Monday, January 5, 2009

Doing Good

My sister works in a highly competitive, political environment. She calls it the “hall of mirrors” because of the constantly shifting alliances and schemes of her colleagues. Soon after her employment, “Jill” discovered that the charming banter of her co-workers hid stealth campaigns of character assassination and departmental warfare. Despite the risks, Jill dedicated herself toward transparency and integrity. She decided to trust her co-workers. She said it was easier on her than assuming the worst.

Jill’s tender and playful attitude helps others relax and brings out the best in them. Recently she gently obtained support from a famously uncooperative co-worker. “Ralph” even seemed delighted to assist. That’s Jill’s brilliance, she brings out goodness and then people feel good about themselves. I could see this in the supportive culture that has blossomed between Jill and her new friends. They are happily working together, despite the tumult all around.

I thought of Jill’s workplace while reading The Futurist’s lead story about an “ethical” area of the brain. Scientists are exploring if our brains are wired to develop an ethical awareness just as we are wired to develop language. If this is so, then even if moral beliefs (like languages) differ according to culture, we may share a deeper programming toward principled behavior. Are we structured to inwardly desire “goodness?” If we betray our own better selves, do we suffer inwardly? Jill’s warring coworkers do seem stressed and unhappy. Is being “good” part of our intended design?