David W. Hegg: The four insidious obstacles to ethical stability

By David W. Hegg

Last update: Friday, January 12th, 2018

Ever leave a situation or conversation and regret the way you acted? Ever found yourself wondering “why did I say that, or act that way?” You’re not alone! We all can look back on things we said or did that were not the best representation of who we really are, or at least want to be.

What we want, in all circumstances, is something called ethical stability. That is, the ability to remain stable and balanced, acting and reacting in line with our personal ethics regarding good behavior. Ethical stability results when we act in conformity to our internal set of personal beliefs and standards, rather than allow external circumstances and situations to incite us to unethical behavior. Ethical stability demonstrates itself in a high level of self-control.

But, even the most ethical people can lose control of self when certain unethical toxins find a place in their souls. These toxins dilute the very convictions meant to provide stability in situations where circumstances entice us to react badly. We would all do well to recognize and guard ourselves against these insidious invaders which, if allowed, will burrow deeply into our hearts and minds leaving us susceptible to behavior we will later regret. Here are a few of them.

Bitterness ranks high among those attitudes which, if allowed to remain, can turn a balanced, joyful person into a time bomb. We’ve all felt it, that capacity to go off on someone in a way that even surprises us. Bitterness is the residue of wrongs suffered that we intentionally store up in order to feel good about acting badly. Bitterness seems like justice to us, since forgiving and forgetting would mean the other person got away with it. But actually, bitterness is an acid that eats its container, bit by bit, plunging the soul into a sea of seething cynicism and outright hatred. And we all know how powerful such a concoction can be, and how disruptive to relationships.

Defensiveness is also the enemy of balanced, belief-based self-control. We’ve all been around those people who have an excuse for everything and are quick to launch a scathing attack on anyone foolish enough to critique or correct them. This defensive posture is really the fruit of the root we call pride. Once arrogance gains an upper hand in the mind, even the strongest convictions to the contrary can be mauled by this lion of the soul. If we are to be good neighbors, good husbands, wives, and parents, and good citizens, we simply must beat down our pride with the twin hammers of accurate self-analysis and humility.

A third obstacle to ethical stability is a soft pragmatism demonstrated too often in the easy and frequent use of deceit. By this I mean the habit of telling lies, big or small, whenever convenient. It can be half-truths, excessive exaggeration, evasive prevarication or simple, straight forward, bold-faced lies. And while there are myriad reasons such habits are just plain wrong, they also make hash out of any set of ethical boundaries. Habitual deceit defines a person with no inner consistency, no adherence to any rules of authentic relationships, and certainly no sense of accountability to the most basic standards of right and wrong.

Lastly, I would call guilt a massive obstacle to personal ethical stability. Where guilt resides, it does so because we have become so adept at rationalization. Guilt can be dealt with and removed, but only when admission, confession, and restitution are accomplished in full. But, instead we rationalize away the reality, and deceive ourselves into thinking we can mask the guilt. But it festers, and grows, and becomes the eruptive fuel for outbursts of anger and other poisonous behaviors that ultimately, leave us with the added guilt of regret.

So, what do we do? Remain vigilant against bitterness, overcoming it with forgiveness.

Understand what a hyper defensive posture says about you, and realize correction is actually one way to be better. Be intentional about telling the truth, regardless of the consequences, and become a person who doesn’t need to lie about who and what they are. Lastly, rid your soul of guilt through sincere confession and restitution. After all, the God who made us also offers to us forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. Seems to me that’s an offer worth considering, and a model worth imitating.

David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. Ethically Speaking” runs Saturdays in The Signal.

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David W. Hegg: The four insidious obstacles to ethical stability

David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. "Ethically Speaking" runs Saturdays in The Signal.

Ever leave a situation or conversation and regret the way you acted? Ever found yourself wondering “why did I say that, or act that way?” You’re not alone! We all can look back on things we said or did that were not the best representation of who we really are, or at least want to be.

