How to Find Your Moral Compass

Uncategorized Nov 21, 2019

Finding a Moral Compass                                 

Welcome back.  I’m Alan Gordon, creator of the Cycle of Mind System of Mental Training.  I want to make you aware of a Free Course in Happiness I am now offering.  As you’ll see when you work your way through the course, Happiness is a state of Mind, and this course for most people will represent the beginning of their Mental Training using the Cycle of Mind System. 

Every episode I mention how important it is to have a moral compass.  

I’ve shared multiple examples of how the world is made a better place, how our own lives are made better when we act from a moral compass. 

And I’ve shared numerous examples of how we create pain to those around us when we are not guided by a moral compass. 

Here’s a different way to say it. 

With a moral compass we can use our life to heal others. 
Without a moral compass our actions end up hurting others. 

Why is it so hard to have a moral compass? 

As we have discussed a dozen times – we have one instinct toward Self-Interest – the lower part of our nature, and another instinct toward Compassion - the better part of our nature.  If left to nature we would go left and right, back and forth between the poles.  

So if we don’t have a moral compass, like most people, we will simply drift back and forth between our two poles.  We’re not bad people – we just haven’t set our Mind on a moral compass.                     

How do you find a moral compass? 

First of all, you have to want a moral compass.  If you don’t want it, then your negative instincts will assert themselves. 

Holding yourself to a higher moral standard is an intentional act.  It just doesn’t happen by itself, it requires constant reinforcement.  The Cycle of Mind daily exercises are designed to reinforce your commitment to Character, Values and Principles. 

How do you set your moral compass? 

That’s the easier part because we simply turn our Mind toward our Compassionate instinct – helping others. 

If you listen to all the episodes of this podcast from the beginning, you will know that we have already identified several key principles that will make up our moral compass. 

Here are the values we discussed.

Compassion, Generosity, Empowerment, Kindness, and Cooperation

Those represent our personal values, but it leaves open the question – how can we live together with people in the real world who don’t share our values, who may be different than us, who may have a different agenda than we do?

So today I want to share a very special sentence which completes our moral compass.  This one sentence is not only historically important, but it speaks directly to this idea of living together with people who are different than us.

When you review all the great literature of history, and all the great Minds who have spoken and written, so many great ideas stand out.  The reason there are so many wonderful books and quotes and ideas we love is because the truth of man, the truth of our condition can be said in infinite ways, and that is why so many great quotes and sentences speak to us as being true.

To create a Top Ten Most list of the greatest ideas ever spoken or written would be impossible – it would be a fun debate – but nobody could agree on number one – the most important quote or sentence that’s ever been written.  Fortunately, this is my podcast, so I get to choose!

Ancient Greek writers such as Homer and Plato stand above.  The writings of the Upanishads, the peaceful words of the Buddha, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and so many more examples. 

But for me, there is one sentence that stands out above all others in its importance, and it directly relates to this conversation about developing our moral compass. 

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. 

https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript 

There is our moral compass. 

Written in 1776, these words of the Declaration of Independence make the case for the creation of a new nation, free from the oppressive rule of England.  As the document continues it lays out more than two dozen specific grievances of the colonies against the crown.  Some very serious grievances including shutting off trade from the colonies, burning and pillaging coastal towns, suspending the right of trial by jury, allowing the Crown’s officers to be free from any punishment for crimes committed in the colonies including murders – and many more serious complaints which made life in the colonies oppressive and unbearable. 

And these colonists they took it on themselves to believe that it didn’t have to be this way.  Men do not need to accept tyranny and injustice. 

The Declaration of Independence is a step by step argument on why the colonists were justified to take action. 

When they laid out all these complaints in their declaration, they said:  “Let these facts be submitted to a candid world.”   In other words, let truth and honesty be the judge of these wrongs that have been committed by the crown against its colonies.  

The Declaration of Independence is a document about the rights of man, but it is also about truth.  It is a moral compass. 

Because our education system has lost the thread of history – many of our own citizens confuse the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution.  The Declaration was written in 1776, followed by a hard and bitter war fought for freedom, and in 1787, a full 11 years later, having driven the British army from the shores of America, the delegates from each colony went to Philadelphia with the hope of becoming a United States of America. 

With George Washington serving as silent chairman of the convention, for 116 days through dozens of drafts and revisions, the delegates finally agreed to the document we now know as the Constitution of the United States. 

