, greed, and the challenge of living honestly with oneself and others. 'Everybody does it' unwittingly becomes the lowest common moral value that increasingly tampers today's choices with greed, promiscuous behaviour and self interest justifying such conduct. The economic scenario provides ample evidence where good people have got sucked into unethical practices. This requires no thinking and secures societal justification as an unspoken norm.

Is this because we do not confront ourselves with hard questions about our choices and conduct? Does conscience play a role in our lives or is this snubbed by a rationality that justifies compromise? Has religious persuasion anything to offer us amidst such dilemmas? How do we make moral and ethical decisions in areas where society has increasingly erased restraints?

Moral Absolutes of right and wrong are increasingly disappearing. These are being replaced by a fuzzy, grey fog of inconsistent moral choices. Today many are faced with the dilemmas of ethics and honesty without clear cut answers. The world of today with its real problems they claim does not fit into a simple do and don't list. What sources do people rely on in their search for clarity? What resources are available for us amidst today's challenges?

Religious convictions seem more tampered by science and technology and appears less definite. Family life is disintegrating with parental authority weakened. The educational system is no more a resource for finding meaning and value in life. It seems to be outsourced for equipping people to make a living. Fewer and fewer people feel inner restraints or inhibitions against breaking any law or moral code that interferes with their private desires or impulses.

As the social stigma associated with deviation from traditional moral behaviour grows weaker the distinction between liberty and licence becomes increasingly blurred with pleasure and profit seeking becoming powerful guides for personal conduct. As Gandhi so rightly said, "One cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole."

A combination of Leadership with character calls for inner toughness. One option is to experiment with accepting moral absolutes of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love as guidelines for examining one's life. I found this helpful as a teenager as the aim was not to seek perfection but to know oneself. This was a humbling experience and as I understood more of myself in the context of motives, values and choices, I gained greater clarity.

In fact reflecting on moral absolutes revealed my own relative values and compromises. By acknowledging weaknesses and taking steps to correct these through honesty and restitution I gained a sense of humility and freedom. These became increasingly internalised in my life as I faced up to the hard questions that all of us have to ask in our search for clarity. This remains a daily option and an ongoing work in progress. To exercise this option to grow and respond to life's many challenges is to live an examined life that adds meaning to one's endeavours.

The role of conscience through the practice of having a 'Quiet Time' - a period of daily inner reflection helped with both correction and direction and the development of an awakened sense of conscience. Conscience is that voice in everyone which willingly or unwillingly responds to a universal moral law or awakens that moral sense in all of us. This practice over time has qualitatively improved and sensitised my relationships with others. A commitment to change starting always with myself has provided much positive learning and helped develop greater confidence.

I believe in Leadership but one that emphasises "Balance" as an important benchmark. This is the hallmark of what "Initiatives of Change" (IofC) offers to today's world of fuzzy grey relative values. How does one provide 'Leadership' not only in one's organisation but also in all the different roles one plays in life? This calls for regular reflection and input be it as a son, parent, spouse, organisational leader, coach, family member and in the contribution one makes to society at large.

You do not break moral absolutes, you break yourself when you breach these. Yet compassion requires that we develop the capacity to retrace our steps and claim again the qualities that are essential for us. Yes, we have always to start with ourselves. To fall or fail is but human but to get up and get going through change, correction and direction is an important option for growth. This is the invitation that IofC offers to people in search of clarity and effectiveness.

There can be change without growth but there can be no growth without change. To exercise this option to grow and mature through life is to add meaning and responsibility. Herein lies the inherent strength of character that everyone can source. One prays that Tiger Woods would regain his respect in the eyes of everyone including his family. To do so he has much hard work ahead of him and how he responds to this personal crisis of credibility will determine his future contribution to golf and the world.

K. Haridas / 16. 12. 09 Kuala Lumpur.