Cleaning Up My Act

“Principles invite us to clean up our act, to become intolerant of moral laxity and compromise and cowardice and the turning away from what is upsetting: that secret gnawing of the heart that tells us that what we are doing is not right.”Susan Sontag

Meditations in Motion

There is a lake not too far from my house that is the temporary home to hundreds of thousands of snow geese and tens of thousands of tundra swans each February or early March. They stop here to fatten up on the leftover grain in farm fields surrounding the lake before the long trek to their nesting grounds much farther north.

A road that is only open between March 1 and November 1 each year loops around the lake, providing bird watchers views of the lake from various vantage points, plus access to ponds normally hidden from view. This six-mile loop is ideal for running; the scenery is stunning and there is very little traffic.

By the time my hubby Bill and I met our friend Al there for a run last week, the swans and geese were mostly gone except for a few stragglers. We planned to meet at the visitors’ center parking lot to do our 10k training run, but our plans were thwarted when we were greeted by the sight of fire and rescue trucks and a fire policeman blocking access to the parking lot.

Meditations in Motion

We found out they were searching for a missing person. A fifty-something-year-old man had parked his car in the visitors’ center parking lot last Friday night and disappeared. On Tuesday, horses, dogs, helicopters, drones, and rescue teams combed the wooded hills surrounding the lake for some trace of the man but came up empty.

We parked in a different parking lot and set out on our run. As we ran, I explained to Al why Bill and I ran the Marine Corps 17.75k race for guaranteed access to the Marine Corps Marathon (you can read that story here).

Al has a million running stories, most of them hilarious. He tells them with self-deprecating humor and the innate understanding of what makes a good punch line. Al was a high school chemistry teacher for 35 years and still teaches an introductory chemistry class or two at a local liberal arts college.

As we ran around the lake we swapped running stories, then Al described a sermon he heard at church last Sunday which had a big impact on him.

Meditations in Motion

Al described his pastor’s discussion of the slippery slope of ethics. If “A” is perfectly ethical behavior and “Z” is unmitigated evil, he observed that most people don’t go directly from A to Z.

We begin acting ethically, at A, then convince ourselves that B is acceptable. If there are no negative repercussions for B, we may look right, left and give C a try. If we don’t catch ourselves, we could wind up at K or even P. Most of us, thankfully, never get to Z.

The slippery slope often happens when we lie to cover up an embarrassing past behavior. One falsehood quickly multiplies, the deception mushrooms, and, before you know it, you are Lance Armstrong covering up years of taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Meditations in Motion

Our values provide us with a moral compass to direct our actions and tell us what is acceptable behavior and what is not. We all have them. We got them from watching our parents, church leaders, teachers, and other mentors. They are attitudes we have adopted over time.

Values are internal and changeable. I may value patience, for example, while you believe patience is a waste of time. You may value bravery, while I think bravery is foolish. My values may change over time. The importance of showing kindness, for example, might increase as I get older.

Principles are different. They are an unchangeable set of rules that hold true for each individual. For example, one of my individual guiding principles is that I always feel better after a run. Running clears my head, calms my nerves, burns off excess energy, and gives me the opportunity to think.

Meditations in Motion

Lots of people have similar principles; some can be almost universally applied, like “avoid negativity“. Whenever someone complains about the negativity rampant on social media, I always use the example of the running community on Twitter as a shining example of positive encouragement.

I follow a lot of runners on my Twitter account. The Twitter running community is supportive, engaged, and helpful. A typical exchange goes something like this: “I ran 5 miles this morning.” “Way to go!” “Great miles!” “Looking good!” I always come away from my Twitter feed feeling uplifted.

Another widely held principle is “live in the present“. This one is easy to see the advantages of, but very difficult to actually do. It’s hard to let go of the past and not think about the future. Humans have survived thousands of years by doing exactly those two things.

Meditations in MotionLearning from our mistakes and anticipating possible difficulties are good, but we get into trouble when we worry needlessly about past or future events over which we have little or no control.

Consistently following our principles leads to living a virtuous life. Our actions are in harmony with our values. We have free will; we have the ability to make our own choices regarding our actions. Being guided by principles helps to take the guesswork out of those choices.

