Part of an ethics course focuses on developing better ethical actions. We’ve already learned that human behavior is all over the map. You can say the same words with the same tone to one person and she is pleased, and to another person and he is offended.
Some of you are taking this course because it is required for your major and some of you are taking it for other reasons, but for many of you, taking the course right now is the absolute best time in life to develop your ethics.
I think of ethical action like using a muscle. If you are going to live a life of integrity, character, and ethics, you need to have courage muscles that are ripped, shredded, (or whatever terms are used for toned and large muscles these days. J )
Many of you, right now, have the flabbiest courage muscles that you’ve ever had in your life. In junior high school through college, you will face the strongest peer pressure that you will ever face in your life. Peer pressure has caused you to do many things you did not want to do and not do many things you did want to do.
Many of you have learned to be really good liars. You actually had stronger courage muscles when you were 5 years old. At that age, you weren’t doing the wrong thing because you weren’t influenced by your peers and you weren’t yet a good liar. By now, you’ve probably had great practice lying to your parents and your friends.
Research shows that most of you are cheaters. You have been cheating in your school work or you have been cheating at work, perhaps, just by not working during some time you are paid. Some of you are cheating your employers by taking food or other products. Most of you have not taken cash, because that would be wrong.
So, I hope you will decide to take seriously the development of your courage muscle. Do you care as much about the size of your courage muscle as you do your bodily muscles, your brain muscles, or your compassion muscles?
The decision is up to you.
Most adults are walking around today with really weak courage muscles. They lack integrity and character. Deep down, they are deeply unsatisfied. Addiction to pharmaceuticals, work, or sex and broken relationships are just the most extreme examples. Do you want to go through the rest of your life as a casual liar and cheater, and dealing with the consequences of that?
Let me offer a challenge to you – Living courageously is its own value. Maximizing profit, maximizing your career achievement, or maximizing anything else must only be done within the boundaries of ethical action. If you are committed to those boundaries, you may not get a date with someone you want; you may lose a college scholarship to someone who cheated; you may lose a promotion to someone who lied about you.
Ethical action often, but not always, pays off in the long-term. Not getting that college scholarship may not ultimately affect your career prospects. But, there is no guarantee.
I call someone a hero if, day in and day out, she makes all decisions, large and small, ethically and with integrity. Regardless of the consequences, living life that way is its own reward.
Choose to live your life courageously, and become a hero!