The 4th Monkey – “Do No Evil”

I am reissuing, with a few modifications, my most popular blog post, for your consideration. The universal application of these age-old concepts is a tremendous value that should guide our behavior and interactions with each other.

We grew up with the story of the three monkeys. I imagine that many of us have the same interpretation of what they represent. We were exposed to pictures or statues. One monkey had his hands over his eyes, the second monkey with hands over his ears and the third monkey’s hands were over his mouth. They were see no evil (Mizaru), hear no evil (Kikazura) and speak no evil (Iwazura). There were actions and behaviors demanded of us based on the three monkeys, but nothing was said about the fourth monkey. The fourth monkey was do no evil (Shizaru).

four-wise-monkeys

The stories of the four monkeys were popular in Japan in the 17th century. Their origin is between 2 and 4 BC in China. The Storyologer web-site (www.storyologer.com) has this account of Mahatma Gandhi who carried around a small statue of the three monkeys.  “Gandhi had a statue of three monkeys in three different postures. One was shutting his mouth with his hands, the other was shutting his ears similarly and the third one had put hands on his eyes. A visitor to his house became curious and questioned Gandhi about the various postures of the monkeys. Gandhi politely replied, “The one shutting his mouth tells us that we should not speak ill of anybody. The one shutting his ears tells us that we should not hear the ill of anybody. And the one shutting his eyes tells us that we should not see the ills of anybody. If we do so, we will have all goodness and nothing but goodness.”

Travelers will often find local markets with carved depictions or artwork featuring the three monkeys. My wife was able to purchase an angelic model of the same concept. There are three angels; one was covering her eyes, one was covering her ears and the other was covering her mouth. However, the fourth monkey was not shown. The 4th monkey, when pictured, is usually shown folding his arms (the body language of being closed) or covering his crotch to signify inactivity.

The different interpretations of the four monkeys is fascinating. In Buddhist tradition it meant don’t spend your time preoccupied with evil thoughts. In the West it relates to not facing up to our moral responsibility, for example turning a blind eye. But in my household, the monkeys were presented to us as a model of proper behavior. Our parents wanted us to identify with the images, to supplement our moral code.

See no evil (Mizaru)

We were told to pay attention to people and location(s). The idea was that if we were in the right location, we would minimize seeing trouble develop before our eyes. This was applicable in school and at work. We were instructed against being at the wrong place at the wrong time or the wrong place right. We were also told not to look for bad things in people or in certain situations. There are people who see bad things when they don’t exist, which could explain the manifestations of bias, stereotypes and profiling. We were not taught to be naïve, but to be careful and respectful.

Hear no evil (Kikazaru)

We were told to shield ourselves from bad language and bad intentions. We should stay away from people who spoke ill of others and gossiped. If we were not in the wrong place we could minimize hearing things that we should not hear. We were also instructed not to listen to foul or vulgar language. If we heard people language, especially regarding someone’s evil intentions, we could use the evil information to do good or to help others, that would be permissible.

Speak no evil (Iwazura)

Speak no evil was used to discourage gossiping or speaking ill will about someone. We were told to watch our language and to speak kind words. “If you can’t say anything good about someone, don’t say anything” was a part of this same philosophy. Adults told us that spreading bad news or malicious information could come back to haunt us. We should also, apply this same advice to the workplace.

There is a misconception around the concept about someone. This misconception has led people to adopt a code of silence in the workplace when a person is not pulling their own weight. We would rather silently complain or resign, before talking about an employee who was not working. We would not want to be labeled a snitch or a stool pigeon. In the streets people would say, “snitches get stitches”. To speak evil of someone means telling a lie, varying false witness or defaming their reputation. However, it is our responsibility to find a way to report injustice, illegal behavior and practices that undermine people and the organization. Our intention should be to speak the truth in love without malice or premeditated negative objectives.

One way to break the code of silence is by offering incentives to whistleblowers. These individuals are people who step forward and report unlawful activities in an organization. They are generally paid a 10% bounty if the measure goes to court and fines are levied against the lawbreakers. In neighborhoods where people know the perpetrators of violence, but fail to come forward, there are no such incentives. Residents may be afraid of retribution, as the rationale for their silence. We must also realize that justice requires telling the truth and this should not be regarded as speaking evil of someone.

Do no evil (Shizaru)

The fourth monkey’s actions are truly related to the others. The workplace is a common place for the four monkeys to be used as an operating system. Employee bullying and intimidation, sexual-harassment claims, the presence of racial discrimination, unconscious bias and sexually charged language and actions exists in many organizations. Where improprieties and liberties are taken with people’s rights in the form of disrespectful words and actions, there are laws in place to prevent and punish these actions. Employees, who adopt a see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil mindset are not helping to develop a positive company culture or a respectful workplace

Do no evil is a perfect monkey to enforce the values of character and integrity. He reminds us of proper behavior and etiquette. Our choices have consequences and the more we can emphasize a positive corporate culture and a respectful workplace the more effective our organizations will be become. There is conduct and behavior norms which must be identified, emphasized and enforced vigorously. Character will minimize stress in the workplace and reduce the number of lawsuits and discipline related to improper behavior.

