The Five Principles
In January 2008 the “Ethics Guy” Bruce Weinstein, Ph. D, started writing abut his “Five Principles” of ethics in Business Week magazine. His principles are these:
• Do no harm
• Make things better
• Respect others
• Be fair
• Be compassionate
Weinstein says, “These principles reveal the secret to living a rich, satisfying, and happy life, and we have known about them for more than 5,000 years. Every religious tradition in the world teaches them, as do parents in every country.”
Why don’t we do them?
He is right; of course, these are principles we have all been taught for generations. But if we all know about them, why don’t we practice them?
Our primitive brain takes over our rational thinking when we feel threatened in any way, that’s why. Our sense of threat can come from both irrational and logical sources, but the list of potential threats is endless. And, what is threatening to one person may not be in the least threatening to another.
Our primitive brain
It is only by understanding how our primitive brain works that we can begin to practice compassion and the other principles Weinstein talks about. Having respect for others is impossible if we feel badly about ourselves. Being “fair” is impossible if we are fearful of the other person. Making the commitment to “do no harm” is impossible if we don’t recognize that we are all doing the best we can and we will make mistakes. We can’t focus on “making things better” when we feel badly about ourselves and we are fearful for our safety or well-being.
To make the leap into the ethics of the practice of compassion requires courage and determination. Compassion is not just a word to pacify religious scholars. Compassion is a daily practice that requires first being able to be compassionate with ourselves. Taking the leap means being willing to feel the fear of doing things differently than our primitive survival brains tell us we “have” to do them.
Having compassion for our partner’s hurt feelings when we know we didn’t do anything wrong takes courage. Having compassion for our co-worker when they are acting like a jerk takes courage. It takes courage because our instinct is to respond defensively. When we can learn to respond with compassion instead, it changes everything.
What do you think?
Are you able to let down your defenses when you feel attacked? Does that seem like a crazy thing to do. Tell me about it!