To do no harm…

I believe we come into this world with an inherent vision of making our presence in this world a difference-maker. Difference-making is unavoidable. We grow from childhood to adults continually changing our body, mind and understanding of what it means to be human and how we express it. In our growing, our footprint in the world changes the world around us.

There lives within the human heart the desire to to be seen, to be known, to be heard. It stems from our deep desire to make a difference — in our own life, our family’s life, our community, province/state, country, world. We each carry the genesis of this idea and fulfill on it in varying ways. No matter how we bring our difference-making into reality, however, we are all governed by a universal pact, unspoken/unwritten though it be, to ‘do no harm’.

In Bruce Weinstein’s book, Ethical Intelligence, the first principle of living an ethical life is to ‘do no harm’. He goes on to say that if you must do harm, we must take measures to minimize it however we can. He gives the example of having to lay someone off. Do it, he counsels, in a way that retains their dignity, that respects and honours their humanity and reflects well on you and your organization.

Recently, in an effort to do something good for someone, I inadvertently caused them some harm. It wasn’t intentional, harm seldom is when we come from a place of wanting to do good. But, in the act of creating ‘a moment’, I didn’t consider the consequences of some of the aspects to what I was doing and the recipient felt unheard and unseen.

I am 100% accountable for what I do and say and create in the world. I am 100% accountable for my footprint in other people’s lives.

Sometimes, I take a misstep. Sometimes, my actions or words will not sit well with another. While I am not responsible for how another perceives or receives my actions, I am responsible for how I respond when they tell me how my words/actions impacted them.

I can say, “Too bad. Get over it.”

Or, I can ask them to tell me more about how they’re feeling/their response. I can ask questions and listen, deeply, to their answer.

No matter if my words/actions came from a place of grace and love within me, I must resist the temptation to defend my words/actions. I must resist my desire to ‘be right.’

And that isn’t always easy. Particularly when we feel righteous about the ‘goodness’ of our intentions.

Fact is though, whatever I do in this world, it will have an impact on others. I can’t force people to like what I do and say, just as I can’t force them to live the way I want.

I can create space for both of us to have opinions, ideas, thoughts that are honoured, acknowledged, and freely shared without fearing judgement. Because along with the need to ‘do no harm’ is the second aspect of Ethical Intelligence, ‘create better’.

My intent must always be to create better, and when my difference turns up as something that creates discord in someone else’s life, which given I am human it sometimes will, I must commit to acknowledging my misstep, in love for the other and myself.

We all make mistakes. It’s not the mistakes that make the difference. It’s the being accountable for what we’ve done — good and bad, and acknowledging our footprint. To do that we must Turn Up. Pay Attention. Speak our truth. and Stay Unattached to the Outcome.

In my misstep I have taken action. Embraced the opportunity to learn and grow.

It doesn’t mean I won’t take another misstep. I will do my best not to, but it is inevitable I sometimes will. To ensure my missteps don’t become chasms of discord  between myself and others, I must listen, speak my truth and trust the other to speak their truth and hear it without judgement. And, I must trust myself to be committed to stay present in my desire to make differences that ‘do no harm’ and ‘create better’.

It is the best I can do and my best is good enough.


8 thoughts on “To do no harm…

  1. Good piece – but I’m not clear what your point is. Are you saying we should do something, do something differently, or appreciate your admission of ‘things didn’t turn out as you expected’?

    A quote I recently came across might fit here; it’s from Amos Tversky: “It is sometimes easier to make the world a better place than to prove you have made the world a better place.”

    Amos’s words resonate – as yours so often do to, that what matters most is what we do – not so much that we get the credit or that we and prove we deserve the credit. What we do best is ‘be clear about what we are doing and why’ and then, as the Nike commercials encourage us: JUST DO IT

    and keep on doing it

    we all get ‘what we are doing’ wrong so many times – we don’t have time to dwell in the basement of those thoughts, because there is so much to do and we have so little time …

    keep doing

    you ARE changing the world


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Namaste to you Louise! What a lovely revelation and thank you for sharing your experience as I think it’s universal. We all have had similar situations in our lives and you expressed your perfectly. Thank you for being you! xo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. To look for possible intention and taking the time to seek clarification directly (opportunity to provide benefit of the doubt) goes far in “do no harm”. I have learned the importance of having a voice. I like the saying “do no harm, take no sh*t”.

    Liked by 1 person

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