We’ve all been given the impression the selling of one’s soul involves a deal between the Devil and a mortal human in which the human will receive something of great value after surrendering his or her soul to the Devil for all eternity. The Devil either directly approaches the human with the offer, or it’s the human who initiates a request for the Devil’s help, but either way a bargain is eventually struck. The human gets what he or she wants for a short while, and the Devil gets what he wants forever afterwards.

Oh, would that it were so.

At least in that case a formal contract would be created letting the human know in advance what he or she was getting and losing. Unfortunately, the Devil doesn’t have to work that hard. Heck, it doesn’t even matter whether or not the Devil actually exists. With or without the help of the Devil people continue to sell their souls, often repeatedly, and it’s almost never done for anything truly significant.

At this point it should be noted the use of the word ‘soul’ is not theological. The concept of right and wrong should not be limited merely to religious believers. Please feel free to substitute either the word ‘humanity’ or the phrase ‘sense of decency’ for the word soul if that makes you more comfortable.

Nobody approves of people selling their souls for things such as great wealth or power, but we all at some level can understand why these things are so tempting. What’s harder to understand is the
insane willingness of most people to sell their souls for things the Devil
would consider "pocket change". Worse, some people sell their souls for things
they don’t even particularly want. In these cases the selling of one’s soul is
usually done either to avoid some ominous consequence, or because it’s simply
easier to go along than to resist, but the sad truth is the soul in these
instances isn’t actually being sold. It’s being thrown away, and it’s often
done for reasons no more justifiable than cowardice. Again, we all can
understand how this could be possible when one’s life is threatened, but it’s
harder to sympathize with people throwing away their souls for such things as
to avoid peer pressure or to advance a career.

I first became aware of this
phenomena while serving in the military. It seemed extremely odd to see men who
had risked their lives, and had often received medals in the process, refuse to
risk their careers when given orders they knew they shouldn’t obey. Petty
things such as obeying a request to make sure a certain young lady, "Wink, Wink", was always
sent on Temporary Duty wherever a particular officer was sent, covering up
somebody else’s misdeed by doctoring the paperwork, or helping a superior "get"
somebody who hadn’t done anything worse than upset that superior, are all cases
where a soul was thrown away.

In each case the right thing would
have been first to refuse to obey, and then, if the person giving the order
either threatened you or tried to get somebody else to do this thing, report
the incident to the Inspector General – an act, incidentally, carrying with it a
very low chance of reprisals. That’s the most mystifying part. Even if the
person being turned in did manage to get some retribution against you later, it
could never be even close to life-threatening, so why avoid doing the right
thing? How low must a person’s risk tolerance be to go along with such things?
Are we only supposed to stand up against enormous wrongs and just go along with
all the lesser evils we encounter in our lives?

That last question is almost wasted.
It is highly unlikely anybody who wasn’t willing to stand up against small
injustices would actually stand up later against huge ones, so why pretend
there’s any possibility such a person would suddenly become morally righteous if only the cause was important enough? The reason that question wasn’t totally wasted, however, is because it brings
up what bothered me in the first place. Why would it be easier to risk your
life than to disobey an improper order? Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer
to give you. I never figured it out. I did, however, figure out this selling of
the soul for petty things wasn’t limited to military people. It exists in just
about every workplace out there.

The major difference between the
military and the civilian sector in this regard is the military has a higher
percentage of folks who will refuse to sell their souls, even amongst those who
never had to risk their lives. This proves two things. First, the risking of
one’s life is not an indicator a person will always do the right thing when
pressured, and, second, the military is better than any other government
organization at instilling some basic values into its people.

I suppose it also means a third
thing: what’s taught in public schools today isn’t as morally uplifting as what
was taught up until the late 1960’s. The concepts of right versus wrong and
"doing unto others…" weren’t always derided as being "Too religious". No, they
used to be taught as the simple cornerstones for socially decent behavior.

Excuse me for digressing, but I have
to ask, why is teaching children how to use a condom more important than teaching
kids how to properly and respectfully speak to that teacher? No offense, but it
seems the schools today are far better at spreading stupidity than they are at "educating".
Whatever, how this moral decline occurred isn’t as important as what’s being
done now because of this decline. The willingness to cheaply sell a soul is much
more common now, and it’s in just about every environment.

