Monday, October 31, 2011

It isn't fair

I have watched with interest the aftermath to the death of Muammar Gaddafi with the different responses of people in Libya and around the world. We see the obvious mix of inevitable euphoria as well as the disappointment that the world will not have the opportunity to see him tried and sentenced in a legal system. This is not the place to discuss his regime, but it raises an interesting question around peoples’ senses of what is just and right.

We do need to recognise that expressions of justice differ in every culture as cultures are usually dependent on a shared history, mythology or religion. Each culture’s ethics therefore creates values which influences the notion of justice. However, most civilised human beings have a subconscious sense of right and wrong and will feel knocked if that sense is challenged in some way. I remember feeling utterly compromised in a job I (briefly) held where, on divesting part of the business, the senior executives were negotiating stock option deals when all around them others were losing their jobs.

So what can you do if your ethics are compromised in some way?

Understand your reaction – the first thing is to acknowledge your immediate response as this is the truth for you. For instance, if you find out about an infidelity in a relationship, is it an absolute showstopper for you? Recognise those initial feelings, as they will always be there, no matter what your ultimate decision is – whether you stay in the relationship or not.

See the bigger picture – ask if it is worth a compromise. Try and step back and look into the situation, rather than embroil yourself within it. This is naturally difficult if it is an emotional situation, which it is likely to be if our values are challenged, however stepping outside will allow us to see alternative perspectives more easily.

Ask for help – the old adage, seek first to understand before being understood holds true here. Take a neutral stand and ask the other party to give their point of view. A bit like being on a jury in a trial – suspend your judgment.

Give feedback – only by offering feedback will the other party have a chance of understanding your perspective and maybe, just maybe making a decision to do something about it.

Make a stand – have the courage to stick by your principles as they are what guide you through life. I would never expect a vegetarian to eat a roast beef dinner just because I have cooked it.

Walk away and start again – sometimes this is the best way, to take yourself away from a situation that, if allowed to continue, would eat away at your very core. Just make sure, in doing so, that you recognise what you are doing and what you may be giving up.

As Mohandas Gandhi says “There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.”

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