Archives For September 2014

iStock_000000406014MediumLeaders do the right thing. Today, many hold that no one can say what is moral, or what is right or wrong. But we admire Abraham Lincoln, a leader of character who did the HIGHEST MORAL ACTION despite the risks. To act, he first had to DISCERN which option was the highest right. He had to use the lost art of moral reasoning.

DISCERNMENT is moral reasoning. It’s the opposite of expedience, short-term-results, political correctness, acceptance, esteem, polls, conflict avoidance, protecting backsides and claiming that no one can say what is right. It’s about one thing: DOING THE HIGHEST RIGHT.

Three tools can help us discern the highest right. First is Conscience (Aug 2012 blog). I become still; I listen to the inner voice; I record its guidance in my calendar. Gandhi said that conscience, which George Washington called celestial fire, was the only tyrant he would accept. But this isn’t easy; Americans are now world leaders in ignoring our conscience.[1]

Today, I’ll describe the second tool: Tier 3 Elimination Analysis. Ask: What’s my most fearful, selfish option? A fear-driven answer pops up. Call this Tier 1 egotism — common cowardice – not a good option. Then ask: what’s the most expedient and pragmatic action for me and my own? This is Tier 2 material results for material people. Now, fear of not having money trumps love of family, and we teach children to compete for cash rather than to improve as people. I once rationalized pragmatism, fear and overwork as “taking care of family.” But I’m not in The Matrix; I was wired to be a moral being. My family wanted time with me more than money. I write this as one who was hungry as a kid and fired and laid-off as a parent of young children.

Third is Tier 3 courage: THE HIGHEST RIGHT THING among remaining right options.

THE CHALLENGE: Listen to conscience. Name and scratch off Tier 1 and Tier 2 options. Match your Tier 3 Highest Right with what conscience told you. Now imagine doing this action. Don’t do it – simply imagine taking this action. Congratulations! You’ve just practiced DISCERNMENT.

I’ll write next time of the third and final tool we can use for DISCERNING THE HIGHEST MORAL ACTION. Until then, imagine courage and character in your life.


[1], reported in the Boston Globe, June 6, 2010.