Moral and Ethical Behavior

Are we teaching our children moral and ethical behavior and thinking? Is it all about me or us?

As a boy, I believed morality had to do with sin. In the Novel, The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne gives birth to a baby whose father is unknown. The story takes place in a town in Massachusetts during the Puritans’ time. The townspeople believed that Hester was guilty of the crime of adultery. She was forced to have the letter A embroidered in the color scarlet and sewn into her clothes so that wherever she went, people would know she was an adulteress. But Hester was a proud woman and proudly wore her scarlet letter. She was the hero of the story. 

But morality has to do with many more things than sin. It is caring about other people.

There was a recent and fascinating news item about a wealthy man pretending to be a beggar sitting on the sidewalk outside of an office building. He had a cardboard sign asking people to drop donations into his hat. He pretended to be asleep and filled his hat with hundreds of dollars of cash. Repeatedly, those who walked by looked up and down the street and stole the cash from the man’s hat. It was all an experiment in moral and ethical behavior. After the theft, he once again filled the hat with cash. In the end, one man awakened the man, showed him what had happened, and added his own money to the hat.

Principles and values that shape human behavior are known as morality. Morality is distinguishing right from wrong and consistently deciding with one’s ethical beliefs. Morality is the capacity to care for others. It is a journey beyond the self. It is a multifaceted concept debated by scholars, philosophers, and religious leaders throughout history.

One of the key aspects of morality is the idea of moral responsibility. Responsibility refers to the idea that individuals handle their actions and must take responsibility for them. People are held accountable for their behavior and are expected to follow certain moral principles. Hester Prynne violated one of the moral principles of her time. That moral principle was having sexual relations with someone other than her husband and then becoming pregnant and having a baby.

Another important aspect of morality is the idea of moral values. These values are the principles that guide our behavior and help us distinguish right from wrong. Some common moral values include honesty, kindness, respect, and fairness. Our upbringing, cultural background, and personal experiences often shape these values. They can vary widely from person to person and from one era to the next. Today, extramarital affairs occur with no one being imprisoned and found guilty of a crime, even if some people disapprove. 

Ethical Behavior

Ethical behavior refers to conduct that aligns with accepted moral codes or standards. It’s about doing what’s right, honest, and fair, not just according to laws. Ethical behavior is also based on ethical principles and values. Ethical behavior is expected in many aspects of life. That includes personal interactions, workplace conduct, and research practices.

Ethical behavior often involves the following principles:

  • Honesty and Integrity require truthfulness and trustworthiness in all actions.
  • Fairness refers to deciding free from bias, prejudice, and favoritism. Ethical individuals are fair and just in all their dealings.
  • Respect for Others: Ethical behavior involves treating all individuals with respect. It means acknowledging their dignity, rights, and freedoms. Ethical behavior includes respecting the diversity of others and treating them as equals.
  • Accountability and Responsibility: Ethical individuals take responsibility for their actions and decisions. Responsibility means admitting mistakes and not blaming others for failures. And it means being willing to take corrective actions.
  • Ethical behavior must follow laws.
  • Consideration for Others’ Interests: Ethical behavior requires considering all people in a decision. It means finding a balance that respects everyone’s rights and interests.

I am writing this article because I’m concerned about where we are as a society today. Gun violence in local neighborhoods has become common. Television news reports show some people walking out of stores with stolen items. 

In Washington, D.C., Democratic and Republican senators and representatives resist a compromise bill to resolve the national debt ceiling crisis. The nation faces default this June if the issue is not resolved. Default could mean financial disaster for millions of Americans. However, in news reports, right and left-wing representatives and senators refuse to cooperate. They state that cooperation would violate their political principles. In none of this does anyone hear the necessity of doing what is best for the nation?

Are these politicians distinguishing what is right from what is wrong?

If we take this discussion to the local level, do I care about my neighbor? Will I bring food to my neighbor if they are ill? Does it matter to me? Is the focus on me or us?

Where is the social and moral responsibility for our nation?

Are we teaching our children moral and ethical behavior and thinking?

I look forward to comments and opinions from readers.


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