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"5 Words" Meme -- My Ethical Liferaft

An oldie but a goodie:

Say "words!" in the comments and I'll respond with 5 words that I associate with you. Write something about them in your LJ.

thomryng chose the five qualities which I have referred to from time to time as my "ethical liferaft." I constructed it after my existential crisis (during my sophomore year of college) left me in a state where I felt I could no longer use the Bible as the basis for my ethics if I was to be intellectually honest. I spent a lot of time thinking and journaling about what guideliness I could use which would be flexible but not without meaning. I wanted to know what qualities I should strive for in order to live a life in a way that would be good for myself and those around me.

The qualities I came up with, the words Thom chose, are: Wisdom, Integrity, Courage, Tenderness, Humor

Wisdom
"Considered experience." I have always had a strong bias toward intellectual knowledge, but this took me beyond book-learnin' to learning from my mistakes. I was emerging from a very sheltered childhood and adolescence, and was embracing experience. I had come to consider innocence to be a "negative virtue" and was looking forward to doing things I would have denied myself in the past. However I wanted to be sure that my experiences, whatever they turned out to be, would have more value than the immediate sensations. It seemed to me to be a poor thing to be either so sheltered that one understood nothing but what they had read, or to have had many experiences but not become wiser, especially if mistakes were involved.

Integrity
Honesty with self and others.
This goes hand-in-hand with self-awareness for me now, but I hadn't started thinking about self-awareness back then.
To be honest, I haven't always done well in this area, although I've gotten better in the last five or six years. I used to lie rather easily to avoid confrontation or to obscure a selfish decision. I've come to value the strength of relationships built on mutual honesty, and to recognize that lying is pretty much always a sign that something is fundamentally wrong. Being honest with myself and others can be painful, but is ultimately for the best -- although I can not claim that I always live up to that aspiration.

Courage
Doing what I know to be right, despite fear.
Facing the fear and doing it anyway.
I have spent most of my life feeling like I become frightened more easily than most people. I admire people with courage, and it's something I wish I had more of. It's always boggled me that others often perceive me as being courageous. I won't say I've never shown courage, but it's usually the last thing on my mind when people attribute it to me.

As I've grown older, this has taken on even more urgent meaning. As I've written here before, I've come to believe that many of the world's evils: violence, prejudice, oppression, etc. have their basis in fear. This can be fear of the Other, fear of starvation or of being harmed, fear of seeing one's family hurt. . . Fear motivates us to commit and to justify acts which we would never consider if we felt secure.

Tenderness
Dealing gently with others.
I could not bring myself to aspire to "love" everyone, but I felt that it was important to treat others well, and gently. Besides, a lot of people claim to love others whom they treat very badly.

Humor
I can't take credit for this one. It was suggested to me by a wise older woman who I worked with the summer after my crisis. A sense of humor can carry a person through quite a bit. Being able to laugh usually makes everything better -- or at least more bearable. I always know it's a bad sign when I lose my sense of humor.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
heron61
Aug. 3rd, 2009 06:16 am (UTC)
All those fit you quite well. So, "words!" - I eagerly await your answers.
qos
Aug. 3rd, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

Commitment
Fire
Domesticity
Exploration
Honor
druidharper
Aug. 3rd, 2009 11:16 am (UTC)
Words. I'm curious, and we all know that while curiosity killed the cat, satisfaction brought it back. ;)
qos
Aug. 3rd, 2009 04:40 pm (UTC)
Here you go!

Honor
Adventure
Parent
Unseen
Stone
rocket_jockey
Aug. 3rd, 2009 03:48 pm (UTC)
Okay, this could be...interesting. Word up!
qos
Aug. 3rd, 2009 04:43 pm (UTC)
Satisfaction
Pride
Rockets
Image
Danger
9thmoon
Aug. 3rd, 2009 05:17 pm (UTC)
What about tenderness with oneself?
qos
Aug. 3rd, 2009 05:40 pm (UTC)
Tenderness with self is absolutely part of it.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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Queen of Swords

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