Emotional Debts

“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order;

to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order;

to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life;

we must first set our hearts right.”  Confucius, 551 479BC.

What Confucius says applies as much today as it did thousands of years ago. Currently – and, indeed, for over three years now – the news has been dominated by the doom and gloom about the collapse of capitalism and the fiscal rectitude that is required to build economic stability. The irony of it all is that many of the individuals who were responsible for the economic collapse are still in power – politically and economically – and there is no evidence to show that they ‘have put their hearts right.’ Neither is there any evidence of the owning of the huge emotional and social debts that are owed to the masses of individuals who are now saddled with major economic uncertainty for the future, due to the unprecedented level of greed, avarice, depersonalisation, secretiveness, intimidation and profit-target mentality that were the bones of economic activities.

But it is not just those who have and had leadership roles that need to examine their hearts. All of us who swam along with the tide of economic prosperity (in hindsight, an illusion) also need to question our own motives and to determine the extent of the emotional debt we may owe to ourselves and to our children. Success addiction certainly drove many leaders and others to put work, status and size of salary before one’s life partner, children and work colleagues. In the financial arena there was a blind recklessness with the livelihoods of investors and that essential emotional backbone of progress – trust – went out the door. The other cornerstone of economic prosperity that disappeared were individualisation, respect, openness (transparency) and mature relationships. In brief, governments, banks, the corporate world lost sight of people. The establishment of mature emotional and social foundations for economic progress is going to take a long time and, sadly, it may never happen if those in power do not come into consciousness of the emotional baggage that crippled not only the country but their own mature individual progress.

Whilst the country is in considerable financial debt – alongside numerous other countries – and there are severe financial restrictions being put in place in order to pay off that debt - there is an equal need for an emotional and social rectitude to accompany the fiscal hairshirt that individuals are being expected to wear. The question is how can this be shown? Certainly, balancing the books need to be done in a way that maintains a balancing of life, especially for those people who are on the fringes of society, for the elderly, for the huge numbers of people who are now unemployed and for the many who are struggling with mortgage arrears and negative equity.  We cannot afford through the coming budget to generate further bitterness; a kindness of heart needs to invest each fiscal rectitude measure. We have seen that leaders who operate only from their heads do not even remotely make effective leaders. The reality is that mind without heart is not mind at all! Economic prosperity will emerge much more quickly when it is driven by heart, love, respect, concern, individualising, equality, fairness, justice and a spirit of ‘one for all, and all for one’ (missing in Europe at the moment).

‘Putting our hearts right’ can only happen at an individual level and there is an urgent need for many leaders and managers to examine and search in their hearts for the humanity that is undoubtedly there, but, somehow, got buried under an avalanche of wanting to be ‘a-head’ of everybody else. The tragedy is that those individuals who got buried by that landslide of greed and heartlessness lost sight, not only of the dignity of others, but also their own true self. Becoming conscious of and dealing with their inner core is at the heart of not only personal but also professional effectiveness. The more acutely leaders are aware of this, the better they will be as leaders.

In the weeks coming up to Christmas let us try to invest our relationships with the wisdom of Confucius and the timeless message of Christ’s birth and life echoed in the words of Kahlil Gibran:

                  ‘We give little when we give of our possessions,

                  When we give of ourselves, we truly give.’

Dr. Tony Humphreys is a clinical psychologist, author, national and international speaker. His latest book ‘Leadership with Consciousness’ is relevant to this article.