Consider a Code of Ethics

A friend who owns and operates one of our SKH Quest Center Martial Arts affiliate schools suggested that we might prune some of the words out of our 14 Point Code of Mindful Action warrior protector ethics to make it easier and quicker for young students to remember and recite. Might help adults, too. To-Shin Do students explore these codes one at a time, one with each belt grade from White Belt to Black Belt.

We sure could tighten it up. “I thoughtfully express the truth; I avoid the confusion of dishonest words” could easily become “I always tell the truth; I never lie”.

Yes but that would negate the oh-so-important point of why this is a code of mindful action and not a list of 14 commandments. There is an important reason our code of ethics is necessarily more wordy than an advertising jingle. This is a personal development program we run, not an expedient substitute for discriminating intelligence.

“I thoughtfully express the truth.” Note that “thoughtfully” in there. I have given thought to the impact of what and how I communicate. I am not a reflexively compulsive truth-teller.

Just because something is the truth is not reason enough to say it out loud all the time. What is the even bigger point that needs to be addressed or promoted in the specific moment? Sheer all-point truth telling for its own sake? Or is there some grander over-riding point or purpose in the moment? Think! Consider! Discern!

I once had a student who just had to put out there whatever she believed. If I ever questioned her critical comments, she would always retort with, “Well, if you can’t handle the truth…”

The awkward thing was that yes she spoke her mind, but she was often just plain wrong as to what was true. She expressed her views of how things and other people should have been, based on her views of how the world should have worked. She fervently believed what she believed, and her beliefs kept her stuck in a world where others were always held responsible for what bothered her. I gently urged her to see that if she more thoughtfully expressed the (OK, “her”) truth, perhaps her husband would still be living with her and her sons and daughters might still be speaking to her.

“I avoid the confusion of dishonest words.” Again the key is the non-reflexive quality of the “I avoid…” as opposed to a flat-out just plain “I never…”. You have to think to make this work.

Sometimes, when up against a monster of a person or group or situation, in order to promote the better good I may choose to avoid blunt mechanical pronouncements of all parts of the whole truth. I do not have to tell all that I know all of the time; I may need to speak tactically. Is this lying? What is the greatest benefit for all in this situation?

The purpose of the SKH Quest Center 14 Point Code is to create the best life possible by encouraging full ethical responsibility for our interactions with others. Take charge of your experience! Use the 14-Point Code of Mindful Action as a guide for making life more enjoyable and meaningful. But remember to think carefully about what you are committing to creating by means of your ethics code.

5 comments to “Consider a Code of Ethics”

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  1. This is so true. A family member often lies, because in this way she has avoided accepting responsiblity for anything thus far in her life. This has shaped my moral code of believing we need to accept the results of our actions. Simply saying “I do not lie” does not encompass the fact that I have made a choice not to lie.

  2. An e-mail from a friend asked:
    “I have a question regarding Code of Action #8. Namely, what constitutes small talk? Being an outgoing person, I am working to identify what is and what is not small talk. I can identify situations at home, work or at a store where small talk might find its way to the surface, and I can understand where people are uncomfortable with the silence and interject some random chatter about ‘the weather.’ Any insight would be greatly appreciated.”

    We avoid gossip and small talk because those habits lead to less mindfulness, less appreciation for the preciousness of each moment of each day, and dull us (or poison us) to the bigger possibilities at work in our connection to others.

    Small talk is avoided because it wastes our time. But if a friend is unhappy and can’t listen to wise advice, we can joke, tell funny stories, and chit-chat to lighten the mood. Because our motivation is to help, our joking around is positive. Laughing and having a good time are not opposed to meaningful living. The really advanced beings I’ve been fortunate to spend time with have a wonderful sense of humor and are very friendly.

    Gossip is avoided because it lowers our ideals. Speaking of others’ troubles as a form of personal entertainment or making oneself seem important is the opposite of what motivates us as a noble protector. But if we are speaking negatively about others as a way of warning friends about dangerous, unethical, or criminal behavior that could impact us, that is a form of responsibility The key is recognizing our motivation. Are we enjoying speaking ill of others in an egotistical way, or are we warning others to protect them? Not always easy to call accurately.

    To-Shin Do should not be an isolated path, and it’s important for warrior protectors to cultivate group unity and companionship. Sometimes this means just letting off the forward throttle and enjoying some down time sharing the lighter enjoyments of life. You can learn a lot about people by listening to what makes them laugh.

  3. I come to To-Shindo, perhaps as an anomaly in that I am a Quaker and I am raising my children (both of whom study To-Shindo with me) as Quakers. Were it not for the Code of Mindful Action (and of course our instructors) I might have walked right out of the door when I first came to the Chapel Hill Quest Center. That would have been a shame. In the four years we’ve studied here we’ve learned to love this community and the people who are a part of it. It is clear to me that the Code of Mindful Action is one of many attributes that separate our Quest Centers from thousands of McDojos.

    Let me explain. As a Quaker we have what are called “Queries”. These are questions, which we reflect upon both as a community and as individuals. They are not rules, but rather guidance for reflection/meditation. They are an ideal to constantly work towards. Sounds like our Code of Mindful Action, yes? Most likely, neither will be perfectly achieved, as we are all of us fallible, but they serve to positively frame our life journey.

    One Quaker Query is “Do you strive to develop your physical, emotional and mental capacities toward reaching your Divinely given potential?” That sounds a lot like “I cultivate a positive attitude, a healthy body, and a clear mind, I avoid whatever would reduce my physical or mental well-being.

    Another Query is “Do you endeavor to widen your circle of friendships within the Meeting, seeking to know persons of all ages and at all stages of the spiritual journey?”. Reminds me of “I develop significant relationships, I avoid abusing others for selfish gain.”

    A third Query is “Are love and harmony within the Meeting community fostered by a spirit of open sharing? Do you endeavor to widen your circle of friendships within the Meeting, seeking to know persons of all ages and at all stages of the spiritual journey?” This Query reminds me of the final lines from the Code, “I work to build love, happiness, and loyalty among all the members of my family. I avoid putting temporary personal benefit ahead of the welfare of those I love.” During times of difficulty, such that we face now, this feels of utmost importance. Without a strong community, what do we really have?

    These are just three examples, but I’ve noted a parallel for every line of the Code of Mindful Action with the Quaker Queries. I am obviously not suggesting that To-Shindo and Quakerism are identical twins separated at birth, but they both encourage us to develop a strong moral compass. In these trying times, both our children and we adults are so hungry for anything that encourages us in this way.

    At the end of reciting my portion of the Code of Mindful Action, I often say “Amen” under my breath. Amen of course means, “yes before God I agree with that, I believe that to be true, I want that to be so”.

    So, I do not mean to proselytize to anyone, but rather just share with you why I believe the Code of Mindful Action is so powerful for all of us, in it’s entirety. I for one would feel it to be a loss if the Code were pared down in anyway.

  4. One of our youth students turned in his “Intent to Promote” graduation form yesterday. To the question, “Why is a Code of Mindful Action Important”, he responded: “Without a code, you are nothing.”

  5. I find it refreshing that your attitude, Mr. Hayes, promotes self-growth as a process and not just a tag line in a recitation like many schools have. From what I’ve read of the Code of Mindful Action, it seems a positive set of aspirations to live by. I do have a question. The Code seems to be written in diametric phrases. The first statement in each of the 14 points seems to be written in a positive manner and the second statement in each seems written from a negative perspective. Is there a purpose in this structure or am I reading something into it that is not there?

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