What we want, in all circumstances, is something called ethical stability. That is, the ability to remain stable and balanced, acting and reacting in line with our personal ethics regarding good behavior. Ethical stability results when we act in conformity to our internal set of personal beliefs and standards, rather than allow external circumstances and situations to incite us to unethical behavior. Ethical stability demonstrates itself in a high level of self-control.

But, even the most ethical people can lose control of self when certain unethical toxins find a place in their souls. These toxins dilute the very convictions meant to provide stability in situations where circumstances entice us to react badly. We would all do well to recognize and guard ourselves against these insidious invaders which, if allowed, will burrow deeply into our hearts and minds leaving us susceptible to behavior we will later regret. Here are a few of them.

Bitterness ranks high among those attitudes which, if allowed to remain, can turn a balanced, joyful person into a time bomb. We’ve all felt it, that capacity to go off on someone in a way that even surprises us. Bitterness is the residue of wrongs suffered that we intentionally store up in order to feel good about acting badly. Bitterness seems like justice to us, since forgiving and forgetting would mean the other person got away with it. But actually, bitterness is an acid that eats its container, bit by bit, plunging the soul into a sea of seething cynicism and outright hatred. And we all know how powerful such a concoction can be, and how disruptive to relationships.

Defensiveness is also the enemy of balanced, belief-based self-control. We’ve all been around those people who have an excuse for everything and are quick to launch a scathing attack on anyone foolish enough to critique or correct them. This defensive posture is really the fruit of the root we call pride. Once arrogance gains an upper hand in the mind, even the strongest convictions to the contrary can be mauled by this lion of the soul. If we are to be good neighbors, good husbands, wives, and parents, and good citizens, we simply must beat down our pride with the twin hammers of accurate self-analysis and humility.

A third obstacle to ethical stability is a soft pragmatism demonstrated too often in the easy and frequent use of deceit. By this I mean the habit of telling lies, big or small, whenever convenient. It can be half-truths, excessive exaggeration, evasive prevarication or simple, straight forward, bold-faced lies. And while there are myriad reasons such habits are just plain wrong, they also make hash out of any set of ethical boundaries. Habitual deceit defines a person with no inner consistency, no adherence to any rules of authentic relationships, and certainly no sense of accountability to the most basic standards of right and wrong.

Lastly, I would call guilt a massive obstacle to personal ethical stability. Where guilt resides, it does so because we have become so adept at rationalization. Guilt can be dealt with and removed, but only when admission, confession, and restitution are accomplished in full. But, instead we rationalize away the reality, and deceive ourselves into thinking we can mask the guilt. But it festers, and grows, and becomes the eruptive fuel for outbursts of anger and other poisonous behaviors that ultimately, leave us with the added guilt of regret.

So, what do we do? Remain vigilant against bitterness, overcoming it with forgiveness.

Understand what a hyper defensive posture says about you, and realize correction is actually one way to be better. Be intentional about telling the truth, regardless of the consequences, and become a person who doesn’t need to lie about who and what they are. Lastly, rid your soul of guilt through sincere confession and restitution. After all, the God who made us also offers to us forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. Seems to me that’s an offer worth considering, and a model worth imitating.

David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. Ethically Speaking” runs Saturdays in The Signal.

About the author

David W. Hegg

David W. Hegg

  • Dorothy Rothschild

    “A third obstacle to ethical stability is a soft pragmatism demonstrated
    too often in the easy and frequent use of deceit. By this I mean the
    habit of telling lies, big or small, whenever convenient. It can be
    half-truths, excessive exaggeration, evasive prevarication or simple,
    straight forward, bold-faced lies. And while there are myriad reasons
    such habits are just plain wrong, they also make hash out of any set of
    ethical boundaries. Habitual deceit defines a person with no inner
    consistency, no adherence to any rules of authentic relationships, and
    certainly no sense of accountability to the most basic standards of
    right and wrong.”

    Anybody know of someone like this? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

    • Gary Bierend

      I can’t stand people like this, like people that post here under a fake name.

      “Habitual deceit defines a person with no inner
      consistency, no adherence to any rules of authentic relationships, and
      certainly no sense of accountability to the most basic standards of
      right and wrong.”