One particularly egregious case where the military and the
civilian sector collaborated in the selling of souls is the Benghazi incident. Here we
have a case where the America haters of the world were openly allowed to expand
their demonstrations from burning our flag to burning our consulates. For our
part there has been no serious retribution against the "rioters", and nobody
knows yet all what happened. All we know so far is some shabby unknown
politician gave an order to abandon our people, and some weak unknown military
leader or leaders obeyed it. As a former member of both Rescue and Special
Operations units I am appalled. People in positions to save lives should never
trade that responsibility for saving careers instead.

Although I was never a true warrior
myself, I’m still proud as hell of the few brave men who disobeyed that order.
They are real American heroes, and the ones who died did so with honor. Those
who gave or enforced that order deserve no honor. They will only live in shame,
or at least they should. I have serious doubts any of them still possess enough
soul to even feel shame anymore. After all, somebody with a soul should have released
information by now, even anonymously, about who was truly responsible for
leaving our people to die. The fact nobody has done so yet pretty much proves
they care more about careers than about doing the right thing.

There is a motto in Rescue: "These things we do that others might live." The men who tried to save J. Christopher Stevens and everybody still in the compound exemplified that credo to the ultimate degree. Unfortunately, those civilian and military leaders who went along with the "stand down" order and
are still keeping quiet about it have badly soiled the whole meaning behind
that motto. It should now be revised to include the caveat "…as long as it’s
politically convenient." (Yes, I know Rescue units aren’t responsible for any
part of this debacle, but the idea of taking care of our people is supposedly a
universal military principle, and, besides, there is no reason to believe
Rescue units today have less corruption in their leadership than any other
unit. It’s extremely likely they also would have stood down.)

In case you think I am being too
judgmental, just take this into consideration. How is it possible for military
officers to say they were obeying an order to stand down, while at the same
time they are saying they have no idea who actually gave that order? I promise
you it isn’t possible at all. No officer good enough to rise to high rank would
ever obey such a suspicious order without first heavily covering his or her own
butt. I guaran-damn-tee they know who gave that order and could easily provide
the proof, if they were so compelled.

So, okay, I suppose it’s no surprise
these days, where politics seemingly always trumps principle, there are cases of
high-ranking people having sold their souls, possibly for some meaningful gain,
but how about those of us who are less significant? What’s the fair going rate for
the little guy’s soul? From what I see, it must be pretty low.

We all like to believe we are good
people if we can list several big crimes we aren’t guilty of ever committing,
but how often do we examine our little offenses? How many times have we caused
somebody else harm while advancing our own self interests?

Driving in the left lane at a slow
speed simply because you believe it’s "Your right" is a classic example. Instead
of slowing down just one lane, you end up causing traffic in all lanes to get
snarled. The worst part is the bad effects from your actions can be far behind
you, so you may not be aware how many accidents you are causing. Please don’t
blow that off. If you have done this for a long time it’s very likely you’ve
caused at least one. Even if you never did cause an accident, it doesn’t mean
you did no harm. Putting aside all the people you held back long enough to possibly
miss something important in their lives, there’s also the matter of emergency
vehicles. They may have the right of way, and are allowed to speed whenever
possible, but they still lose precious time because of people like you. Getting
through traffic all bunched up from one obnoxious driver slows these vehicles
down. Think about how you’d feel if you learned a person died because an
ambulance or a policeman behind you got there a minute too late. Is it really
worth selling your soul just to exercise "Your right"?

How about the workplace? I firmly
believe more souls are sold here than anywhere else, and I mean sold for the
Devil’s pocket change. I also believe this subject is important enough it
shouldn’t be limited to just pointing fingers at others people’s poor behavior.
My own soul searching helped lead me to the discovery people were far too
easily pushed into doing the wrong thing. One such example occurred shortly
after I retired from the military.

I took a Customer Service job on
base, and everything about the job was new to me. It also was a bit of a shock.
Customer Service pretty much means letting yourself be treated like a punching
bag all day long. Our job was to make sure everybody affiliated with the
military got the benefits and appropriate ID cards to which they were entitled.
All you need to understand about this is there are many different categories of
folks entitled to varying degrees of benefits, and it’s an enormous number of
people being covered. We would usually deal with hundreds of people a day. Unfortunately,
the government budget only allowed for four sets of "DEERS" processing
equipment to be on hand, and only enough people to keep three of them running
all day. The fourth one might only be operated for an hour or two each day. Depending
on how many customers came in at a time, the wait times could be two to four
hours – occasionally even longer. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear we
got yelled at a lot.

