But here we may wonder what he would do
if nobody knew anything about it.
The Code of the Samurai
What would you do if you knew that there was absolutely no possibility that anyone else would ever find out about your actions? According to the Code of the Samurai this is a question that every warrior should ask himself. Would this fact change the way that you think about things or would you continue to live by the standards that you have set for yourself? This question is the true test of your character.
Circumstances reveal us to others and still more to ourselves.
A change in scenery does not change one’s character.
Be as you wish to seem.
The real warrior would live the same way and adhere to the same high standards whether anybody else knew about his actions or not. Even if all laws were abolished and we had a world of complete anarchy, his standards would not change. To men of character, their standards are not flexible. Their honor is not negotiable. Whether they are alone or in the middle of thousands of people, their character is set in stone.
Wise people, even though all laws were abolished, would still lead the same life.
To the samurai, this question was an insinuation of hypocrisy. If a man is sincere about his beliefs and his code of ethics, he doesn’t just live by them on some occasions, but at other times he completely ignores them. He lives the life of the warrior seven day a week, regardless of who is watching or who is not watching. He doesn’t do the right thing in order to impress others, but to live up to his code of ethics.
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.
Many people appear to have upstanding moral character, when in reality, they are only looking out for their own good. Most people don’t go around robbing banks, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are upstanding people. Are they not robbing banks because it is wrong, or are they not robbing banks because they fear the consequences of being caught and put in prison? The result is the same; they don’t rob banks, but the principle behind the action is as different as night and day.
It is not enough to make something look good.
The underlying principle must be good.
Joyce Sequichie Hifler
Virtue is more clearly shown in the performance of fine actions
than in the nonperformance of base ones.
Would these same people choose to rob the bank if there were no law? Would they steal from others if they knew no one would ever know about it? This is the same principle as we find in the story about the millionaire who propositioned a lady at a party. The millionaire asked the lady, “Would you sleep with me for 1 million dollars?” The lady smiled and said, “That’s a lot of money…of course I would!” Then the millionaire said, “Would you sleep with me for $20?” The lady became offended and said, “What do you think I am, a whore or something?” The millionaire said, “We have already established that my dear. Now we are only haggling over price.”
Few men have the virtue to withstand the highest bidder.
Keep a check on your character. Ask yourself, “What would I do if nobody else knew about it?” Be honest… What would you do if you knew that you absolutely could not get in any trouble for your actions or that there would be no consequences for your actions whatsoever? When you have truly figured out the answer to this question, you will have discovered the extent of your character.
Virtue is a state of character concerned with choice.