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Preaching the unpracticed

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"We have, in fact, two kinds of morality side by side: one which we preach but do not practice, and another which we practice but seldom preach."
- Bertrand Russell

One cannot talk about uprightness without digging close to the lawn of morality, honesty, integrity, proper judgment and all critically discussed virtues. After all, they’re neighbors and serve as fine gauges of whether we are actually being upright or otherwise. Morality has everything to do with our ability to discern what's right and wrong, and from consistently doing what is right, we grow to be upright. From being honest, simple and straightforward, we are veering from hypocrisy and deceit. From adhering to the socially accepted moral standards, we are regarded as good citizens.

Apparently, choosing between the good and bad and the right and wrong have varying levels of difficulty, and we can all attest to that. How hard is it to choose between littering and not? And yet, what do we do? How hard is it to decide on leaving a partner who beats us every time he gets the chance to? And yet, out of love and an unconditional sense of forgiveness that defies all standards of rational thinking, what do we do? If being upright is doing the right thing unwaveringly, then why do the consequences weigh so heavily, like we are never to get anything right, the easy way?

Much has been said about the value of being upright and the honor that goes along with being righteous, but no clear line has been set on how to achieve it, much like with every other virtue, it is relative, and subject to every social phenomenon. Its concept is inculcated variably in different cultures and constructs and there is no legal basis to judge it. Perhaps being upright requires a certain level of discipline of consistently doing that which we consider right, and it varies. Every person has his own concept of right and wrong. Every person is governed by different sets of rules, each for the different roles he plays each day. If being upright is measured by a person’s level of adherence to the rules set before him, say, in a workplace, then you have got a scale for a diligent employee. Similarly, in the campus, we are bound to a set of rules that defines our overall student conduct. We get merits for getting good grades, for paying the tuition fee on time, and for not doing anything that will endanger a clean record.

Luckily, we do not need to bother guessing what’s right and wrong if we’re in a closed group or organization (i.e. office, school, etc.). Everything has already been laid out in the form of by-laws. All we need to do is obey them in a strict manner and we are good to go. On the other hand, life outside the campus and the workplace isn’t governed by these objective rules. Life is much harder than having to pick the right colored trash bin to throw your non-biodegradable waste to. The way you live your life to uprightness relies solely on your beliefs, your perception of good and bad and the level of integrity you put into it.

Organizations train us into becoming morally perceptive individuals, by stating rules which are socially credited, they help our depository of right morals grow. Hopefully this should help us discern better but ultimately, it’s a great stepping stone in attaining the upright life state. FEU is one such example of a system advocating this challenging virtue. If fortitude is the courage of consistently gathering ourselves up after consecutively being tripped over by adversities, and excellence is a consequence of putting quality and diligence at first, then uprightness is what holds our moral sense altogether, an integral virtue in every decision you consider in life. Uprightness, being the U in FEU’s core virtues must be held up with high regard.

As students, being upright could simply mean being honest in everything we do. Conventional knowledge says to not cheat, to throw our trash at the right bins, to observe silence in classes, to respect the professors, etc. There is nothing to be argued about these things because we were brought up to believe that they are part of our common sense and doing otherwise will give us demerits. There is no moral evaluation needed because the stated clauses are fully accepted and preferred behaviors, yet the option to do otherwise still remains. While we all know that every rule the school administration imposes is intended for the welfare of each student, not everyone could understand that every rule demands a certain degree of discipline. The right thing doesn’t always come in a cheap package. Doing the right thing is not always the most practical thing to do, but if we put effort into, we sow the seeds of uprightness on the way to success.

Throwing at the right places could prove to be such a pain in the neck especially if we’ve walked a hundred yards past the nearest trash can. A piece of candy wrapper couldn’t be of major harm to an already littered street, so what damage could it bring to us and your conscience, right when we know the community cleaners will sweep it away any time of the day? There’s not much to consider, just a single piece of non-biodegradable junk to be dropped on the concrete sidewalk, and to be swept clean in no time. Why bother walking all the way back, when we can just throw it and be over with it, just like how everybody else does?

Every little thing matters, what mindset we put in such a trivial thing will reflect on how we handle the bigger, more intricate problems in life. If we can’t even make a single harmless sacrifice and start being concerned with doing the right thing, then it’s a flat road we’re trekking now. We were taught about this at school, practical application is as easy as it seems, yet pragmatic reasoning often blinds us from seeing the light of doing the right thing.

Cheating as a moral dilemma has been widely discussed in forums all over. It’s easy to avoid it if we studied, but if we didn’t and it’s the only thing that could save our education, and ultimately our future, what is there to lose? They say it is better to cheat than to repeat, and I’ve seen myself agree to that a hundred times in the span of my being a student. It could be safely assumed that no one gets a degree without ever having to cheat even a single item from a petty homework. Add the fact that everyone’s doing it makes it even guilt-free.

This is but a test of how strong our resolve is with adhering to that which we know is right. One can never be perfectly upright, but just the mere effort in attempting to be one is indicative of a heart that is willing to be kindled with a flame that brews righteousness and deposits uprightness.

FEU wants us to grow into properly nurtured and holistic individuals with exemplary discerning skills. Knowing what’s right from wrong, good from evil, and being able to weigh it in an upright manner is the key to every sound decision. We were born with the power to recognize two opposite entities as they are being defined. We were brought up with the fundamental knowledge of good and evil, of right and wrong, and were indoctrinated to pursue only that which is good or right, and eliminate from thought anything that is evil or wrong.

Proper moral discernment is what defines us and our way of living. Uprightness is but the consequence of correct moral judgment and a steadfast faith on our beliefs. This is how we should grow. What small efforts we put into being students of honesty and integrity must be stretched to a wider angle and must reach outside the bounds of the walled city we call school. How plausible is this, to try to live an upright life amidst reality’s chaotic nature? How could we possibly choose the genuine option when we are presented with all the wrong things, disguised as the right ones? Deceit is everywhere, and politics has become a moral consideration. This is where we should apply discernment in an objective manner, and be upright and staunch with it.

Mahatma Gandhi said that we should be the change we want to see in the world. If we want to change the world, a massive collective effort must be exerted in which everyone works on changing themselves for the better. Everything starts from within, then it stretches out to our families, our friends, the community and eventually, the network of change affects an entire nation. If we do at least one right thing at a time, then eventually we could turn the world into the ‘right’ place; a place where everyone works in harmony and peace, where everyone knows the thick line separating good from evil, a place where everyone has a tight grip on morality, honesty and integrity.

The concept of uprightness and how to get there has always been there, and even in the past, much has been said about its nature. Our role as students and citizens as one is to ensure that we use God’s gift of discernment in a progressive way, in a way that will mold us into wise and morally upright citizens, in a way that will reach out to our nation’s pleas of help even in the littlest ways. There’s no better way to do this than to act. Now.

Bertrand Russell was right stating that there are two sides to morality, one which we preach but hardly practice and one which we practice but seldom preach. By writing this, I have come to value honesty more than ever and so I cannot be called a hypocrite by telling you that I have just preached what I hardly practice, thus the title.