Sunday, January 25, 2015

Three virtues

DSC01025 (975x1300)My orchid is budding this morning.

It likely doesn’t seem like a big thing, but for a ‘brown thumb’ gardener its nice when a plant responds to my clumsy TLC.  My absences, the winter cold, the radiator’s heat have all stressed the flock, but the chili has new pods, the violet is in bloom, and the vine is stretching.  The back yard herbs are recovering from the January freeze.

I set to tending and trimming, sipping coffee while reflecting, ever busy in my mind.

1- When I checked on you, I found that you have a lot of loyalty to the business and to its people.  They frowned as though that was a problem to be solved.  I held my tongue.

When I believe in an idea, a person, a course of action, then I am long-term loyal to it.  I care about circumstances and work for good outcomes, giving kindness and compassion and expecting it in return. If things go off track, I have believe in talking things through and in giving second chances.

Should we be loyal?  To what, for how long: must it be reciprocal or mutually beneficial?  The concept seems frayed.  Certainly loyalty based on mutual interest in business or nation has faded, and people are too often careless with honesty and selfish in action. 

But I still believe in personal loyalty, often to a fault.  It’s difficult for me to recognize when loyalty reaches its limits, and to understand when I need to become more dispassionate.  When I must, I still suffer remorse and regret that I didn’t do more, differently.

Maybe the investor is right, and I need to let go of some people and products.  But loyalty still matters to me: still doing the right things in times of hard change.

2- Good intentions aren’t just enough, they are everything.  This month, I feel that I will be judged by the outcomes that I achieve.  Motivation and effort are not enough: success is the only criteria.

The Shrink and Sage debated the issue, both concluding that it is better to judge ourselves by our goodness than by our accomplishments.  We should look to intentions, goals that have deep personal resonance and that bring out the best in us, rather than to the attainment of some intended end.

In this season of establishing resolutions, is it better to look to the successful completion of tasks, or to the nurturing of goodness?  Is it more important to strive for greater kindness and empathy, or to reconcile specific problems and shortcomings?

In the end, I know that my failures (should they come) may be mitigated by knowledge that my heart was in the right place, that I did what I could, and that I kept to the high road.  By holding to principles, to intentions, I avoid blaming myself for outcomes that circumstance may have dictated, or judging myself for failures that were simply beyond my capacity to fix.

3- My silence speaks volumes.  I shook my head: If a wrong is being committed, you have a duty to speak up.  Bearing silent witness sends no message; you are simply complicit.

In his Nobel acceptance speech, Ellie Wiesel said I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

I am sensitive to the danger of being too aggressive and long-winded in speech, of taking umbrage or venting irritation, of being misinformed or defensive.  An appropriate period of silence can prevent me from making mistakes or helps to soften a response.  A knowing silence can reinforce authority; a reflective one denotes respect.

But silence alone cannot right a wrong: there is no kracht van de stilte.  As King observed,  In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

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