How should we structure our soul? Is the virtuous path that of the compassionate non-profit leader or of the intelligent investment banker? I agree with Brooks that a schmuck in a soup kitchen would still be a schmuck at Goldman Sachs and a hero on Wall Street would still be a hero at the Salvation Army—because character is consistent. The virtuous path is that of moral integration of the whole self. Our lives ought to be oriented around a commitment to a set of beliefs and virtues that are uncompromising, regardless of sector, profession, pay grade or geography.
As a founder and non-profit leader of a US-based organization focused on the HIV/AIDS and water crises in sub-Saharan Africa, my challenge is to be the same person reflecting consistent commitments and values in all areas of my life. The question for me is: Am I morally integrated in all facets of my life? Am I of the same character whether I am facilitating a meeting in our Nashville office or sitting under a tree with an AIDS support group in Africa, or attending my inner city neighborhood association meeting, or socializing in a bar in New York City, or praying in the pews of my church, or networking with the most elite of our society? It’s all one in the same.
Integration of the whole self is the most difficult commitment to live out, and yet it is the most rewarding one to discover. We can no more afford one more businessperson who checks his or her moral character at the door of Wall Street than we can afford one more social service leader who checks his or her moral character at the door of the HIV/AIDS clinic. The world needs men and women who have integrated their ethics into their whole self, in every sector, in all parts of society. In that formulation, the lines between non-profit and for-profit are secondary to the quality and substance of those who lead them.
Jena Nardella is Executive Director of the Blood:Water Mission.