Where the Declaration of Independence was about values, the Constitution was a practical document about laws. 

The Declaration of Independence was a call to the morality of the world to judge the immorality of the actions of the British Crown, thus justifying a revolution.                                                                                                     

From the Declaration of Independence in 1776 

“We hold these truths to be self evident…”
Right there it promises to give us truth – not one truth, but several truths.

And these truths are self evident – meaning there is no debate, there is no need to explain why these statements are true – they’re just true.  They are self evident. 

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…”

Full stop.  These words were written in 1776, and 11 years later America was launched with the adoption of the United States Constitution which lays out the law of the land – and you can see how the Constitution diverged from this moral compass.  The Constitution directly violated the first of these self evident truths - that all men are created equal.                                         

The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia was split along moral lines.  Many abhorred slavery on moral grounds, while others defended slavery as a necessary economic tool.  

The sad compromise was reached that Negro slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a person – not to mention that women were not counted at all. 

You can see here again the Polarity that plays itself out in all of us, and all throughout history – Compassion on the one hand, Self-Interest on the other.  

And because our very first legal document, the Constitution, was a compromise on these self evident values, we live with that original sin.  What was the original sin?  Putting in writing in the founding document that all men are not created equal. 

The story of America, the story of all history, is a continual struggle between those who are pulled by their conscience – by their Compassionate side, and those who live within their self-interest.  

What divides us, and what divides all men is this divergence between Compassion and Self-interest.   

Self-Interest is wrong.  

And those who cling to self-interest often will speak of morality, or wrap themselves in patriotic words as a way to shield the hurt they are causing to others through their self-interested behaviors. 

Homer spoke of this 2,800 years ago. 

“Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.”
~ Homer
 

If it hurts other people, Self-Interest is wrong.  Full stop. 

As always, Character, Values and Principles are most important in our lives. 

The Declaration of Independence, started a revolution with moral justification.  We can’t allow this bad guy to do bad things to us. 

But as imperfect men, we compromised on those values – and to this day America continues to struggle to find a moral compass. 

A moral compass is an intangible thing.  A moral compass represents ethics, values and principles.  But life is not intangible, people are not perfect, these decisions are real – and so we must take our first step carefully.  When you click off this podcast you will speak to someone, or you will take an action. 

The first step we take on any journey, the first step we take right now – represents a choice.  By taking the first step on the journey, with our words and actions, we show the world – we expose for all to see - who we are inside.  Our words and actions speak for our Character. 

The first step leads to the next and the next and the next.  To see where we are today – we need only look back at each step we have taken to get here. 

Therefore, the very first stepping stone must be laid with care – because that first stone points to the direction of our future. 

The Constitution, great document that it is – was not laid square to our moral compass – and so each step in America’s journey has been like a sailboat tacking back and forth in the wind – at times moving away from a moral compass, at times tacking back to a moral compass. 

That is the history of the United States.  We all don’t agree on a moral compass – because if we all agreed, then we would all behave with highest moral character. 

The first stone on a new path must be laid perfectly square.  Even the slightest deviation means the next stone will be off center, and the next and the next, until eventually the path we build looks nothing like the moral compass we originally claimed. 

“We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…”

Our rights come from our Creator, they are not bestowed on us by any government or authority.  They are our inalienable rights, which means natural rights – we are born with them – they are part of who we are. 

An inalienable right cannot be taken from us, or bargained away, or sold, or stolen, or destroyed – these rights are ours – in the same way our Mind and Body are ours.  No man, no group, no government may claim them.  

“We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

No one may take our Life, it is sacred.

No one may take our Liberty – our freedom to think as we choose, to worship as we choose, to live as we choose – this is our right.

And no one may deny us our right to pursue our own Happiness. 

This one great sentence written more than 350 years ago, lays out four great values that form a strong moral compass for any country, any government, or any group.

We’re all different.  We will never agree on everything.  So how do we live together?  The answer is Equality, Life, Liberty, Happiness.

But where it says “among these rights” is really a promise to us that there are more truths.  So let’s go a bit further and list a few more self evident, inalienable rights that have been endowed to us by our Creator.

Justice – we have the right to be judged fairly – innocent if we are truly innocent, guilty if we are truly guilty.  This right is very carefully proscribed in the Constitution, although we have not always been completely moral in our execution of justice.

Love – we have the right to have love in our lives, to love who we want, how we want.  

Peace – we have the right to be left alone and undisturbed.  If we are not disturbing others, then we have the right to peacefully exist. 

