Are we losing our moral values?

2014-06-05 00:00

ARE the so called “old-fashioned values” disappearing in today’s society? Are they being overlooked all in the name of achievement, progress or success?

Let’s investigate a few life areas. In business, the bottom line is often about turning a profit, and we will do anything to get a bigger profit margin. And that “anything” often goes against solid values.

So let’s look at what values can be compromised in our drive to make more money. We could stand on others in order to get to the top. We could rip our clients off, and sell them inferior products. We could lie about the condition of the second-hand car (or house) we are selling, and by the time the client discovers the problem, the deal is done, and he or she is left with the problem. We may compromise our values in order to have all the trappings of success — the big house, fancy car, overseas holidays. We may act with greed, dishonesty, unethical practices, and a hardened heart rather than doing business with honour, using the universal principle of fair exchange, having a deep sense of pride in our product or service, and being honest in each and every transaction.

We seem to think that the only value worth pursuing is wealth, so we throw away most of the old-fashioned values, as well as our ethics to get there. Anything goes, as long as we are moving up the ladder of success. We only have to look at the corruption in government departments to see this truth.

Let’s look at the banking sector, where our bank charges are exorbitant, compared with many other countries. Our banks are making a huge profit with our hard-earned money (greed). What for? To help others? Not likely. Instead, they sponsor major sporting events, and functions — mixing with the upper echelons of society. Imagine how much good they could do if they used this money to build houses, care for the aged or impoverished.

I was standing in the bank one day behind an elderly worker. He was there to draw his whole salary, and couldn’t understand why he was only getting R800, and not R850. His distress really got through to me, as that extra R50 would buy a lot of bread, mielie meal or pay school fees. He couldn’t understand why the bank had to take his money for doing nothing. What had the bank done to earn his money?

Looking at school sport and the huge pressure placed on schools to win every match — pressure is put on the children by their parents, coaches, principals, and the board to win — losing is not an option.

Has everyone forgotten that in every single match there will be one victor and one loser? Shouldn’t we be teaching our children how to win and lose graciously and to learn to handle disappointment? This will help prepare them for life, which won’t always allow them to win. We are encouraging a culture which is out of balance.

And now let’s toss money into the equation. Some schools are so desperate to win that they resort to buying players from other schools, paying outside coaches for a term which amounts to more than the annual salary of teachers. Their attitude is one of throwing money at anything, and that will solve the problem. They use artificial aids to enhance performance, force injured players to perform, all to win at all costs. Old-fashioned values of being gracious in defeat, sportsmanship, honour in competing, acknowledging that the other player was better than you, humility, giving praise where it is due, acknowledging that there are always those lesser or greater than you, are conveniently forgotten.

If we always win, we are never taught those principles. We are producing people who are arrogant, self-righteous, intolerant, unethical, self-centred, narcissistic and out of balance because we are ensuring that they experience only the good (winning) way of life, no matter what it takes to get there.

At some schools where teachers and principals rape pupils and where teachers are absent more than they are teaching, what are they teaching our youngsters? How can we teach responsibility, honouring our bodies, commitment, a high work ethic and motivation when those who do the teaching do exactly the opposite?

Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a society where we are respectful of each other and each other’s bodies, learn to share, are compassionate, want the best for everyone, act with honour, strive to be the bigger person, value honesty, learn to put ourselves last, are humble, while still being highly motivated to give of our very best?

And, yes, to win some but also to lose some, because that is how life is.

• Cherri Forsyth is a life coach.

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