My sense of ethics grew from an early experience that happened when I was around nine years old. Considering the fact that I had started catechism four years prior, it would seem that religious education would have drilled some sort of codes of conduct into my head.
Catechism taught me very little in terms of ethical behavior. Catechism taught me about religious behavior. I learned how to pray, when attend mass, and how to take communion. While these things may have gotten my soul into God’s good graces, those behaviors did nothing for my standing within my neighborhood.
Sure, there were Ten Commandments in those days, though they didn’t seem to get the press they do nowadays. However, when Mike wanted to fight me, I learned that all the praying in the world would do no good once he and I were face to face.
His desire to pummel me started because I promised to give him a comic book of which I claimed to have more than one copy. To this day, I still have no clue as to what caused me to tell Mike a flat out lie: not only did I not have a copy of the comic book in question, I had no comic books at all.
I did my best to avoid Mike. Day after day, I hid when he came looking for me. I figured that maybe I could hide long enough so that either I would get the comic book somehow or Mike would get bonked on the head and he would forget all about the wretched comic that had gotten me into such a mess.
I hated that comic book.
As these situations typically unfold, one day Mike and I happened upon each other. Needless to say, he inquired about the comic that I promised to turn over to his custody. I tried to talk my way out of it, but Mike wanted no part of a negotiation. He wanted the comic. Again, I tried to lie, but to no avail.
After my vain attempts, I finally gave in and told Mike that I never had the comic and that I never would. I braced for a pummeling. Mike was, even then, a certified head smasher. Any second, his over-grown fists would land and land and land on my delicate skull until it was little more than Chicano-kid pudding.
But, no punches of any kind came. Nope, no punches, but something far worse: Mike called me a “punk-a** liar,” and walked away from me, shaking his head.
Really, I wished he would have just beaten me up. I would have felt so much better. Mike’s words meant one thing: I had no honor. I may not have had the language for that concept at nine years old, but down deep, I knew. For a kid in a tough neighborhood, honor was everything and without it, I would have nothing.
I still feel the same way: Honor is everything.
My personal sense of ethics grew more when I was a Junior in high school. I attended St. Mike’s, in Santa Fe, and had to take Theology class as part of that year’s curriculum. Brother Raphael was an animated teacher and drew interest from all of us in the classroom. He taught as though our lives depended upon his words, two of which, “Imago Dei,” still affect my life daily.
Imago Dei is Latin for Image of God. Brother Raphael taught us that each human being was a son or daughter of God and as such all shared the Image of God in our individual souls. To this day, I remind myself of the Imago Dei each time some driver with far less skills behind the wheel than me cuts me off or doesn’t get out of my way when I flash him on the highway.
Even those potatoheads who incite me to road rage share the Imago Dei with me.
I think they do, anyway.
The last developmental component to my personal ethics statement is Micah 6:8, “Show Justice, show constant compassion and walk humbly with the Lord your God.” This quote completed my personal sense of ethics. My behavior derives from all these components built into one code of ethical conduct.
Therefore, my personal ethics statement is that I honor all people, including myself as sons and daughters of God, regardless of race, economic standing, gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs and with all people I strive to have humble, just, and compassionate relationships.