      It’s like he was talking directly to you, eh steve?

      Your remarkable and dependable hypocrisy aside, Pastor Hegg gave a great definition of … what was he name? … oh yeah, Hillary:

      http://www.politifact.com/personalities/hillary-clinton/statements/byruling/false/

      http://www.politifact.com/personalities/hillary-clinton/statements/byruling/false/?page=2

      • Ron Bischof

        In Steve’s case, the irony writes itself.

        • Brian Richards

          It comes from being irrelevant. People like Steve and Lois are like the coyote who is hanging on the edge of a cliff. In their last gasp they reach up but miss the roadrunner but they do grab one feather and they beat their hand wildly trying to fly as they fall to their demise and in case of Lois yelling “Muuuuuueeeeeelllllllleeeeeer” all the way down.

          • lois eisenberg

            “Muuuuuueeeeeelllllllleeeeeer”

          • Gil Mertz

            Very apt in a discussion about lies.

          • lois eisenberg

            Very apt at not recognizing lies !!!

          • lois eisenberg

            “Sens. Cotton and Perdue are outed for lying on Trump’s behalf”
            The liar-in chief has taught his puppets well !!!

          • lois eisenberg

            “Many GOP lawmakers now consider LYING in defense of the president to be routine, part of their normal duties as card-carrying Republicans. They don’t care that it makes them look foolish to those with eyes to see and ears to hear”
            Now is the time to open one’s eyes and take the Cotton (pun intended) out of their ears !!!

          • lois eisenberg

            “The remaining Republican senators and key House members have made no known public statements responding to the comments. The New York Times has reached out to each of their offices.”

            Senator John Barrasso Wyo.
            Senator Richard M. Burr N.C.
            Senator Shelley Moore Capito W.Va.
            Senator Thad Cochran Miss.
            Senator Bob Corker Tenn.
            Senator Michael D. Crapo Idaho
            Senator Steve Daines Mont.
            Senator Michael B. Enzi Wyo.
            Senator Joni Ernst Iowa
            Senator Deb Fischer Neb.
            Senator Dean Heller Nev.
            Senator John Hoeven N.D.
            Senator James M. Inhofe Okla.
            Senator John Kennedy La.
            Senator Mitch McConnell Ky.
            Senator Jerry Moran Kan.
            Senator James E. Risch Idaho
            Senator Michael Rounds S.D.
            Senator Ben Sasse Neb.
            Senator Richard C. Shelby Ala.
            Senator Dan Sullivan Alaska
            Senator John Thune S.D.
            Senator Thom Tillis N.C.
            Senator Roger Wicker Miss.
            Senator Todd Young Ind.
            Representative Robert W. Goodlatte Va. AT THE MEETING
            House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy Calif.

          • Brian Richards

            Perhaps it’s because the majority of the people they answer to, not you Lois, think that we should limit immigration from s’hole countries? Just a guess.

          • lois eisenberg

            What a s’hole comment !!!!

          • lois eisenberg

            “Migrants from countries disparaged by Trump are some of California’s best-educated residents
            “African migrants to California are far more likely to have a four-year college degree than Californians born in the United States, census figures show.

          • Ron Bischof

            Is that a tribal call for a gathering of the faithful?

            https://imgur.com/a/ABLOf

          • lois eisenberg

            “Muuuuuueeeeeelllllllleeeeeer” has subpoenaed Bannon in Russia probe

      • Dorothy Rothschild

        And a very precise description of your hero Trump, eh?

        • Gary Bierend

          My hero Trump? Where on Earth would you get the idea that he’s my hero?

          I was amazed how accurate the description fit you, stevehw. Just curious, how many fake names is this for you so far? Three? Four?

          • Brian Richards

            It’s all he has Gary. They can’t win a meaningful debate on the issues so they resort to false assumptions to give themselves a sense of superiority. People like steve will ignore using the IRS as a political weapon and using the NSA to spy on political opponents, but God forbid Trump say something true like Haiti is a s’hole. I know steve, RAAAAAACCCCIIIIIISSSSST!

