Now, You See Him…

Published: August 18, 2008

By Jim Lichtman
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“Removing her ex-husband from more than a decade of memories may take a lifetime for Laura Horn,” a New York Times article began.  “But removing him from a dozen years of vacation photographs took only hours…” due to the skillful help of a friend and the popular digital-editing program Photoshop.

“What we’re doing,” photo-teacher Chris Johnson explained, “is fulfilling the wish that all of us have to make reality to our liking.”

Wouldn’t it be great if we could employ a similar idea with ethics?

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could use a program called, say CharacterShop to “remove” all the unbecoming characteristics of someone and insert admirable ones in their place?

Instead of having to deal with a gossipy co-worker, for example, you just wave the easy-to-use, digital wand of “CharacterShop” and bingo, they not only stop passing along hurtful rumors but talk about a fellow worker’s qualities instead!

How about politicians?

How wonderful to employ “CharacterShop” on a political candidate so that all he or she would say is the honest, direct, no-nonsense truth about an issue; or that every act of a political leader was accomplished with absolute integrity?

Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

Unfortunately, the reality is good character is formed by living under conditions that demand good conduct.  Real ethics is demonstrated when you have a choice, you do the right thing and are willing to subordinate other kinds of gains in order to make that right choice.

Although Photoshop can make reality to our liking, the only reality that counts, from an ethical standpoint is this:  if trust is important to you in all your relationships; if honesty and integrity are qualities you need to depend on, then we need to start practicing ethics in everything we do, not just when it’s convenient.

Speaking with my 94-year-old uncle, a man who has experienced both good and bad in his life, I asked him, “What will it take to turn things around, for political and corporate leadership to demonstrate more integrity?”

“It’ll take a miracle,” he said.

A few days later, I happened on a quote by writer, Thomas Wolfe.  “America is a fabulous country,” Wolfe wrote.  “It is the only place where miracles not only happen but where they happen all the time.”

Maybe the miracle lies within each of us.  Maybe the greatest gift we could give each other is a stronger commitment to honesty, fairness, respect, tolerance, responsibility, and moral courage.

Maybe that’s the way we get back America’s integrity.

Wouldn’t that be a reality truly to our liking?

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