Poetic Justice, Karma or Simply the Laws of Cause and Effect

Posted on 08 December 2020

What you give very often determines what you get in return

Photo: dweekly

Mostly we get the responses from others that we deserve; and that goes for corporations as well as individuals. Those who treat others badly cannot expect consideration or mercy when they need it. The arrogant find that people take a clear delight in seeing them brought low (witness what has happened to the CEOs of the Detroit car-makers) and have little interest in helping them get back on their feet. Cheats and shysters end up loathed and distrusted by everyone they meet.

This process is well worth thinking about. It suggests that the best place to start when you feel others are treating you badly is yourself. Have you done anything that might provoke the response that’s upsetting you? Have you neglected to do something that might have prevented it happening?

I don’t say that all problems are self-caused; that would be too extreme and there are people in this world who need no excuse to harm or torment others. But the fact remains that, if it is possible to improve your experiences by doing something under your control like changing your own behavior, that is a good deal more positive than feeling sorry for yourself and letting people and events walk all over you.

‘Sleeping with the enemy’

Too often we collude with the very people who are causing us pain. Take the people we put into positions of power and influence. If we’re unhappy with the way they operate, the first place to look for an explanation is usually ourselves. If we tolerate insincerity, evasiveness, greed, manipulation and generally low ethical standards around us, it’s no surprise that we find it increasing.

Businesses have always pushed the boundaries of what’s acceptable in an attempt to make more profit. We’re constantly assailed by advertising that makes exaggerated claims and deliberately conceals potential drawbacks. We’re exploited when times go well and cajoled into baling out the villains when they don’t. And we’re now so used to it, we don’t get excited. We either tune it out or tolerate it.

Acceptance breeds abuse

Would corporations use misleading advertising if it wasn’t useful to them (read: encourages people to buy)? Would politicians lie and cheat if it didn’t give them what they want? At every election, there’s another cry of ‘foul’ over negative, often rudely personal attack advertising. Yet if it didn’t attract votes, politicians would drop it in time. If it took votes away from them, they’d stop using it in a heartbeat!

Of course, in many cases, it’s impossible for you as an individual to change things. Yet you can still check your own actions and make sure you aren’t contributing anything, however small, to the huge mountain of negative, uncivilized behavior that is already out there.

People who behave badly draw bad behavior to them. They mix with the wrong types. They are tempted into dishonesty, only to find that someone who’s still more dishonest and unscrupulous has marked them down as easy victims. Today’s macho, uncaring managers swim with the sharks; but only until they encounter a shark who’s too big to need them and decides to make a meal of them instead.

Gossips who stab others in the back shouldn’t be surprised if they are treated in the same way. Those who refuse to help others will, sooner or later, need help themselves and find that no one will give it to them. Liars and cheats are wide open to being treated in the same way. Those who refuse to trust anyone are trusted by no one.

Integrity is more important than it seems

If you tolerate lying, dishonesty and manipulation in yourself, you can’t complain if others push even further beyond the boundaries of decent behavior. If you exploit the weak, despise your fellows and clamber upwards over the bodies of colleagues, it’s very likely someone else will try to do the same to you. And if they are stronger, more ruthless or more cunning than you are, they will succeed.

I feel sad when I hear people blaming all their misfortunes on the malevolence of others or vague concepts like bad luck. They’re making themselves into helpless victims of circumstances, unable to do more than whine about their problems. If they combine this with turning a blind eye to their own bad behavior, it’s very hard to feel any sympathy for them. They did most of it to themselves. Causes have effects. It may take time, but a good many jerks eventually suffer rather badly for their past misdemeanors.

Whatever else you do, don’t draw more problems to yourself by behaving exactly like the assholes whose actions you dislike. “Do unto others as you would they should do unto you” maybe an antique sentiment couched in antique English, but that doesn’t make it out-of-date. I suspect we’ve rarely needed true integrity more than we do today.

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This post was written by:

Carmine Coyote - who has written 289 posts on Slow Leadership.

Carmine Coyote is the founder and editor of Slow Leadership, with a career that stretches from early employment as an economist, through periods in government service, academia and several multinational companies, to retiring as CEO of a US consulting company and partner in a large business services firm. Carmine now lives in Arizona, but is British for all that.

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4 Comments For This Post

  1. CK says:

    While I agree with most of what has been said including “blaming all their misfortunes on the malevolence of others or vague concepts like bad luck.” But the key point of Karma is not bad things happening to bad people but also the good.

    I have seen both sides of Karma. I have a friend that was abused by the very same Supervisor. The abuse started soon after she was hired as a contractor. I took her ‘under my wings’ and trained her. There were times that the Supervisor’s abuse caused her to cry - thus I’d lend my shoulder.

    The end result - the abusive upervisor was demoted, $20,000 cut in pay, and removed from the department. My friend onthe other hand was transfered - and grew!!! Eventually she was hired by one of the top 100 corporations making twice the money!!!

    In my situation I am just waiting my turn for (the good) Karma to swing my way …

  2. Carmine Coyote says:

    @CK: Thanks for this comment. It’s good to remember that cause and effect can work for good as well as evil. Thank you for the reminder. Keep reading, my friend.

  3. sambit says:

    Many times we hire crooks as deal makers for getting things easily. These same people can double cross us or some of the same tribe may get it for other. In the process we end up giving respectability and job market to them to prosper. Taking a larger scenario, action or inactions on our part for some immediate benefit ruins us later. Think of terrorism, drug trafficking, child labour, denudation of the earth, extinction of flora and fauna, human trafficking. All these were actively supported by people and countries at different times. Now we see the evil when they have grown to gigantic proportions. But we are yet to find a cohesive and united response to them. It may be beyond us to eradicate such situations at individual level but we can definitely generate a response through civil societies. At the individual level we can also back such actions through purchasing power. Breaking our head won’t eliminate the problems around us, our actions may do it.

  4. Carmine Coyote says:

    @sambit: Your are right. In the end, any useful action begins with us. Keep reading, my friend.

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