          • Ron Bischof

            I visited the functional side of Hispaniola with a group of family and friends in 2009.

            Prior to departure, I had read the State Dept. travel advisory for the Dominican Republic.

            On the bus ride from Santo Domingo Airport to the all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, I observed groups of young men on small motorcycles at various impoverished towns. With that in mind, I insisted that our group stay within the secure confines of the resort.

            Some protested but my LASD deputy brother-in-law said “Ron is right. Those guys on motorcycles are bandits that prey on tourists. You’ll risk being robbed or worse.”

            We won’t be returning.

          • Brian Richards

            Yea, and that’s the “good” side of the island.

          • lois eisenberg

            Why did you go in the first place when you insisted that your group stay within the secure confines of the resort ??

          • Ron Bischof

            The in person real time observations made the difference, Ms. Eisenberg.

            Please let me know how I could have determined that in advance.

          • lois eisenberg

            You find out about the safety situation of the country that you are going to visit !!!!

          • Ron Bischof

            Non sequitur.

            Reread my posts until you achieve comprehension.

          • lois eisenberg

            RAAAAAACCCCIIIIIISSSSST !!
            BIGOT !!
            The liar, coward, pervert, narcissist, groper, moron-in- chief has you right where he wants
            you to believe what venom comes from his mouth is true !!!!
            He is the KING of lies, and to believe him is appalling !!
            And to this I say DILLY,DILLY

          • Brian Richards

            “And to this I say DILLY,DILLY”
            .
            That fits perfectly with the typical degree of intellectual discourse coming from you. Dilly, Dilly, indeed Lois! But good news. Today you only have 1,100 days, at least, of President Trump. Tomorrow you will go below 1,100, at least.

          • lois eisenberg

            Dream on !!!!

          • Dorothy Rothschild

            Nice deflection away from the point that Hegg is describing your Leader.

          • Gary Bierend

            He’s also describing you, steve, to a “T”. The deflection is yours. By the way, unless you don’t live in the US, he’s your leader as well.

          • Dorothy Rothschild

            Still not directly addressing the astounding number of lies by the President…2000+ and counting since he was inaugurated. We’ll just assume, then, that you’re okay with his pathological lying.

          • Gary Bierend

            Ah the irony. You have a history of lying about your identity, and yet you call someone else a pathological liar? Your hypocrisy is rivaled only by that of lois!

            You started this thread with this question about the description of a liar from Pastor Hegg:

            “Anybody know of someone like this? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?”

            I responded that it was an apt description of you, steve, and your cankle crush Hillary.

            You set a trap for yourself … again. It’s great to watch you puff and strut as if you you caught someone other than yourself. Truly, laugh out loud funny. No wonder you’re ashamed to put your real name on the nonsense you post.

          • Dorothy Rothschild

            Again, dodging the real issue (and making false allegations while you’re at it).
            What would it take for you and your ilk to denounce your Dear Leader Trump? Apparently, continually lying about anything and everything, big things and small, from dawn to dusk isn’t enough, since in all the posts here, you have YET to address it.

          • Gary Bierend

            Hearing you, a proven phony, lecture anyone on being truthful is really quite comical, which is the real issue.

            Just curious steve, can you name a president that wasn’t a liar, in your opinion? Go ahead and answer, let’s keep your comedy show going!

          • Brian Richards

            You never denounced Obama Sir Robin! He absolutely took a dump on the constitution and nary a peep from you. His record of failure is mind-numbing while Trump’s record of success is overwhelming. Is he caustic? Yep. Should he keep his mouth shut more often and twitter less? Yep. Other than that, he gets an A+ from me.

          • Dorothy Rothschild

            Well, good to know you’re at least open in your support of fascism, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and ignorance.

          • Brian Richards

            Ouch, that hurts deeply steve. Please don’t call me those names anymore. After being called that by the likes of you 4,382,042 times it starts to take it’s toll. By the way, didn’t you forget homophobe and Islamaphobe? Come on man, if name calling is all ya got, you might as well go with both barrels. Hey, look at the bright side steve, or whatever your name is, we broke 1,100 days today and you only have 1,099 days of Trump……at least! And that makes all the name calling in the world taste like champagne! How’s your investment account doing?