So, if we know what our principles are, why do we not always live by them? Because it’s hard! Living a virtuous life is not easy. There are temptations to “cheat” around every corner. Sometimes it even seems like life rewards the “cheaters“.

Following our principles does not guarantee us a good life, but not following them will definitely lead to conflict, unhappiness, and a “gnawing of the heart“. It’s better to train ourselves to do hard things than to compromise our principles.

As Paul said in his Epistle to the Ephesians to encourage Christians to live a moral life, “Follow Godโ€™s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love“. It is his way of encouraging us to stay at A, urging us to follow our moral compass.

 

I am linking up with Shank You Very Much for Dream Team and Global Blogging, Mary-andering Creatively for LMM, Random-osity for The Good, The Random, The Fun, Anita Ojeda for Inspire Me Monday, The Ched Curtain for Say Cheese, Esme Salon for Senior Salon, Abounding Grace for Gracefull Tuesday, Purposeful Faith for RaRa, Kooky Runner for Tuesday Topics, Meghan Weyerbacher for Tea and Word, Mary Geisen Tell His Story, Bethere2day for Wordless Wednesday on a Tuesday, Embracing the Unexpected for Grace and Truth, and My Random Musings for Anything Goes.

 

 

 

 

 

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76 comments

    • Oh, yikes! That would have been awesome if he had been OK. Unfortunately, he was found last week, but he was not alive. He had committed suicide in the woods.

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      • OMG that is so awful that he killed himself.
        Thank you for this post, a lot of those ran through my mind about the man, about values, about living for today. It resonates with where I am in life right now and what I need to do but at the same time enjoy what I have now. Thanks for sharing with us at #OMHGWW.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. That is such a great example of sliding from A to B and when it seems all is good then just keep pushing that line further!! I definitely went through that phase but you are absolutely right that it only takes our peace….frankly, it ONLY takes! It’s so much better to live by the moral compass that God has set for me!! So sad about the man that went missing. Did they ever find him? #inspirememonday linkup ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. Another widely held principle is โ€œlive in the presentโ€œ.

    Then there is my favorite, the principle of sliding principles. With that, you get to do whatever you want and it’s always ethical and principled.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree. It is hard to live in the present but so important. You are missing out on so much if you donโ€™t. Life is short. And we donโ€™t know how short.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very interesting take on principles vs values and much food for thought with this post, Laurie.

    I am working hard on the you can’t change another person, you can only lead by example — but it’s definitely hard sometimes and I definitely fail sometimes, because I have their best interests at heart, of course. Yet it never comes across that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Bill and I talk about that often. You can’t change another person, especially if they don’t want to be changed. We agree that we have both changed each other over the years. Mostly for the good. Not all of the changes were pain-free, though! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  5. I’ve heard sermons on the slippery slope, Laurie, but never with that “A to Z” metaphor that illustrates it so well. Also, I’m completely impressed with your running accomplishments! I have a friend who is like you and it always amazes me how far she can run. I have a bum knee, so fast walking is all that I really can do. But I envy those who can run like the wind!

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    • I had never heard of the A to Z metaphor either, but it made the concept easier for me to understand. I am going to have to visit Al’s church one of these days. I have heard such good things about his pastor. Thank you for your kind comment! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. This is a great post! Principles are so important and it’s so true that when we compromise them a little bit it’s easier to take the next step and the next… and soon we end up far away from where we started. Being aware of this and guarding against it are important.

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    • Oh, Anita, I am so sorry to have to tell you. They did find the man. Sadly, he had committed suicide in the woods. Yes, communication with God is important to avoid that slippery slope.

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  7. What you say is so true – we must embrace the moment for we don’t know what happens in the future. We had a sad incident with a man here in Michigan as well. They’ve not given details on his death, but he disappeared one week ago today and his car was found three days later, his body late Friday night. This man had never missed a day of work in 30 years and when he did not show up for work, his workplace called home. They kept saying “he vanished without a trace” … I hope they fill us in on the details.

