Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of August 26, 2013

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Ethics

(Spirituality at Work: Part 3)

There is nothing inherently un-spiritual or unethical about earning our living; our spiritual nature being neither tainted nor compromised by working. On the contrary, earning our living is the way of nature and is required of most of us. No work, no eat. But the manner in which we earn our living can and often does present us with ethical dilemmas.

Just as there are many situations that tempt us toward unethical behavior, there are many reasons to act ethically, actually a whole hierarchy of reasons. One kind of reason comes as we understand the truth of the law of karma, or “as you sow, so shall you reap.” Unethical actions have unwanted repercussions. We do not know why this law holds or what mechanism makes it work. Yet by observation of our own and others’ lives, we can see karma in action. Then part of life wisdom consists of avoiding the creation of negative karma and seeking the creation of positive karma, in all we do or say, including at our job.

Another reason to act ethically: our reputation as an honorable person has a very positive value when it comes to earning our living and for our acceptance by and standing in our community. The best way to establish and protect that reputation is always to act ethically. By working ethically and with excellence, our reputation builds itself, without us necessarily engaging in self-promotion.

A third reason flows from love and compassion. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The more connected we are with ourselves, the more connected we become with other people. Unethical actions directly hurt someone. The more connected we are with other people, the less we are able intentionally to hurt anyone. Compassion forbids it. Our spiritual practice deepens those connections and raises the level of our ethics.

A fourth reason concerns the benefits of a clear conscience. Raising the level of our ethics deepens our being. For our spiritual pursuit to blossom, a clear conscience is both a necessity and our guide. Conscience is a major channel between us and the Sacred. We cannot approach the Creator while wishing to hide our transgressions nor while hoping for the cleansing action of purgatory. Yet only the pure in heart can enter the abode of the Divine. If in our lifetime, we are to make any personal progress on the spiritual path, we cannot afford to pollute the channel of conscience with bad and hurtful acts, we need to align ourselves with the Will of the Sacred. How high we can and should set our standard is for each of us to discover.

Our lives can be complex and especially so our jobs, with many competing and conflicting goals, requirements, and forces. How we navigate all this partly defines us as human beings. Our challenge consists of the lack of a clear, pre-defined answer for every ethical dilemma. It certainly can help to ask a trusted friend for advice. But in the end, we cannot put the responsibility for our choices onto anyone else. This forces us to look within ourselves for the answer.

And the source of that answer is our conscience; it is that in us which knows the right thing to do in any situation. The more we pay attention to and act in accordance with our conscience, which comes at first as an intuition of rightness or wrongness, the more our conscience will show us the way. Of course, we always do the sanity check of staying on the right side of ordinary moral norms and legality. But so many situations remain ambiguous, not discriminated by morality or laws, that we need a deeper source to guide us, namely our conscience. This is not to say that our conscience is somehow outside or other than us. It is simply a deeper part of us, closer to who we really are.

For this week, notice any ethical gray areas that arise and look to your native intuition of right and wrong, your conscience, for guidance.


     

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