Archives for category: Character

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What happened to human decency? There was a time when decorum played a vital role in our society. We thought before we spoke, and we actually considered the consequences of our words and actions.  Many blame the disappearance of valor on the advent of the Internet. But is the Internet the cause of society’s visceral conduct or is it simply a conduit? I am more inclined to lean towards the latter. There are many factors that are contributing to the implosion of our humanity, but today, we’ll focus on the Internet.

Here is a thought to ponder: The Fall of Man began with Adam and Eve’s decision to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Well, today, we could say that it seems as if history is repeating itself.  Our vehement pursuit of information has taken us into uncharted territory.

The Internet is laden with all sorts of information–some good; some bad.  However, the sheer presence of information does not always equate to knowledge.  Information is simply raw data.  Knowledge and wisdom is the prudent application of information and the distillation between fact, fiction and opinion.

One of the greatest reasons why the Internet serves a great conduit for the breakdown of decency is because it is anchored by anonymity.  Even when sites are hosted by well known companies, we never really know who sits behind the screen.  Almost every company and every individual has an Internet persona/alias. Social media platforms and website comment sections allow us to hide behind our usernames and spew our opinions under our veiled protection.

Like with anything else, anonymity, when used appropriately, could be beneficial. Whistleblowers and tipsters use anonymity to defend the truth and expose wrong doing. Not everyone is brave enough to oppose evil face-to-face, and that is okay.  In a functional society, we need these types of system in place to maintain order.  Anonymity has also been used to advance and prosper others.  For example, many well-intentioned, good people have made anonyomous donations and gestures for benevolent purposes.  While there are some benefits of anonymity, if we are not careful, it could be dangerous.

Anonymity = the state of being anonymous (secret, nameless, featureless, unidentifiable)

Loosely defined, anonymity is hiding or covering the truth (or a lie).

When something is covered, it is veiled. It is in a darkened state.  Darkness, by definition is the absence of light. Light is representative of truth, goodness and purity.  However, with anonymity, there is a temptation to stray from truth and honesty, which appeal to our primal affinity for darkness. The Internet’s inherent anonymity could potentially satiate our basic appetites for wickedness and cruelty.  Moreover, recent online cultures enable us to be reckless with our careless words because there is little accountability for those who hide behind the armour of user/screen names. In a rather paradoxical way, the anonymity provided by the Internet perpetuates self aggrandizement at the expense of common courtesy and decency. In fact, it’s easy to dehumanize others for shares and likes when we don’t have to look them in the eyes, or face any consequences. In today’s society the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may never hurt me,” has never been further from the truth. Words are weighty and consequential. The power of life and death is in our words (the tongue).  Hopes, dreams, aspirations, failure, fatigue and suicides have all been triggered or ignited by words.

So what do we do? The truth is there is no easy, singular answer to yield a resuscitation of decency. However, a good start is individual accountability. Each person has to be responsible for his or her words and actions. While we might not be able to change anyone else, we can definitely change ourselves.

Telling the truth isn’t always easy.  In fact, sometimes, it’s downright hard!  However, one of our greatest challenges on our road to self-discovery and reinvention is learning to be a person of integrity—let our yeses be yeses and our noes be noes.  We have to learn to engage in difficult conversations, which might result in disappointment for some.  Doing the right thing includes the understanding that we cannot please everyone.  When we try to please everyone, we ultimately please no one, including ourselves.  People might not always like the truth spoken in love, but more often than not, they respect the person speaking it.  When you and I are people of integrity, others can count on our words and our deeds.  When people opt to speak half-truths and untruths, they become untrustworthy, and even their truths are tainted by the perception of deception.

The spirit of deception is duplicitous.  It steals from both the deceiver and the one being deceived.  Most people, unless they are social deviants, typically act dishonestly out of fear and/or cowardice.  They are either unwilling or incapable of telling the truth due to a misguided perception of the repercussions of their honesty.  Instead they opt for what they perceive as “the easy way out.”  However, the “easy way out” is not without consequences, and it isn’t particularly easy.  There are many internal and external ramifications of being untruthful.  One of the internal penalties of not being a person of integrity is the stress of having to remember the lies—what story was told to whom and when.  There is also the perpetual fear of being caught, being found out.  Finally, some people (excluding those who have sociopathic tendencies) who suffer from poor integrity face anxiety knowing that they have this internal character flaw.  As far as the external repercussions go, those who lack integrity are often at risk for having a bad reputation.  They could erroneously be perceived as people of reprehensible moral character.  This misconception could significantly impact both their personal and professional relationships.  Our failure to be honest during difficult times could create a narrative about our character that is simply untrue.  When we hurt others by our actions, or lack thereof, few people are gracious enough to evaluate the cause of our behavior.  The why is irrelevant to them.  All they know is that they have been hurt and offended.

Our failure to exhibit integrity could create irreparable rifts in our relationships, which at the end of the day, are one of the few things of value that we possess.  The moral of the story is, if we want to grow and become better people, we have to learn to be honest and truthful, especially when it is difficult.

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity,” (Proverbs 11:3, NIV).