Answer by Rory Young:
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." – Nelson Mandela
Putting ideals or morals first is tough. It takes the bravery described by Madiba. It takes this bravery because it will often result in pain and suffering for oneself.
The higher a person sets the bar the, the tougher it will be. Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Theresa, the White Rose students of Nazi Germany and so many others' lives throughout history are testimony to that. They experienced hell on earth and received no reward for it other than suffering and even terrible death.
I have noticed that the only reward I have ever personally received, when I have tried to do the right thing in the face of opposition, was the ability to sleep peacefully and I am a pathetic worm compared to these people..
Perhaps then the final sleep of Nelson Mandela will be the sweetest and most peaceful of all because of the bravery he has shown, the good that he has done and the suffering he has endured?
This was famously inscribed at the entrance to the temple of Apollo at Delphi. It was variously attributed to many sages.
It appeared at different places in the ancient world. At the inner temple at Luxor in Ancient Egypt it was inscribed as follows, ""Man, know thyself … and thou shalt know the gods."
Knowing thyself means knowing what you really are, what you truly believe in and what you wish to be.
It is impossible to be a better person without true self knowledge. Clear and brutal self-honesty is tough but it becomes easier with practice. People who lie to themselves are the most dishonest of all.
"This above all; to thine own self be true." William Shakespeare Authenticity
Following one's own code of conduct over others' is the hardest thing to do, especially when it conflicts with one's superiors or even the law of the land. How many German officers in Nazi Germany had the courage to follow their own codes of ethics and honour over that of the Nazi party or the orders of their superior officers?
Nelson Mandela did this so many times in his life that it became habit. He turned his back on his government when it was wrong. He turned his back on his wife when she was wrong. He turned his back on former comrades when they were wrong. However, he never turned his back on his ideals and never backed down from standing up for those ideals and anyone who suffered for them.
Humata, Hukhta, Hvarshta
meaning good thoughts,good words, good deeds in Avestan.
: Song 7 – stanza 10
Six thousand year old wisdom and never more relevant than today.
Although there are many interpretations of what is good, it is certain that we are what we think, do and say. A person is what they make a habit of doing, not what they do sometimes whether that be something good or bad.
The only way to become a person of great moral character is the think, speak and act like one all the time and to accept the inevitable suffering that it may well bring you.
There are no shortcuts and it will never be easy but at least you will sleep well!.