Recently I got into a conversation with someone in regards to ethics. His stance was that ethics are just in books they don’t exist in the world. Now to me that is a pretty dark and jaded opinion about ethics. I would say that ethics are not as clear cut as they used to be.
In the past I think people were held to a higher ethical standard and when someone failed to meet that standard they were called on their behavior. Today I think when someone doesn’t meet ethical standards they get a slap on the hand and are told not to do it again instead of helping them change the behavior. When we do work to change behavior that is not ethical we end up passing laws to make it ethical. By doing this someone is forced to act in a way that would be considered ethical.
Being forced to act ethical is not being ethical. Ethics needs to be internalized it has to be apart of you. So being forced is making a person ethical. Now that does not mean that a person when forced cannot become ethical. It just means they have to embrace those ethical principals and make them apart of who they are. Generally when someone is forced to be ethical because of laws generally will do the very minimum so the don’t violate the statue. They don’t embrace the spirit they embrace the letter.
Now when I talk about ethics I am not spirituality or religious beliefs. While some ethical behaviors have their roots in this area they are not the same. The problem when someone thinks that religion and ethics are the same is that it is colored by their interpretation of their religious beliefs. Ethics at its root is the respectful way we live, work, and play with each other. The more we live ethically the bigger difference we can do make in this work. The more accountable we can keep our leaders in all sectors of society.