The do no evil mindset would influence our participation in the political process. Our dialogue in conversations around those who are different from us or have different opinions would be positively affected. If we operated each day thinking in terms of do no evil, we would be more empathetic in understanding of each other. We would put ourselves in the shoes of our neighbors and seek to understand their point of, listen to their words and lay the foundation for greater chemistry instead of conflict.

How can we create an environment in our workplaces, families and communities, where people are held accountable for their own unlawful actions and the private citizens who come forward can feel safe and protected? If the fourth monkey was modeled, we would have less of a cause to talk about Mizaru (see no evil) and Kikazuru (hear no evil).

Do no evil and speak no evil should be magnified and connected to many of our guiding principles of behavior.  The Golden Rule and its equivalent in many cultures advise us to treat people the way we want to be treated. The Platinum Rule which asks us to treat people the way they want to be treated. The 10 Commandments implores us not to do a series of acts which could be seen as evil, such as murder, stealing, etc. you are instructed to love your neighbor as yourself. If we began from a position of love it is easier to think in terms of speak and do no evil.

We must clearly outline expectations of behavior and the judgment related to them to improve the climate in our organizations, homes and places where people meet. Correct action is essential to achieving healthy results in our relationships.

The imagery and practices espoused by the 4th monkey holds the key to making this possible. I am hopeful that by emphasizing the fourth monkey, we can improve our behaviors, connections, interactions and relationships with everyone.

 

Copyright © 2016 Orlando Ceaser

 

 

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Achieve the dream – Unlock your leadership greatness

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was as a civil rights leader. He was an activist who had a powerful transformative dream, which galvanized a movement and a nation toward positive change. Each year on the anniversary of his birth I listen to a recording of his greatest speeches. During his “I have a dream” speech, I clearly see the role that everyone can play. Dr. King emphasized a compelling vision of the future which will require leadership at many levels in society, to bring it into fruition.

A leader is characterized as someone who has a vision for the future which excites people to the extent that they want to be a part of the new reality. Dr. King in his speeches and his actions, challenged us in at least four areas. He wanted us to achieve excellence, focus on economics and equality, as well as improve our circumstances and relationships, through education and nonviolence.

Dr. King’s dream should be placed in the context of a vision for a better nation and a better world. We will achieve this dream and many others through leadership. We therefore, must play a major role in develop strategies and plans to reach lofty objectives. We must unlock our leadership greatness, in order to make the dream a reality.
I have determined at least 10 attributes which would be instrumental in helping us to unlock our leadership greatness, to achieve the dream. I will address six of them in this blog. The entire 10 will be present in my new book “Unlock your leadership greatness.”

• Powered by a dream
• Student of the game
• Set high standards
• Lead by example
• Make others better
• Serve others

Powered by a dream

You must be powered by a dream, which gives you direction and a destination. I have already mentioned the importance of the dream and what this vision could do to energize people. The dream gives us purpose and passion and a strong reason to succeed.

Student of the game

We have to be students of the game, to gain a better understanding of the rules and regulations, as well as the instructions on how to live and relate to people who are different from us. When we understand the game, we increase our self-awareness and knowledge of people and their differences and similarities. When we act like a student, we are inquisitive and continuous learners, always focusing on education. We realize that education is internal and therefore, it is something that people cannot take away from us. Education is something that allows us to qualify for opportunities and if these opportunities are not granted, we have the knowledge and wisdom to make a case for demanding equality and justice.

Sets high standards

When we unlock our leadership greatness, we set high standards because we recognize the value of setting a high bar to push ourselves to unbelievable heights of achievement. We will not tolerate something that is less than what we believe we are entitled. The high standards will cause us to reach higher and prepare better. The high standards will demand us to act in a way consistent with our self-image.

Lead by example

We understand the value of image. We know that reputation is a powerful motivator. When we lead by example, others will follow us and hold us accountable to ensure that our actions are in alignment with our vocabulary. When we lead by example we have the power and capacity to attract others to our leadership. We will recruit people one by one in our passionate pursuit to improve the world.

Make others better

Through our actions we engage in activities where we received a personal benefit. Customarily, we asked the question, “What’s in it for me?” The personal benefit is a driver for our behavior. Individuals, who operate at a higher level, realize that if they make others better, they will receive a benefit in the short-term or somewhere down the road. The benefits are not the reason for their actions, but are coincidentally, a byproduct of their generosity. Dr. King and his leadership, was known for mentoring young men and women. He practiced the art of making others better. If we are good in a certain skill area (subject) and have a neighbor who is not, we are to help them become better. They need to get to a competency level which will allow them to be successful. If they are good in the area where we are deficient, we need to be open and receptive to their instruction. There is strength in numbers and we should never try to tackle difficult situations on our own. When we make others better, at some point in our lives, we will receive appreciation to enhance our situation.

Serve others

We recognize that we are not here solely for our own purpose. When we were children, there were two axioms that were emphasized with regularity. The first is the golden rule. We should do unto others as we want them to do unto us. Secondly, we were told to walk a mile in someone’s shoes, to get a better understanding of their character and the circumstances that shaped them. When we unlock our leadership greatness, we are immersed in a desire to serve others. We have learned the power of humility and being connected in an inter-dependent manner to those around us.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. placed a major emphasis on economics, excellence, equality and education. These areas would be highlighted in the achievement of his dream. One of the catalysts to making his dream a reality are individuals committed to his dream who have unlocked their leadership greatness.

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser