Jay Rifenbary

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An Ethical Resolution for the New Year

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As we reflect on this past year and look forward to the future, I would like to propose a slightly different resolution for the New Year. A resolution defined by improving how we as citizens ethically behave and demonstrate respect towards one another, resulting in countering a social trend toward unethical normalcy. I believe we are teetering on a precipice of significant moral challenge. It appears there is continued movement towards an acceptance that behaviors such as cheating, lying, philandering, etc. are more the norm rather than the exception.

As individuals we should be resolute in enhancing an ethical example to those around us, especially our youth. With the increasing ethical landslides of so many prominent individuals, most recently Tiger Woods, our children are undoubtedly more suspicious in believing the importance of what any leader may say, because of the fallout from leaders behaving in contrast to what they say and project to the world they are. Hypocrisy is defined as, “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense”, and ethics is defined as, “moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior.” The continued corruption in so many of the most prestigious offices of business and government only fuels the social distrust machine. The hypocrisy of individuals thereby deteriorating integrity and personal honesty is a cycle that must be challenged. Personally, I was saddened by the Tiger fiasco, for so many respected and admired the character this man appeared to possess. This incident further reinforced an understanding of the lack of a direct correlation between money, fame, and happiness.

The necessity to live a life that is a reflection of the values we as individuals believe in is paramount in avoiding a personal moral meltdown. I would ask any parent reading this column to make a resolution to revisit and reinforce with their children the internal character benefit in behaving ethically responsible. The benefit being a synergy between who they are and what they project to others they are, resulting in a wholesome sense of self. Our personal and family core values are the foundation for the establishment of such expectations of moral behavior. The examples we as adults set are not only critical to substantiating the expectation of moral behavior for our children, but an overall societal benefit by “raising the bar” in regard to appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Upon returning from several year-end speaking engagements, I reflected on how many citizens are yearning for moral, ethical leadership and role models. True leadership is not self-centered but selfless. With leadership comes added responsibility, and part of that responsibility is to be an ethical example to those being led. What kind of message is sent to all citizens when leaders from any arena are found to have violated the very trust they created between themselves and their followers? The message is one of disappointment and distrust.

Is there still ethical leadership? I believe there is and there are many of our fellow citizens who espouse to a higher calling everyday. We all make mistakes, I certainly have, but our challenge should be a continuous improvement on making conscious principled choices initially, to avoid the consequences of being unethical. I believe we have a responsibility to future generations to help create a more ethical society, for the opposite will only generate more distrust and less kindness in our world. Five recommendations for enhancing an ethical example are, *take ownership for what we say and do each day * reflect to ensure our behaviors are in alignment with the values we hold dear * although said often, act on the Golden Rule of treating others as we would want to be treated, * be consistent in what we stand for and believe in because that generates integrity * finally, realize we have a responsibility to others for there are many who respect and believe in you, and want strength of character in their lives. It has been an honor to share with all of you some thoughts to ponder over this past year. I wish everyone the best in 2010. Happy New Year!



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