I heard a great idea while I was at the airport. This guy says that he’s going to start getting up an hour early every morning, grabbing a shopping bag, and going for a walk. While he’s on this walk, he says he’s going to pick up any trash he sees, put it in the shopping bag, and before he gets home, put it in a dumpster. What a guy…but wait, there’s more.

He says that going for a walk every day will help him lose weight, picking up trash will make his neighborhood look nicer, and as an added bonus, now when he drives around, any trash he has, he can just throw out the window instead of having it clutter up his car. Yes? Win-Win-Win? Is this a Trefecta? I mean so long as he picks up more trash than he ejects from his car, he’s still providing a net-benefit to society…sound like a plan?

Anyone you ask would roll their eyes at this idea, but just as many people are right now doing the exact same thing themselves. This kind of justification is known as Moral Licensing. It’s not complicated, when you’ve got something you want to do, but know you shouldn’t and know you might regret if you do, the “licensing” provides a way to justify the decision, for some kind of really good reason. Really-good-reasons might include having done something “good” that offsets the decision to do something you shouldn’t, or maybe falling back on emotions and citing an IRRESISTIBLE URGE to do the wrong thing or even just decreeing that whatever code someone claimed to live by is temporarily suspended because for today only, defining one’s self through appetite is preferable to maintaining personal integrity.

At present, the tension, the unrest, the tinderbox potential for conflict is at an all-time high. Of course, it is never a realistic expectation that everyone will have the same perspective on any one topic, no matter how seemingly simple the issue at hand may appear. However, any individual fit to live around other people will have some manner of personal Standard regarding what does and does not constitute acceptable conduct. Regardless of circumstance or emotion, we should each do our utmost to adhere to those expectations that we have for ourselves, and avoid like the plague the impulse to compromise our integrity for any reason other than a carefully measured decision to change the very basis of what each of us defines as “OK”.

You will note, this includes no mention of other people, of their thoughts, motives, intentions, actions, karma, guilt, innocence, obligation, or comeuppance. This isn’t about them, this is about you.

You have a personal standard.
You have integrity.
You have a code.

Stick to it. Do not throw trash out the window. Because no amount of justifying, rhetorical pretzel-making, or Moral Licensing will restore your personal integrity once compromises commence. And while most people are happy to envision themselves influencing the decisions of others, it is important to remember that most people learn by imitating and almost no one learns by getting yelled at; a good influence goes a long way. So keep yourself wired tight, because the B-Squad is officially disbanded; all of us are now in the starting lineup.
Quote of the Day

“Intelligence rules the world, ignorance carries the burden”
Marcus Garvey
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Embrace the Suck Podcast
Episode 12: Your Place in the circle

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