There was one particularly heavy day
where we were so swamped with customers there were more people standing against the
walls than there were sitting in the lobby. About four or five hours after we
opened for business an Army Sergeant came in with the family – wife and kids – of a soldier
he announced had just been killed in action. Two of us started trying to figure
out which one of us would be done with our current customer first, so we could
take this family next, when the boss ordered they would have to wait the same
as anybody else. Granted, the boss had been taking a non-stop beating from angry
customers and was severely frazzled – there was one customer having a fit even
while this was going on – so I can understand the frustration behind that
order, but I have been ashamed of myself ever since for obeying it. After what
this family had already been put through, forcing them to sit there for a few hours,
to do something they would have much preferred never needed to be done in the first place, just eats at my conscience. I should have disobeyed. Seriously, thinking about it can make my eyes well up a bit. Our character is tested under such situations, and I failed that
test. I should have disobeyed!

Basically, the point I’m making is nothing
people sell their souls for at work is worth very much. Lying about your
qualifications, or taking credit for another person’s work, may get you the job
you want, but for how long? Eventually somebody will notice you aren’t as good
as expected. This holds true for stabbing a co-worker in the back with the
popular advancement technique known as "I make me look better by making you
look bad." Whatever gain you acquire this way is short-lived because your
superiors, not to mention your co-workers, will quickly learn not to trust you.

Even if you don’t do these things
you may still be selling your soul. There are other ways to auction it off.
Putting a phone call on hold so you can finish a computer game or a BS
conversation with a friend is one way. Making a customer wait because you don’t
feel like dealing with him or her "just yet" is another. Spending too much time
on the internet and not enough on actual work, claiming overtime pay for the
time you spent goofing off in the office after hours, calling in sick the day after
the Super bowl, and spreading gossip when you don’t know the full story, are a
few of the other fine examples I’ve seen of souls being sold rather cheaply.

True, none of these things by themselves are worthy of condemning one’s soul, especially if they are very rarely done. With the exception of gossip they are almost harmless. Almost. The problem is they can become stepping stones. Very few people ever set out immediately to do things they know are evil. They work their way up from little things to bigger ones. When we do something wrong on a tiny scale and get away with it our natural inclination is not to say, "Thank heaven I didn’t get caught. I’m never going to do that again." Nope, human nature doesn’t work that way. Instead, it makes us believe we can keep getting away with it, and then it doesn’t take too long before we start wondering what else we can get away with. Pretty soon we are doing several bad things, and after we’ve gotten away with those things for a while we convince ourselves they aren’t serious enough to worry about. It’s not a crime if we don’t get caught, correct?

Do you only have to get caught to figure out your actions were causing harm? Say your boss got fired and the new boss is stricter on you. Do you ever stop to think it’s because productivity is too low for expenditures, or do you just start whining about the new boss being a jerk? Here’s another one. The company you work for decides to lay off people, and the first people to go are the ones spending the most time on the internet. Do you have enough integrity to realize your actions were contributing to them losing more money than they could afford, or do you simply convince yourself you are the victim of corporate greed?

No doubt there are hundreds more examples out there,
and I’m sure most people will have no trouble figuring out many of their own,
once they honestly start comparing what’s to be gained against what’s to be
lost when engaging in petty actions. Trouble is nobody ever has to do any
such honest comparisons anymore. Our society has created a couple generations
of people who are virtually trained to think "Me first!", and when you don’t
care about other people you also don’t care about the pain you cause. Regretfully, if you’ve been conditioned not to feel other’s pain, you won’t ever feel a need to do any soul-searching.

Sure, most of us, myself included, can list plenty of things we did
right, but that’s the funny thing. If you truly do have a fully functioning
conscience, it isn’t the right things you’ve done in your life you carry the most strongly; it’s
the wrong ones. In that regard the conscience is no better than a Monday
morning quarterback. It only tells you what you should have done after it’s too

I wish it was possible to get more people to stop before it was too late. It would be nice if folks would pause a moment, when on the verge of giving in to some minor temptation, and ask this simple question first: just how cheaply are you willing to sell your soul?

I, for one, have decided I’d much rather not sell it at all anymore.

PS. Life to America!

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