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How to be a Better Person

Work Ethic, Civility and Personal Responsibility are the Keys

As a college professor I always look forward to this time of year with a new term starting; new faces to see; new thoughts to probe; new ideas to discuss with my students. In preparing for my first class on ethics I wondered what to say to encourage my students to examine their own behavior and think about how they can treat others better or do something for the betterment of the community or become more contributing members of society.

I was motivated to think about these questions by the recent events when on two separate occasions a person either fell to his death or was pushed off the NYC subway platform. I have already blogged about the needless subway death when bystanders stood idly. I also have blogged about our falling off the “moral cliff” and how much more severe it is than the “fiscal cliff.” I can help but wonder about how quickly we forget the message of abusive behavior to others in society in the form of mass killings, the most recent at Sandy Hook Elementary.  How can a human being treat other human beings this way? The question that still has not been answered in this and other cases is: What prompts one person to pick up multiple assault weapons and kill innocent children?

I have often blogged about cyber-bullying, a practice that demeans youngsters because of some perceived difference in appearance, behavior, or sexual preference. It is a virus attacking our schools fueled by the widespread use of social media and anonymous way a posting can be made that leads to ridicule and abuse against the bullied individual. In some respects it is a “faceless” crime; the perpetrator is a coward of the worst kind.

As we begin the New Year all of us should commit to being better people. I will ask my students to do so in their own lives. I will encourage them to do the following:

Social Interaction

Put down the smart phone, tablet, and laptop and speak directly and personally to friends and family. The personal interaction creates a connection that is difficult to come by when you “let your fingers do the talking.”

Work Ethic

Work harder in school and in whatever endeavor you choose in life. The ancient Greeks knew the pursuit of excellence through virtuous practice is its own reward. The most rewarding experiences in my professional life have been when I set a goal, worked hard to achieve, and succeeded in doing so. It makes us feel like we have accomplished something in our lives.


Don’t make fun of others for any reason. The diversity of our culture whether in race relations, national heritage, or sexual preference is what makes us strong and the most admired country in the world. Don’t be rude; practice patience; and be kind to others.

Personal Responsibility

Don’t blame others for your failings. If something bad happens to you, search inside your own mind for an answer and commit to doing better next time. If you make a mistake in life, admit it, promise never to do it again, be remorseful towards those you have harmed, and then become a better person.


We are not entitled to have the government pay our way. We are not entitled to receive benefits that don’t come from hard work and dedication. We should not complain when circumstances change for the worse and insist we are entitled to better. Search inside your own soul for an answer.

Work hard; practice kindness and be empathetic; accept personal responsibility; and strive to be the best person you can be. Just imagine if each of us took these words to heart how much better of a society we would have.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on January 2, 2013