          • Dorothy Rothschild

            Doing just fine, thank you very much. Continuing the upward trend begun under Obama. Doubt you’ll give him an iota of credit for that, though.

          • Gil Mertz

            As reported by the far-left Washington Post. Gee…I’m curious why they didn’t keep track of Obama’s lies.

          • Brian Richards

            Yea Steve, why are you afraid of giving your real name? Is it because you’re comfortable calling someone else a liar hiding behind an alias? Are you sure your name isn’t Sir Robin the Brave?

          • Dorothy Rothschild

            As noted, the right wingers here continue to avoid addressing the real issue, which is Trump’s manifest inability to tell the truth, instead attempting to “blame the messenger”.
            Apparently, they’ll stoop to any depths to support their Fuehrer.

          • Brian Richards

            But why are you afraid of saying so using your real name? We’re not blaming you, we’re just calling you a coward and a hypocrite for using an alias while complaining about your President being deceptive. Get it?

    • Gil Mertz

      Yes, a poster who uses a different name talking about deceit is indeed rich. This kind of hypocrisy is only surpassed when blindly-loyal supporters of Obama and Clinton try to lecture anyone else about lying politicians.

      • lois eisenberg

        What is this obsession about a poster using a different name ???????

        • Gil Mertz

          It’s hypocritical for someone to whine about being deceptive while using a false name for themselves.

          As a Democrat who has been hardened by hypocrisy, I’m not surprised that you didn’t notice it, Lois.

  • lois eisenberg

    Pastor Hegg part of your-opinion column got a little too religious for me but overall well done.
    If you can see your way clear please send this opinion column to the coward-in-chief in the
    White House ~~~
    Knowing of his racism how can he live in the WHITE House??

    • Brian Richards

      “Pastor Hegg part of your-opinion column got a little too religious for me”
      .
      Lois, not to be obvious, but Pastor Hegg is a pastor. Do we need to go back to explaining what “right lane must turn right” means?

      • lois eisenberg

        “After all, the God who made us also offers to us forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ.”
        The” right” thing for you to do is not being so petty and small about a person expressing their feelings about religion,
        and being so repetitive and minor about what I said about “right lane must turn right”, which is after all this time has no importance.

        • Ron Bischof

          “Pastor Hegg part of your-opinion column got a little too religious for me…” — Ms. Eisenberg

          “The ‘right’ thing for you to do is not being so petty and small about a person expressing their feelings about religion…” — Ms. Eisenberg

  • Gary Bierend

    Hegg: “But actually, bitterness is an acid that eats its container, bit by bit, plunging the soul into a sea of seething cynicism and outright hatred.”

    Unsurprisingly, this went right over the head of a couple of our fellow posters.

    • lois eisenberg

      It’s Trump’s acid mouth that is eating away at America’s Democracy ~~~~~~
      This man’s hatred and vile mouth deserves cynicism in any form that it is doled out ~~~~
      Unsurprisingly one must take the Cotton ( pun intended ) out of their ears to know that
      this devil of man is not worthy to be President of the United States !!!!

      • Brian Richards

        “is not worthy to be President of the United States !!!!”
        .
        And yet……he is! Bummer for you Lois.

        • lois eisenberg

          “Conservatives remind me of a flock of chickens who elect Col. Sanders in a landslide and then say “So, what’s for dinner?”

          • Brian Richards

            How do you confuse a liberal? You don’t they’re born that way.

          • Brian Richards

            Why do so many liberals live in LA? It’s easy to spell! Hahaaa, I crack myself up.
            .
            Here’s another one for you: What’s the difference between a liberal and a horse’s butt? Nobody knows!

        • lois eisenberg

          Yes it is a Bummer of monumental proportions !!
          When all is said and done it is going to be a bigger bummer for those that believe
          that this evil vile man is telling the truth!!
          Up to now he has spewed over 2000 lies !!!!