July 21, 1997


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The Tarnishing Process

What does it mean to tarnish? It means to become discolored, dull, spoiled, or tainted. We know what it means, but when does it happen? It is a process, not an event. You can’t point to the silver bowl and see it the moment it tarnishes. But one day you’ll put the bowl in the cabinet, looking fine as always. Then the next time you pull it out you’ll notice it has tarnished.

When our Ethical Core tarnishes, here’s what happens:

The Bad begins to appear Good.
The Wrong begins to feel Right
The False begins to seem True

When those things happen you can rest assured you’re tarnishing. Your ethical center is no longer golden, but is now discolored, dull and spoiled. Doesn’t sound too attractive, does it?

There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted.–Henry David Thoreau

We must remember that pleasure is always momentary. You won’t find true contentment in life’s pleasures. Yet at the same time the lure of money, sex, power, drunkenness, and other pleasure sources is very strong. So strong, in fact, that many people are willing to trade things of long-term value for the short-term sensation of pleasure. Some trade the long-term contentment found in faithfulness for the momentary pleasure of an affair. Others trade the long-term contentment found in hard work and honesty for quick riches found in insider trading. The problem is that after the momentary buzz of a pleasurable situation fades, there is usually a hefty price of consequence to pay in the end.

Though a taste of pleasure may quicken the relish of life, an unrestrained indulgence leads to inevitable destruction.–Robert Dodsley

Sports Illustrated reported that Mike Price, the former coach of the University of Alabama football program, found the power of pleasure devastating. Only on the job for a few months, Price was publicly exposed after a night of drinking and attending strip clubs while on a trip to Florida in which he was representing the University. Coach Price lost his coveted coaching position and was released from his unsigned multi-million-dollar contract. Not to mention the effects on his family and reputation. His trials remind us that pleasure may pay off in the immediate future, but can cause us to compromise what matters most.

1. List five to seven pleasures that people often seek.

2. How could seeking pleasures tarnish our ability to live out the Golden Rule?

3. Why do you think pleasure is so alluring?

4. Evaluate yourself. Are there any particular pleasures that could tempt you to compromise the Golden Rule?

5. In seeking after these pleasures, what need are you trying to fulfill? Is there a proper way to fulfill this need that avoids compromise?

Many a man thinks he is buying pleasure, when he is really selling himself to it.—Benjamin Franklin

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