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      • Oh that is unfortunate Laurie … we have that happen frequently in Bishop Park where I go with the pier overlook. It is in the middle of town, but set back a piece and there are often suicides take place there – it is posted on the local crime alerts I follow on Facebook. We had a horrible local news day today: two house fires with fatalities and two major crashes with fatalities and they encompassed the news. I wanted to know about this gentleman, a “Steady Eddie” all those years … police say there was foul play involved, too much of a family man to try to take his own life.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, still nothing on him – there won’t be as the news is full of the weather and opening day tomorrow. They may be waiting on an autopsy report to come back and that will take awhile – it was in Ann Arbor, maybe I’ll Google around there. It made me feel sad about this guy. His company worried right away since he didn’t show up. Never late or missed a day of work in 30 years. Pretty incredible track record.

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  8. Ohh, this was a wonderful lesson to me. And I am sorry to hear about the man who died. I know all about suicide and what it does to the remaining family.

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  9. As I’ve gotten older, it’s become much easier to follow my principles. Wouldn’t it be nice to be young, yet have such a strong moral compass that nothing can compromise your beliefs? Sigh.

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    • Yes, I agree, Wendy. It is easier to follow my principles as I get older. I agree completely – why couldn’t I have this strong moral core when I was younger? I guess that’s what growing up is all about.

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  10. I think holding to “A” in a world that more and more is accepting of W,X,Y & Z is getting harder to do. You almost have to apologize for holding strong values and beliefs these days. I think Midlife is a time where we know who we are and what we stand for, but we also learn not to shout it too loudly in the wrong places because everyone is so ready to feel offended these days.

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  11. I was thinking about the slippery slope before reading comments that said similar – it’s so easy to slip, first one thing then another and before we know it we’re at z and totally compromised in mind and soul. Thanks Laurie, a lovely post beautifully clarified. And sorry to hear the missing man had suicided.

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  12. oh, that’s so tragic about the missing man! I love this post, Laurie…I love the message of living in the present, and (my own addition—>) to appreciate where you currently are (even if it’s not your ideal place). I’d love to hang with your friend and hear some of his running stories ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    • Yes, so true. We do need to appreciate where we are, even if it’s not our first choice of where we want to be. Al is so much fun to hang out with! Talking to him makes the miles go by quickly! Bill and I ran with him today.

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    • Oh, that story had a very sad ending.

      We do have some great conversations on our runs. We talked about that just yesterday. It makes the miles go by so quickly!

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  13. This is so true! And something I wish our government leaders would take more seriously. Especially here in the U.S. I do feel that we have slipped a bit too far down that slope as a societal whole but on the individual side of things, I see so many good people living their best life and doing their best by others. It’s inspiring to see. I am sorry to hear about the man though. That is very sad. #GlobalBlogging

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    • That was a very sad ending to the story. It’s easy to slip down the slope, but much harder to climb back up to the top once you have slipped! Thank you for your thoughts, Michelle.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Hi Laurie – I had to look to find the post we discussed this topic … I Googled a few minutes ago to find out what happened to the gentleman who went missing and his employer reported him “late” – surprisingly, he took his own life. That was a surprise to me since they described his loving family, a real family-oriented person, a dedicated employee … he ditched the car to throw the police off. Very sad.

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      • Yes very sad Laurie and I was surprised … I started to wonder since they never followed up after discovering his body, but we’ve had a lot of local tragedies this week and it has been all about Opening Day, so I figured they pushed that story to the back burner. I felt sorry for the family. His sister made a very sad post which was carried in the local online paper (M-live). You never know.

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  15. Social media can conjure up some of the most negative people in the world, but if you don’t engage with them than the internet is a positive place to interact with others. I love how you explain the slide from A-Z as far as our principles, we definitely need to be on guard against slipping. #GlobalBlogging

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  16. I love how you describe the slide from A -Z. It makes so much sense and is so true we all do this a bit I think. It is just important when we slip to remember where we started and be trying to get back there. Thanks for being on the #DreamTeam

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    • Yes, I have to watch myself, or I wind up at G in the blink of an eye! Then I must claw my way back to A. the slide downwards is always so much easier than the climb back toward our principles! Thanks for the chance to share.

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