highly ethical and noble. We can't all be like Mother Teresa or Albert
Schweitzer, but we can recognize the highest levels of ethics humans
are capable of achieving. It must, in some cases, require a long and
hard struggle to get there. Examples: the parents who sacrifice greatly
so their children can have advantages they didn't have. The merchant
who works hard 12-hour days to be sure his/her customers are given
the best possible service, not just to make money. The soldier who
gives his leg, his sight, or his life to protect others. The caring person
who takes a needy child to raise. The person who undergoes great
personal loses in order to right a wrong or to fight for a worthy cause.
It is a giant leap from deciding to tell the truth on your resume about
your grades or work experience to devoting your life to a civil rights
cause, fighting on the side of the oppressed against an abusive
authority, opposing daily the wanton destruction of the earth, etc., etc.
It takes great self-control to transform your self from the lowest level
of just barely acceptable morality to the highest level. But who can say
that we can't all do it?
It isn't just that so many wrong things are being done, it is an
equal problem that so many right things are not being done. There are
facts we can't deny (and remain moral), such as one billion people are
illiterate (and it is estimated that could be corrected with 7 billion
dollars, a small part of our federal budget). Likewise, 841 million
people, one out of every five, are hungry (and we have surplus food).
The median income of black families is lower than the income of 92%
of white families. About 45% of Americans regularly attend church
(36% think God has actually spoken to them), but Americans give less
than 2% of their income to charity. So, don't think the world is fair and
that most social problems are being taken care of adequately.
Just in case you believe that great social problems are beyond your scope, consider this
story: God said to me: Your task is to build a better world. I answered: How can I do that?
The world is such a large, vast place, so complicated now, and I am so small and useless.
There's nothing I can do. But God in his great wisdom said: Just build a better you.
The last quote helps us see that morality, i.e. being a good person,
is important for our own well being as well as for the good of others.
Several noted writers have recently tried to convince us that being
good pays off. The better books are Sherwin (1998), Twerski (1997)
and Kushner (1996), all three Rabbis. Gough (1997) has a book that is
perhaps more appropriate for teenagers and apparently is well
received by them. Their point is that being good is part of being
successful--having self-esteem as well as being a good worker, good
parent, and kind/grateful/forgiving towards others. There are so many
books that can inspire you.