Stoic patience

“The only thing that isn’t worthless: to live this life out truthfully and rightly. And be patient with those who don’t.” – Marcus Aurelius

For ethics & compliance officers, what does it mean to “be patient with those who don’t?”

Does it mean that we should accept defeat when competitors cheat to win a contract? Or allow clients not to pay what is owed to us? Or look the other way when suppliers lie about their ability to deliver?

What about wrongdoing committed by those within our organization? Should we be patient when our own employees or agents violate our values?

This stoic directive simply means that we should not be shocked or upset when others breach our trust. We can hardly expect to go through life without someone wanting to take advantage of us. So why be surprised with it happens?

A stoic attitude is helpful to the ethics professional. It allows us to look at – and accept – the facts as they are, to calmly reach a decision that is just, and to administer justice in a respectful way. We can use our empathy to understand why others behave the way they do. That is an exercise in patience.

Our job is difficult enough without the additional burden of impatience, in its many forms.

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