The outside observer looking at what I have been able to accomplish over the years might agree that I have been blessed with an abundance of outward success. But I tend to view life from a much different vantage point. Whereas the outward success is the result of God’s blessings, the true blessing is the vantage point from which I view my life’s work, and all the opportunities and challenges that comes along with it.
I like to call this vantage point the 60-foot view. Most people in life walk along and see only the first level. We notice the storefronts and the people in front of us on the street as we walk by. We see the traffic signs and the buses and the cars. And for most of us, taking it all in at the street level is the best we can do. But things look completely different from sixty feet in the air. You not only see the cars, but you can also see the flow of traffic. You are able to make decisions about where to turn and what route to take in a much more efficient manner than the everyday commuter.
I may not be the smartest, or most well-connected or even the wealthiest person in my circle of friends and business associates. But what does set me apart – and what I believe accounts for the majority of my outward success – is the moral ‘wealth’ I have accumulated over a lifetime of moral striving. This starts with the choices we make every day. It is the choice not to always give in to sexual temptation. It is the choice to value integrity, loyalty, and trust above all else, as well as avoid substances like drugs and alcohol that can weaken one’s moral resolve. All of these choices grow your moral bank account, and elevate you above the streets-eye view of life.
The accumulation of wealth and elevation of perspective that inevitably result from moral striving is not obvious at first. Moral wealth may not always pay immediate dividends. In fact, striving morally my even appear to put one at a disadvantage initially, as others without such scruples appear to get ahead of the game. But where moral wealth really earns its value is during the storms of life. It is during the storms of life, when things are difficult, that the moral bank account really comes in handy. These storms can take the form of business challenges, economic recessions and even technological changes that challenge existing assumptions in business. More than likely though, the storms will come in the form of more personal challenges. You may confront situations involving your own character that you may not have been prepared to deal with. Or there could be people close to you who are going through challenging times and it affects you deeply.
How does one’s moral bank account help in these situations? The moral bank account is a reservoir of good will. Even if you are going through challenges at the moment, there are still good things you have done, people you’ve helped along the way, and disciplines you’ve instilled within yourself that can help buoy you during tumultuous times. Others may see your immediate challenges, but when they know of your long track record of making the right choices, they will often stand up for you and go to bat for you during the tough times.
The moral bank account also empowers us with a greater degree of awareness. With age and experience wisdom ripens. You begin to encounter similar people and similar situations the longer you live. And if you have really learned the lessons that prior experience teaches, you can avoid becoming entangled in situations that can be distracting or harmful. This is the view from 60 feet above the ground. Many people call this view ‘discernment.’ Discernment is the perception, in the absence of any judgment, with a view towards obtaining spiritual direction and understanding. It is without doubt one of the most potent tools in my arsenal.
When I discuss benefits of moral discernment with people, they often point out that there are many wealthy people who do not seem to operate in a moral manner. I have to always respond that of course it is possible to gain monetary wealth through unscrupulous means or even by happenstance. After all, we are all endowed by our creator with free will, and only God knows the ultimate outcome in life. However, one cannot long maintain wealth without a significant reservoir of moral striving, and a vantage point that is above the general fray.