(CNN) -- The south Florida lifeguard (Tomas Lopez) fired for leaving his post so he could save a swimmer outside his coverage zone said Thursday he has been offered his job back. (More at http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/05/us/florida-lifeguard-fired/index.html?hpt=hp_bn1)
What was the Ellis Management Company (Lopez's employer) thinking?
The problem is, The Ellis Management Company was not thinking because it has a policy in place so it does not have to think. Here is the dilemma we have created for ourselves. The more zones, rules, policies and incentives we put in place and emphasize, the less we use common sense, wisdom and critical thinking.
“There are liability issues when you go out of your zone.” Ellis Management Company
What drives us to create zones, rules, policies and incentives is fear. We fear people will not do the greatest good, such as not shooting off fireworks during drought conditions so we create a policy. We fear people will not follow a universal standard such as put litter in it’s place, we create a law for littering. We fear people will not live the Golden Rule, so we enact many other written rules.
The more zones, rules, policies and incentives we create, the more fear we generate and the more we suppress critical thinking. It’s a double edge sword. Our fears are based on:
- what we believe we deserve - scarcity mentality
- we are not getting our fair share
- what we think we need to protect
- ugly stories we imagine including “phantom rules” of injustice
- something we believe will be taken from us
- we will not be respected or accepted
- promises, pledges and commitments that won’t be kept or honored
- we are not worthy
- trust issues
- our shame, our pain
- we are not lovable or deserved to be loved
As a result, we create moral confusion. Fortunately, for the man whose life was saved by Lopez this past Tuesday, there was no moral confusion. Jeff Ellis, Ellis Management who had hired Lopez said, "I know that he has tried to do the right thing."
Lopez didn’t try to do the right thing, Lopez DID the right thing. As Yoda said to young Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, “Try not. Do, or do not do. There is no try.” For Lopez and the life he saved, moral courage trumped policy. A “hard right was taken at an easy wrong!” (St Paul’s School for Boys, Baltimore, MD, prayer.)
Let’s use the Tomas Lopez/Ellis Management Company issue as a starting place for a conversation with ourselves.
Ask yourself, “Do I live life-affirming principles? What is my evidence?” Principles count for little if they are not practiced. Standing up for principles is the defining feature of moral courage.
Is my love for others great enough to help me overcome my fear? Will love give me moral courage?