Concerns over ethics have been in the news a lot lately….

Michael Flynn had to resign as Trump’s National Security Advisor because he reportedly met with the Russian Ambassador before the new administration took over, discussed changes in sanctions against Russia over what President Obama had in place and then lied to Vice-President Pence about the matter.  Since resigning, more information has come out about Flynn’s meetings with Russian officials.

New Attorney General Jeff Sessions apparently lied in his Senate confirmation hearing about his having met with Russian officials while acting as a surrogate for the Trump campaign. Appropriately, he recused himself from  Justice Department investigations into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Meanwhile President Trump has flatly stated that he will not release his tax returns and has not taken what most people think would be appropriate steps to distance himself from his business dealings while serving as President.  For those of you thinking “what difference does it make?” I encourage you to read this article from The Atlantic.

All of these issues are disturbing.  And, yes, Democrats have had their share of questionable ethical actions.  However, it does seem that the new Administration has really ramped up the number of potential ethical violations since taking office a short while ago.  The validity of the specifics of these various possible violations of our rules is not the point here, rather my concern is the growth of a mindset that believes that following the rules is not important…..that the ends of winning politically and economically justify the means of breaking ethical dictates.

To be clear, I have had concerns over ethics for a while now.  Back in 2014, I wrote these 2 articles on the topic:  America’s Ethical Slippage and Reclaiming Our Moral High Ground.

I have also been around the issue of education and enforcement of ethical standards.  As a long time Federal employee, I remember yearly training on the ethical rules that we were all held to.  I also, as a manager, was responsible for the monitoring of my staff’s performance and adherence to the rules.  I can attest to the fact that things are much more strict and ethical at the lower levels of government than what we hear about with high ranking officials.  I personally took a number of actions against employees who violated the standards, including firing one egregious violator.

In addition as a minister with a spiritual organization, I served for several years in a position that oversaw the ethical standards of the organization and worked with the committee that investigated ethical complaints.  Although you would think that such issues might not come up in such a group, people are people.  Unfortunately, individuals everywhere are tempted by their base needs which sometimes push the boundaries of ethical standards….and then try to cover it up or justify their actions when they are “caught”.  I still recall the case of a minister who had allegations of “bullying behavior” being investigated by a review team and he called me and attempted to bully me into “making the complaint go away.”  It didn’t.

The point is, we have standards of ethical conduct that we are expected to follow in all areas of life.  Those standards are there for a reason.  They set norms for our interactions and contribute to enhancing social cooperation.  They stand as outer behavioral expectations that connect to our inner values.

When there is a breakdown in ethical behavior, it can serve to deteriorate our social norms, leading to less cooperation with one another.  It can begin to pit people against each other who begin to feel that there are no agreed upon values for society.

So ultimately, ethics are an important glue that holds together the fabric of human society.

However, I would add another reason that they are important….

Without ethical standards and our individual abidance to them, we begin to lose trust in our fellow human beings….we begin to see the world as a “dog eat dog” one of greed and competition….we spend our time focusing on our differences and putting a lot of mental energy on surviving in a world where we are separate and apart from one another.  Many of you may read those words and think “well, that is the world we live in”.  And, it’s true, that for many years in our human history, we have focused on competition and conflict because we believe that we are separate “animals” trying to be the “fittest” that “survives” and reproduces.

Yet, we are on the cusp of a next phase of our evolutionary journey where we are transcending our past and moving to a spiritually based future where we recognize the value in the diversity of all humanity and the worth of every human.  On this next step, we carry with us the very best of our “humanness”, including our ethics, our sense of fairness, our desire to experience human cooperation at the highest levels.  This evolutionary step can be taken only when there is trust that we are all standing firm in our ethical actions.

Ultimately these issues are important for our future and the possibility of a world that works for all of us, no exceptions.

Blessings,

Mark Gilbert

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