How Good People Make Tough Choices
Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living
By Rushworth M. Kidder
Excerpts from Rushworth Kidder's book on the morality of mindfulness which enables us to think clearly about thorny ethical issues facing us and the country.
• Compelled to choose between truth and loyalty, I would (all things being equal) come down on the side of truth. One reason: The history of this century suggest that those who put loyalty above truth (loyalty to Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, and even Richard Nixon) are capable of doing terrible damage to the world. It's hard to imagine that kind of damage arising when truth is put above loyalty. Having to choose, I feel safer and more comfortable honoring what is true than following human allegiances.
• Compelled to choose between the individual and the community, I would (all things being equal) lean toward the community. One reason: Individualism and its emphasis on rights has run to such extremes in this century that it has done serious damage to community and its emphasis on responsibilities. Were I a citizen of a post-Soviet county, I might feel otherwise: Seventy years of oppressive communism might have driven me to support the individual at any cost. But I'm not: My history, and that of my culture, has been different. Another reason: Community includes self, but self does not always embrace community.
• Compelled to choose between short term and long term, I would (all things being equal) favor the long term. One reason: The long term always includes the short term, whereas short-term thinking (as the history of greed in the American 1980's demonstrates) does not always provide for the long term.
• Compelled to choose between justice and mercy, I would (all things being equal) stick with mercy, which to me speaks of love and compassion. One reason: I can imagine a world so full of love that justice, as we now know it, would no longer be necessary. But I cannot imagine a world so full of justice that there would no longer be any need for love. Given only one choice, I would take love.
---From Spirituality & Practice