Voluntary Desire to Do and Be Good

I want to share a philosophic/theological idea that I find very exciting.  And yes, I know - the idea of theological within a secular humanist concept - seems odd - but it will make sense. I promise.


First  - a little bit of background.  I have been volunteering with the International Humanistic Management Association. I help facilitate a monthly discussion on humanistic management for professionals http://humanisticmanagement.international/humanistic-management-professionals/

One of my colleagues is Manuel GuillĂ©n Parra (https://rcc.harvard.edu/people/manuel-guill%C3%A9n-parra). He is organizing a multi-year learnership workshop - http://humanisticmanagement.international/humanistic-management-workshop/

He is also writing a book about human motivation. It expands on the work of Abraham Maslow. Maslow was a Humanist psychologist and is most famous for his "hierarchy of needs."


Manuel is adding 2 more dimensions to this - in addition to intrinsic and external motivations - he is adding 2 more including a high level of motivation that includes spiritual and religious motivation.

He and I have been chatting to discuss how to express these concepts in ways that are universally understood by everyone regardless of belief or non-belief.  We are doing this because he is Spanish Catholic and I am American Atheist/Humanist. So - if we can both agree on the language - it will most likely be universally understood to all humans regardless of belief or non-belief or cultural orientation.  

His basic idea is that in addition to the internal and external motivations - humans also want and desire moral good. This is the level most people think of as spiritual and religious. The concept of good has many dimensions.  Useful good, pleasant good, moral good and spiritual good.   His model incorporates the idea that we all want to give and get these various types of good. 

One of the terms he was using to explain spiritual/religious motivation to do useful good didn't make sense to me - because he was using sectarian religious language to describe it. So he was explaining what he means using - non-religious language so I could understand it and so he can write his book in language that is universally understood - and he said that this is about voluntary desire to do good - useful good. 

This phrase - voluntary desire to do good - set my brain on fire. I LOVE it.  It resonates strongly with me as a Humanist and expresses how I experience moral motivation as an atheist. I have a voluntary desire to do and be good. 

Here is what I wrote him after contemplating it for a while.

"I was so energized by the idea of voluntary desire – and the various goods. I realized – or thought.  Voluntary desire – that is a state of spiritual enlightenment.  When you have that state – the act of doing good – becomes an act of devotion. It is elevated.  People do good all the time, but when you are motivated by voluntary desire – spiritual enlightenment – your acts become devotion. Those 2 things, combine to create a state of being that is the state of connection. I would describe it as feeling connected to life, the universe and everything and everyone.  You probably describe it as feeling connected to God.
When I talk to people about Humanist morality – I tell people – it is not enough to want to do good. You have to do good acts in order to BE good.  
 Wanting to do good, leads to doing good acts, which leads to being good - which is a state of being. 
In other words, Spiritual Desire leads to Acts of Devotion which leads to a connected state of being.
It’s awesome!  It's why practicing Humanism helps me feel so connected to everything. "

Why Humanism matters:

The fact that a devout Spanish Catholic and an American Atheist/Humanist are experiencing the same thing - high levels of spiritual/religious motivation on matters of morality and are experiencing the same benefits from our practice of actively giving love and grace to others - is a testament to the universality of the experience. 

And that's where Humanism comes in.  Humanism isn't atheism.  It's a necessary part of my practice as a Humanist, but Humanism is a philosophy.  It helps me make sense of the things going on around me and helps provide me with a moral framework to think about who I am and more importantly - who I want to be.   Manolo and I are kindred spirits. Coming to the same place through totally different religious journeys. We both love love. And our fellow humans.

Let's not get so caught up in religious specifics that we lose sight of our common humanity. To me - that is the most important lesson of Humanism. 

Using Music in Meetings

How and why do meeting professionals make sure the sounds of their meetings leave a lasting impression? How can music be incorporated into meetings?


I love this topic.  I’ve been to several business meetings that have used music. And I love it when meetings incorporate music. 

The most stirring experience I had at a business meeting involved music. I attended a 1 day conclave in New Delhi.  The organizer had a professional singer – open the meeting with a devotional song.  I have no idea what the lyrics were – but I found the music incredibly moving. It set the tone for the meeting and I was thinking – wow – it would be awesome if we did things like that in the USA.

I was recently in NYC for some meetings, and to give ourselves breaks – our host would play happy music and tell us all to dance with abandon.  This helped us to physically shake off any dullness that comes from being in an all day meeting, but it’s also fun and bonding. The idea you can just let yourself go completely with joyful abandon in front of a group  of business colleagues – is REALLY liberating.  And the music was good.

Philosophically speaking – I think the use of music can be bonding. It’s why religious meetings (Sunday services) include music.  Whether you go to a Catholic Church – or a Buddhist meditation – the format of the service is the same.  Introductions, announcements, orientation, communal singing, some sort of lecture or discussion on whatever the ethical concept to be explored is and then more communal singing and goodbyes.  The communal singing and the music chosen – always helps to set the stage for the ethical discussion to come.

