Doing Good By Being Good
What’s missing from our society today is doing good things for others by being an ethical person. Take wearing a mask in public. This is a sign of a good person who cares about their fellow citizens and wears a mask to protect them. If everyone wore a mask imagine how much lower the infection rate and deaths would be from Covid-19.
Wearing a Mask: To Do or Not to Do
Most people go about their daily lives without paying much attention to ethics. They may be good people and ethics may be embedded in their character. Even so, it’s a good idea to think about what you are doing (or about to do) and why. Focusing on certain core ethical principles provides guidance in dealing with many challenges we face in today’s world like the coronavirus.
It’s been said that ethics is about how you behave when no one is looking. If no one is looking I believe virtually no one would wear a mask because it’s either uncomfortable or simply pursuing one’s own interests. I put President Trump in this category.
When I teach ethics, the one thing I tell my students over and over again is even though you may have a right to do something (not wear a mask) that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.
The coronavirus has brought out the worst in too many people. College students are a good example. They congregate in large groups; have “coronavirus” parties; and generally, care little about whether their fellow classmates, faculty, and staff get the virus from them or others.
What makes for a good person?
There is no list but consider the following.
- Make things better. We can improve our own lives and the lives of others by acting in ways that carefully consider the consequences of our actions on others. Think before you act. Weigh the good and bad outcomes and select the act that brings the most happiness and meaning to ourselves and others.
- Follow the Golden Rule. Think about how you would want those potentially affected by your actions to act if the ‘shoe was on the other foot.’ Act consistently and never violate the rights of others.
- Be civil at all times. Treat others with respect. Don’t berate others because they don’t share your point of view. Learn how to disagree with others without being disagreeable.
- Accept responsibility for your behavior. When you make a mistake, admit it, be remorseful, promise not to do it again and change your behavior as necessary to live up to the first three principles.
- Reflect on your behavior. Think about the decisions you made, whether they turned out good or bad, what ethical principles you may have missed and what you need to do to be a more ethical person.
One’s behavior during the coronavirus checks all of the boxes. A person who strives to make things better for all acts in ways that are helpful to the community not harmful.
As I discuss in my book, Beyond Happiness and Meaning: Transforming Your Life Through Ethical Behavior, following The Golden Rule might best be described as acting in ways you would want others to act towards you. Don’t we want our fellow citizens to care about how they treat us, or what they can do to protect us from the virus?
The essence of civility is kindness and respect. Respecting others is the key to caring about others. It’s doing good by being good. When we respect others, we act in their best interests as well as our own. It’s not about me, all of the time, but the community we live in; our society; indeed, our country. Again, wearing a mask in public places, especially in-doors, is a sign of caring.
Accepting responsibility for one’s behavior is to be accountable for our behavior. What if a person knows they have the virus and goes into a crowded space? This is not a responsible action.
Reflecting on one’s behavior is the essence of growth and moral development. We should consider the consequences of our actions before we make decisions not afterwards when our behavior is questioned.
Enhancing the Well-Being of Oneself and Others
My book takes the position that we can enhance the lives of ourselves and others by being sensitive to how our actions affect others. It is particularly relevant to the coronavirus. I address certain traits of behavior like kindness, empathy, respect, and responsibility, and why they can lead to being a better person thereby qualitatively improving the well-being of all. You may find it instructive and a new way of thinking about your behavior. To find out more about the book, link on to the website.
Posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on September 8, 2020. You can sign up for our newsletter and learn more about Dr. Mintz’s activities at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter .