“There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
I arrived in this country many years ago, a wide-eyed innocent, full of idealism and belief in the possibilities of life and humankind. Young people are wonderful, for the most part they have not been exposed to the cutthroat world of politics and business, and have many lessons to learn that do not resemble anything they saw growing up. I had always loved to follow current affairs, and it didn’t take me long to see evidence of a different set of values than those I had grown up with. I learned that to get ahead in this country many people followed the famous quote of Malcolm X, “…by any means necessary” with an added caveat, so long as you don’t get caught. From politicians to priests, school superintendents to chiefs of police, there were examples every day of people who did not appear to believe that the law applied to them.
But even for those who don’t have lofty aspirations or a desire to have gold plumbing fixtures in their house, what is it that makes us turn off that small voice of conscience and do those things we know to be wrong? Is it the need to work around a system that takes too long? Do we think that if everyone is doing it (whatever ‘it’ is), then why should we do any different? The profession of nursing has been held in high esteem by the public for many years, according to the Gallup Poll. We have led the professions as being the most honest and ethical for over 12 years (not surprisingly, members of Congress rate lowest!). That is good to know. Of course, like all humans, nurses are not perfect, and there will always be instances of those who have let down the profession.
But what is distressing to me as an educator, is the level to which students will go to get through school ‘by any means necessary’. I was at a conference recently where there was a presentation of spyware which can be bought to facilitate cheating. There were glasses, jewelry, water bottles and more, all of which could video tape computer screens and exams, I suppose to sell to others. This problem is pervasive in all disciplines, but I take it personally when I think that someone would be willing to take shortcuts to being a nurse. I have always joked that, just like the kosher hot dogs, we nurses are answerable to a higher authority. When you hold the responsibility for the lives of others in your hands, you need to know what you are doing. And the fallacy of trying to take short cuts when the only way you can practice as a nurse is to pass the NCLEX, a national exam which (as far as I know) is as safe as Fort Knox suggests that you are not only unethical, you are also foolish!
On this day when Christians around the world think about a man who was willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice, I wonder what it is we are willing to sacrifice. I think about the Buddha, who gave up a life as a wealthy pampered prince to walk off into the wilds without a single possession, in search of enlightenment. I admire those who maintain their commitment to health by following a nutritious diet, getting up early in the morning to complete their workout. What are we willing to sacrifice to achieve our goals? And when we are tempted to take short cuts, what is it that allows us to turn off that voice in our heads that should be saying no?
I am sure that like me, there are things that you have done in your life that you are not proud of. But the beauty of each new day is the opportunity for change. For those with problems of addiction, the new path begins with recognition of the problem. In trying to live a better life, we have to first identify those areas that need to be fixed in order to try to make a change. I read recently that one of the marks of leadership is to speak the truth ‘without blame or judgment’. Sometimes it is easier not to face the truth, and we convince ourselves of the lies we tell others. But if we want to evolve and grow we need to accept the truth of what we have done, forgive ourselves, bless it, and move on.
This time of year the sun rises almost directly due east, and thanks to our road design, we can catch it coming up as we sit at a traffic light. It is a sight which brings memories of hymns sung in childhood: Morning has broken; New every morning is the love; or another favorite:
Day’s awake, another day
Laughing calls to me forsake
All your dreams and come away.
But it also reminds us that each morning we are given the opportunity to reinvent ourselves, to find a new and better way of being in this world.
I hope that on this Good Friday morning, the sun shines upon you and sheds new light on the possibilities that are your life. May you relish each moment, each chance that we have to celebrate the joy of being alive.
Have a wonderful Friday and a peaceful positive weekend.