On Being an Ethical Person
“Actions speak louder than words.” – It has been reported that this phrase dates back as far as the 1550s, when the French writer Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) said, “Saying is one thing and doing is another.”
There are a variety of definitions of actions speak louder than words. The one I like the best is: What you do has a stronger impact on people than what you say. Knowing what to do and doing it are two different things. Knowledge of ethical reasoning is important in that it provides the ethical judgment skills to make the right call when you are faced with a decision that has ethical dimensions to it.
Consider the following. You tell your son or daughter to always be ethical: do the right thing not the wrong thing; be a good person not bad. You are then faced with an ethical dilemma where your brother confides in you that he has become involved with a married woman who just happens to be the best friend of your wife. You have promised to say nothing about it. You love your brother and he has been loyalty to you many times in the past. What would you do? What should you do?
From an ethical reasoning perspective, we could argue that your wife has a right to know which, of course, means she will confront her friend about the matter. It’s bound to be messy to say the least. You don’t want to break a promise and risk upsetting your brother. How can you decide the “best” choice?” For me it’s The Golden Rule. I would ask myself what if it was my wife who was cheating. Surely I would expect my brother to tell me even though it’s likely to create conflict with others.
Informing your wife about the cheating is a matter of summoning up the moral courage to do what you know to be right. Let your actions define you; not your words. What you do is more significant than what you say. You need to get your actions to line up with your words. If you want to be a more ethical person, than act ethically.
Ethical choices can be difficult. I like to say that “Ethics is easier said than done.” True but what’s most important is to live in accordance with ethical values – just don’t say them, live by them. These values include to be honest, respect others, accept responsibility for your actions, and have the courage of your convictions. If you live by them at all times, it becomes easier to act ethically when faced with a dilemma. These values should become an integral part of who you are and what you stand for.
We make choices in everyday life that reflect our true character such as the one discussed in this blog. Our choices say a lot about who we are and what we do. Ethical people deliberate about consequences/rights and duties/justice/virtue in deciding how we should treat others. Ethical reasoning methods help us to understand our alternatives and how they affect others. At the end of the day, ask yourself: How would I act if someone is always watching.