If we were to transfer that to a business meeting, it would obviously have to be secular music and not sacred to accommodate the diversity of religious beliefs in the workplace, but it could help us all – think about whatever it is we are discussing – in more ethical terms. 

Ultimately – music and songs, help us think about the human experience and often – about love and our aspirations. It about inspiration.  If we framed our business meetings, with music – it could very well help us think about business – more effectively, ethically and humanistically.  

Here is my list of songs that I find particularly inspiring as a Humanist - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKP17G_zwgeLJHzNgfp-HavRVKCevUrDL


Giving and Getting Dignity

Dignity is an internal state of peace that comes with the recognition and acceptance of the value and vulnerability of all living things.  – Donna Hicks


I love this definition of dignity.  Dignity is an important aspect of my practice as a Humanist.  I aspire to conduct myself with dignity and to give and and acknowledge the dignity of others.

It's an odd thing - to talk about giving dignity.  But when you accept the value and vulnerability of other people, you help them, see themselves as a person with dignity.

And that's an incredibly valuable gift. Because - not everyone feels like they have dignity. I am always amazed at how people change how they carry themselves after I acknowledge their existence as a human who I think has dignity.

So - what is dignity, why does it matter?  As with all things. Dignity is something you do for you. It's an internal state of peace that comes with the recognition that all living things and some non-living things have value and are vulnerable.

When you get this - it does provide a state of internal peace.  You have no doubt about who you are and why you are and the actions of others, can't take that away from you.

The giving of dignity, helps share that love around.  I had the privilege of talking with Dr. Hicks about leading with dignity (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mZGoaIUBx4) and it really has changed how I think and talk about this aspect of Humanism.  I used to talk about respect. But she is right, that doesn't quite capture it. Dignity is what we are talking about.

So - your exercise for the week is to contemplate what dignity means to you. What it feels like to be a dignified person and what it means to acknowledge the dignity of the people you meet in the course of your day. 

We need to teach people how to make harassment stop


The article in the Atlantic by Caitlin Flanagan on the problem with HR and why it's ineffective at stopping bullying and harassment misses the mark. It didn't tell us anything new.  It explains the problem, but does not provide a solution.  Why?  Because - no one working in the field of HR or labor law seems to actually know what works to make unwanted behavior like harassment stop.  



My response to this article? (submitted as a letter to the editor)

The basic problem? No one has ever taught HR how to make harassment stop.

I know this because - I teach how to make unwanted behavior like harassment stop using established behavioral science techniques and I get told by HR veterans all the time that the have been attending harassment training for decades and no one has ever taught them how to make it stop.  I'm the first one. They are shocked because - it should be basic training.

(Note: If you want to learn this - here are links to my online courses. I am HRCI & SHRM approved and do groups as well - https://humanistlearning.com/category/continuing-education-2/hrcredit/

What HR and the rest of us get taught - isn't' how to make it stop. We are taught: what the law is. How to file reports. How to comply with the law. But no one ever teaches us - how to actually make it stop.

The sexual harassment training we are all subjected to - is designed by lawyers - who also - have never been taught how to make unwanted behavior stop.  To top it all off the training we all get is based on a flawed assumption that all we have to do is tell men to stop doing it and they will stop. The result is that every 2 years we are forced to sit through a training that tells us - it's illegal - don't do it, for 2 solid hours!!!!  No one ever thinks to include a unit on how to  - oh  I dunno - MAKE IT STOP!

Blaming HR is unfair. Yes, they work for their bosses. Yes, the tools they have at their disposal are limited. But I've never met an HR professional who doesn't want it to stop. They all want it to stop. They are often victims of it themselves. The problem is - they have never been taught how to make it stop. They've only been taught how to comply with the law.  

Instead of asking, what the problem is with HR. Let's ask the all important question. What needs to happen to actually make sexual harassment stop.  Behavioral scientists have known the answer to that question for 70 years so we have no excuse. Let's start teaching everyone how to do it using established science and maybe then, we can make some progress instead of continually being shocked that asking a sexual predator to stop - doesn't work and is never going to work.

What will work? Teaching people how to behaviorally train their abusers to leave them alone.  Teaching HR how to tweak their processes so that they facilitate behavioral extinction instead of making things worse.  Helping upper management understand the negative cascading impact that bullying and harassment has on problem solving in the workplace so that they stop rewarding bad behavior. 

I talk to people all over the world about this issue. Everyone wants it fixed. The reason we haven't succeeded, is because all our interventions are based on flawed assumptions instead of established behavioral science. My videos are available at Humanist Learning Systems or with amazon prime membership in case anyone wants to educate themselves.  And yes -  I have free programs for kids as well - 
https://humanistlearning.com/category/bullyingharassment/
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