Day Two Hundred Twenty-Four of 365 – The Lakota Code of Ethics: Treatment of Lost Souls

Many Native American nations have a peculiar approach to dealing with those who have lost their way in life. The Lakota are no different. In the second of 20 posts based on the Lakota Code of Ethics, we have the chance to explore this peculiarity. So often when people in our society demonstrate aberrant behavior – behavior that flies in the face of decency – we have a tendency to judge them harshly, find reasons to excuse or explain away their behavior or take them on in some sort of battle. The Lakota have a different view.

The second of the Lakota Code of Ethics says, “Be tolerant (patient) of those who are lost on their path. Ignorance, conceit, anger, jealousy and greed stem from a lost soul. Pray that they will find guidance.” Now on the surface, one might think that this particular part of the code encourages us to accept, cover for or endorse behavior that is beneath human dignity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

One synonym for tolerant is patient. An operative definition of patience that coincides with this particular aspect of the Code is as follows: Patience requires parameters, time frames and expectations. This definition serves as a framework for purposeful intervention. You see, the Lakota believe that Ignorance, conceit, anger, jealousy and greed stem from one who has lost his/her way – one who is a Lost Soul. The Lakota believe that we should take these Lost Souls into the heart of the hearth and work to help them rediscover their humanity.

They believe that the Lost Soul is worthy of intervention. Counter to our typical approaches, the Lakota way is to offer prayers for their guidance. The kind of prayers for guidance required demand practical action on the part of the intercessor and a willingness on the part of the Lost Soul to submit to the corrective intervention. Practical action like speaking up, standing firm, pointing out the fallacy of errant beliefs/behaviors, offering alternative approaches and helping the Lost Soul to implement them is the way of the Lakota.

Our world in general and our society in particular is fraught individuals who fit the “Lost Soul” bill. Many of those Lost Souls find themselves in places of leadership. As much as I might want to tear down those who flaunt their “Lostness,” if I buy into the Code of the Lakota, I must be willing to purposefully intervene, knowing that the Lost Soul has every right to reject the intervention. When that happens, I must be willing to continue to stand firm, holding that Lost Soul to standards of conduct consistent with everything that is decent, loving and peaceful.

May we always hope for the best yet act with purpose and integrity when necessary.


Mark E. Hundley



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