By David Hegg
There are so many things we’ve been learning this year about the COVID-19 virus and the wide range of effects it has had, is having, and will continue to have in the foreseeable future. But for all of the unknowns, changing theories, varying symptoms, and myriad different ways the virus acts and attacks, one thing continues to be paramount: good health. While the media loves to feed on the exceptions, the rule is this: Those in good overall health fare much, much better than those with other known health challenges.
That got me thinking about what we can learn from this in other areas of life, especially as we charge into a new year filled with hope and determination. So, here’s my thought on pursuing good overall health in the areas of ethics, habits, commitments, and especially in how we see ourselves and others.
In the same way our immune system is the backbone of our physical health, so also our ethical system is the backbone of our overall community health as contributing members of society. So, tell me: How’s your ethic? How are your convictions? Do you have strong, truth-shaped beliefs about what is right and wrong, good and bad, helpful and damaging? And even more, are you known as a person who abides by your ethical standards even when it may cost you popularity, opportunity, or wealth? And perhaps most important, are your ethical standards shaped by something more than personal dogmatism, convenience and pragmatism? We’ve seen what happens when those in decision-making positions shape their ethics according to their own warped desires. Whatever you do, be sure your ethics are grounded in historical values, and don’t be surprised if they trace their roots all the way back to biblical truth.
But healthy ethics aren’t worth a nickel if they are not pursued with daily discipline. How healthy is your discipline? Do you hold yourself to the highest standards, determining to do the right things the right way for the right reasons at the right time? Do you fight your innate laziness and self-centered tendencies knowing that the joy of righteous achievement will be around long after the seeming value of procrastination has left you feeling worthless? And do you pursue excellence in all things?
As a child I remember my father quoting Benjamin Franklin, whose words still seem to be calligraphed on my eyelids: “Son, the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
To be excellent in all things we must be disciplined in all the little things, including making sure our ethic isn’t compromised by our daily decisions.
Good health as a person demands a healthy ethic, along with healthy habits of discipline and diligence. Just as the COVID virus attacks those most viciously whose physical health is compromised, so also the virus of adverse circumstances seems to damage those most whose overall ethical health has been compromised. When tough times come, bringing the challenge of compromise, duplicity, and worse, those whose lives stand on slippery ethical footing will find themselves without many good options.
And often it all boils down to this question: What kind of person are you, and what kind of person do you want to be? In my mind there are only two kinds of people in this world: those who live for themselves, and those who see their purpose in life as something bigger.
The theater that is 2020 has given us a split-screen production. On one screen we have watched as our nation has been led down the path of incivility with its vulgarity, unbridled animosity, and dehumanizing tribalism. Leaders on every side have left their love of neighbor behind beneath a mudflow of self-serving lies they think we’re ignorant enough to believe.
On the other screen we’ve watch our neighborhoods come together to care for those with COVID, sacrificing time and treasure to honor health care workers, educators, law enforcement and firefighters, and myriad regular folks who sought no recognition except the knowledge that they were giving some of their time and love to those in need.
The contrast is stark, and it is extremely educational. Here’s the deal: We are best when we live outside ourselves, when we enlarge our comfort zones to include what needs to be done, and when we focus on loving one another as our Creator has loved us. After all, we’re still here! We’re still neighbors! We’re still fighting, and in His providence, it appears we get yet another chance to get it right in the coming year. So, my Santa Clarita Valley friends, let’s determine to live beyond ourselves and make it a Happy New Year!
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.