Everything you know about me is wrong

I shared an office once with an extremely clever and truly good person. One day while I was acting rashly and threatening retaliation against a perceived academic slight, she turned her face to mine and said: ‘Don’t lose your credibility. Without that you have nothing.’

What I couldn’t see so close to the moment was that the retaliation I wanted to wreak was going to do me significant damage. Its intended recipient was going to brush it off like a leaf fallen from a tree and it would have has as much impact. To me though, it was going to cruel my chances altogether.

She was right. I have never forgotten the look on her face. Calm, quietly beseeching me because she cared. She was right too that I would have lost all credibility and would have been compromised. Sage advice.

Sage. Salvus. Safe. Healing.

Sage. Salvus. Safe. Healing.

I think often, particularly now that more than 15 years have passed and I have more experience that I did then, of that strong gift. The moral philosopher has a role to demonstrate to us the unintended consequences of positions we may hold. Their great usefulness is that they show us when we are internally inconsistent.

The other feature of the truly good person, who happens to be a moral philosopher, is that the advice was given without any strings, without any reflection on herself. It was about me, as she saw the situation, but without personal interest.

This week I have sifted through a similar scenario. A slight. A planned overreaction. Advice given. Change of approach from me. The difference this time is that the stakes were higher. Much higher. My integrity was my bedrock. Other players in this drama were motivated by far less noble motives.

What bothered me most this week was when I demonstrated my integrity and provided reasons why it had been compromised, my concerns were dismissed. That told me everything I needed to know. How can I trust the word of a person who, when faced with an expression of my internal values, dismisses their worth?

What you think you know about me is wrong. My integrity is much more important to me that any short term gain. I have learnt from my mistakes. Hard, hard lessons. I will still be here. I will not back down.

I’ve been listening to this song over and over. I am still working out how it fits in.