Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of folks, like Michael Hyatt, talk to leaders about How to Create More Margin in Your Life. Normally, when leaders talk about margin, they are referring to the gap between a loaded and overloaded schedule, between being busy and overly busy. To create that margin, it’s often suggested that we have “white space” on our calendar, times when we don’t schedule things so that we can accommodate contingencies and unanticipated situations.
As I thought about creating margin in my schedule, I started thinking about how it might also be good to create “moral margin” in our lives. I then did a bit of research and realized that some others have already addressed the idea of moral margin as well. But it’s an important topic worth diving into a bit further. I think of moral margin as creating an extra amount of space, white space if you will, between you and immorality—immoral thinking and immoral actions.
Ultimately, my goal in this post is for you to never have to say what so many others have said, and that is: “I never thought it would happen to me.”
It can happen to me and to you. I am not immune and you are not immune from temptation and immorality. So, let’s look at what we can do to distance ourselves from those things that could harm us and our family. Here are 6 Ways to Create Moral Margin in Your Life:
1. Build a relationship with a “personal auditor.”
An accountability partner, as some would call it, is a good idea. This person can ask you questions that you have to give an account for. An accounting is good, but an audit is even better. Just as a financial auditor would do a complete and careful examination of personal or business financial records, a “personal auditor” would have the authority to do the same for your life.
I have a couple of auditors in my life. One is my wife, Susan. Susan knows my computer password and can access it and my phone any time to see what I am reading, writing, and viewing. She can also see my calendar at any time. Susan also has complete access to our financial accounts and can see where the money goes.
My other auditor is a friend of 27 years. I meet with him once a week. Not only do I allow him to ask me tough questions, but he has permission to ask Susan or my kids questions about me as well. I talk more about this in my blog A Critical Question for Every Man and Every Father.
2. Give Your Children Permission.
Ask any of my children and they will tell you that I’ve given them permission to ask me anything and I will give them a truthful answer. It sometimes is a bit comfortable, but I’ve found it not only to be a good check on my life, but also a good example for them. Of course, there are some things that you’ll only want to discuss with your children at the appropriate age and time.
3. Surround yourself with people who are honest and wise.
“Bad company corrupts good character.”[1 Corinthians 15:33]. One of the quickest ways to fall into a corrupt and immoral life is to hang out with people who are foolish, dishonest, and choose evil over good. So, when you choose your friends, ask yourself, “Will this person help me make wise choices?” “Will they spur me on to do good?” Also, when you hire an accountant, attorney, or other person to do work for or with you, be sure to seek out a person of integrity—someone who will do the right thing no matter what. When I hire a professional or a laborer, I want them to be competent, but I also want them to have good character. I ask them to give me honest, black and white advice—not anything in the gray area—so that I can create as much moral margin as possible.
4. Avoid being alone or building a relationship with the opposite sex.
I’ve always had a personal policy that I never travel alone with a female—whether it’s a car or a plane. I also don’t have lunch alone or meet in private offices with females. I do this for at least two reasons. First, as I mentioned earlier, I am not immune from making a poor choice. Second, I want to avoid any kind of appearance of impropriety. I encourage you to do everything you can to avoid being alone with the opposite sex.
Also, I don’t discuss personal or marital matters with a female. It’s just a slippery slope when you start sharing your emotions and feelings with someone who you think may care more or be a more sympathetic listener than your spouse.
5. Train your eyes, ears, and tongue.
Moral failure often begins with wandering eyes, welcoming ears, and a wild tongue. And it often begins with small things that you think are no big deal or won’t hurt you. So vow to keep your eyes, ears, and tongue in check. For example, the next time you’re watching a movie with your spouse and an inappropriate scene unfolds on the screen, pick up the remote and fast forward. Or, maybe just turn it off altogether. Or, the next time you’re driving to work and see a scantily dressed passerby on a street corner, don’t look back for a second glance. Or, when inappropriate talk or music comes on the radio, switch stations. Be sure to read my blog, The Wildest Part of Your Body. Training your eyes, ears, and tongue on the small stuff will help you create moral margin and potentially avoid major failure.
6. Ask God.
All men and women are tempted. The question is what will you and I do about that temptation when it comes? [click to tweet] We cannot do it alone. And, even though others can help, only God can give us the moral margin we need. Ask for His help each day.
Do you have more ideas on how to create moral margin in your life? Please share your ideas in a comment below.