Truth – we have the right to seek truth and be told the truth by others.                                                                                                   

Equality, Life, Liberty, Happiness, Justice, Love, Peace, Truth. 

If I have these rights, then everyone has these rights.  They are universal – they are not just for me and my group, they are for everyone – regardless of group. 

Since everyone has these rights, then it becomes our personal obligation to ensure these exact same rights for others.  Just like nobody can infringe on our inalienable rights, we may not infringe on anyone else’s inalienable rights.  As it turns out, if you believe in these values – nobody’s rights are more important than anyone else’s rights.  Nobody is more important than anyone else. 

These rights are to be enjoyed, but they give each of us a sacred obligation. 

We have an obligation to treat people with equality.

We have an obligation to protect the lives of others.

We have an obligation to ensure the liberty of others.

We have an obligation to help others be happy.

We have an obligation to love others.

We have an obligation to leave others in peace.

We have an obligation to be truthful in our own words and actions. 

Just like we demand these rights for ourselves, others depend on us to uphold these values.  This is self evident.  

A moral compass is not a natural thing for us.  You would think we would just be born with these values – but like I said – we are born with a polarity – one pulls us to Self-Interest, the other pulls us to this moral compass. 

Living with a moral compass requires intention – it doesn’t just happen naturally – we have to intentionally point our Minds to these values – if we don’t then we just drift back and forth between these moral values we talk about – and our own self-interest. 

So when I designed the Cycle of Mind System, I created the Exercises to intentionally reinforce our Character, Values and Principles.  If you don’t keep working at it, then you will end up falling back to your natural instincts.                                                                                   

So here again, in its totality, is the greatest sentence ever written, certainly the greatest sentence in modern history. 

This sentence belongs to more than just America, it belongs to the world, it belongs to anyone who wants to pick it up and live by it. 

“We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” 

It is not about self-interest, but about higher moral values. 

In his 1960 inaugural address, John F. Kennedy famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  This pointed the Minds of millions of young people to the great Principle of Service. 

An assassin’s bullet cut his life short, but his brother Bobby Kennedy eight years later, picked up the same torch when he said: 

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others.
~ Robert F. Kennedy 

Then in 2012, the Democratic Party held its convention in Charlotte, NC.  Barack Obama had been president for the past four years, so it was with a unanimous vote that the Democratic Party nominated again – Barack Obama as their candidate for president.  The hall was packed, flags were waving, and the chant that night was “Four More Years.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9BH9iaKKh8 

I want to share with you what Barack Obama said in his acceptance speech on that day.
“We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals.”

He continued…
“As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us.  It’s about what can be done by us, together – through the hard and often frustrating work of self-government.  That’s what we believe.”
 

Here again is the full list of our rights and our responsibilities. 

Compassion, Generosity, Empowerment, Cooperation, Equality, Life, Liberty, Happiness, Justice, Love, Peace, Truth 

You can’t predict your future, but the steps you take today, in fact your very next thought will surely determine that future.  

So I ask each of you to square all your thoughts, all your words, all your actions, and all your intentions – square everything you think, say and do to your moral compass, because that will be your future.  

This is an individual thing.  Each one of us, for ourselves and by ourselves, must defeat the Polarity of our nature by turning our backs on Self-Interest, and turning our Minds toward Compassion.  This is something we must intentionally choose. 

As I said earlier, a moral compass is invisible – but it guides your thoughts, words and actions.  By carefully observing your life, people can tell how committed you are to your moral compass. 

I urge you to put yourself through mental training – like the Cycle of Mind System – learn to control your thoughts - and keep this moral compass in your Mind at all times.  Your life will be a reflection of the thoughts you hold in your Mind. 

It is true when I say that Character, Values and Principles are most important because they define who you are. 

Please visit my website and enroll for the Free Happiness Course – it is the first introduction to the Cycle of Mind System of Mental Training. 

If you like these discussions about Mind, please share them with all your friends, and please take a moment and leave a five star rating and five star review on your podcast app or website. 

We have only scratched the surface to the power of Mind.  I appreciate your support. 

If you haven’t already signed up for the course in Happiness – I’m not sure what you’re waiting for.  I break Happiness down into Six Elements, and the very first element is Health.  Take control of your Health.  Take control of your Happiness.  Take control of the thoughts you put in your Mind, understanding that every thought you have today is creating your future.   Point your Mind to Health and Happiness!

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