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Moral decisions

Moral and Ethical Dilemmas

One of the most difficult trials I face in my life are ethical and moral dilemmas. They can be soul-wrenching and searching experiences that tax my character and cause me to really "put my money where my mouth is." Sometimes I'm quick to see ethical faults in others, but slow to see them in myself. Other times I see all to clearly my mistakes and wonder why I don't measure up. I believe one purpose for this life is to learn to act for ourselves. Learn to see a situation correctly and act righteously. In this paper I wish to discuss many of the thoughts I have had recently on setting a pattern for making ethical decisions throughout my life. I will present many of the traps I have fallen into or observed in others.

Everyday I'm faced with decisions of right and wrong, most of which are easily and correctly dealt with. Sometimes however, decisions need to be made that are not easy or clear-cut. They require thought and often prayer. I like to draw on past experience to make comparisons that help give insight to new problems. Many times, however past experiences cannot be related to present problems and can confuse and obscure possibilities. Even the opinions or actions of friends faced with similar dilemmas may not be helpful. Often you feel pressured by piers that say, "it's no big deal", or "you'll understand later". It's important that I understand why a particular action or resolution is correct or incorrect. If I can't or don't it's difficult to feel I've been honest with myself. That for me can be a good measure of ethical behavior, my conscience.

The ideal way to deal with difficult questions is to have a foolproof formula. Find steps that will always lead to correct decisions. Unfortunately I do not yet have such a formula and often learn by hard experience right and wrong. Let me start by saying I firmly believe the formula exists, and is to be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The only way to live a perfectly ethical and moral life is to be Like Him. There is no other way. The entire world will experiment and try all other forms of self-indulgence and soul searching and will not be one step closer until they begin with His gospel. I heard it said once that "he who picks up one end of a stick, picks up the other end also." No matter how hard you try or want happiness, you cannot pick and choose values and beliefs according to your tastes and wants. It really is all or nothing. That is why I will discuss my formula in a gospel light, because any other way is a waist of time.

I believe that in order to make correct and righteous decisions you must first have proper perspective and motivation. The Apostle (???), said that "the true character of a man can really be seen when he is alone and no one will know." Many people, myself included, are motivated by responsibility or leadership. They ask, "what will my wife, or kids think?" or "what will my ward think?". These are good motivations and the mantle of responsibility can mold a person, but they can also betray us and make decisions quite difficult. If you rely on pressure to make decisions, what will you do when a decision is unpopular, or when no one is looking?

Still others weigh consequences or outcomes to aid in decision making. Rather than look at the question and judge it by it's own merits, they want to see who's affected or what it would really cost. It's like putting a price on your character. If it's small or doesn't hurt anybody, than it won't be a big deal. We can "nickel and dime" our moral piggy bank to death. It's the old, "the ends justify the means." Criminals aren't made in a day.

Some of the most unethical and unjustifiable behavior I know of has come out of our own political system. The very men who are responsible for making our laws have little or no regard for them. They live under the philosophy that "I'm an ethical person until I get caught..." and when their caught they exclaim that their human. Ethics has nothing to do with other people. It's called personal integrity and character and no one else will ever be my judge but me in that regard. An ethical person has character and personal integrity.

What of the argument, "Remember the SPIRIT, or LETTER of the law"? I think all too often I use both of these arguments to justify myself. When I may not exactly follow a law to the letter I can justify myself by babbling about "original intent or spirit". On other occasions it's an easy way out of a dilemma by taking too literally the letter of the law. The classic argument against war is "thou shalt not kill". If a person wishes to look blindly on a rule or a law and will not see a larger picture, than they easily justify the letter of the law. It is for this reason our courts are overloaded with endless cases and appeals. Criminals go free on technicalities caused by forced "letter of the law" rulings. I believe it's important to understand both the letter and spirit of the law in order to make correct decisions.

Drawing analogies can often help me to understand complex subjects. I think traffic laws are a good microcosm of our society. We are a car along the road of life (sorry if this is too much, just bare with me). On the road we have laws, which are straight forward and strict. We also have guidelines, that are not laws, but still expected. On this road, we also interact with other cars and difficult situations. "Can I pull a u-turn in the middle of the road when there's no sign that says I can't?", or "Can I park here?", "Should I stop that drunk driver?" etc. There are many examples that can be directly related to our lives, and can demonstrate the purpose for law and order. Are there times on the road when we justify an action by an individual situation or outcome? Are there times when we are justified to not obey the law? Some may think these examples are too much of a stretch, and I agree that they only apply so far, but in a Priesthood session not long ago we were asked, "how many of you brethren obeyed all traffic laws when driving to conference today?" I believe that it is easy to justify traffic infractions, just as it is easy to justify small compromises in our character.

I believe there are situations that merit not following the law. As we discussed in class, The revolutionary war was begun as a result of outright rebellion of the colonies. When a people is deprived of life or liberty they have a human right to claim it and fight for it if necessary. Imagine if a police officer over enforced laws on you, or unreasonably harassed you. Even though technically he may be within the law to do so, do you have a right to not obey him. Many courts have stated you do, and for good reason. Recently in Alabama an officer was chasing a women on the highway for a traffic violation. He was in an unmarked car. It had no police lights on the top or any markings that would show it's identity. He flashed his brights and told her to pull over for miles, but she wouldn't pull over. She was frightened of the man and wouldn't believe he was an officer. After several miles she finally pulled to the side of the rode. The officer was furious and pulled her out of her car, through her on the ground, cuffed her, and arrested her. Here, the officer was justified in pulling her over. In Alabama police are not required to be in a marked police car. The officer has the right to arrest someone that doesn't pull over. Technically the women broke the law, but was she justified? I believe she was. She feared for her own safety, and could not be faulted for doing so. Fortunately her judge felt the same way and the officer was suspended.

I believe this example, and others can show that ethical decisions are not always black and white. They usually require thinking and good judgement. I realize that I can't look at situations always at face value, but must endeavor to understand them if I always want to make the best decision I can.

A simple guide that I have used throughout my life is the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. I believe this is a good rule of thumb to fall back on, but I don't believe it's foolproof. So often we can justify actions by using this kind of reason. Just because you would do it, or have it done to you in no way means it's ethical or right. Sure it may keep you from stealing, or murdering, but what about the gray areas. "I'll do it for him because he'd do it for me." "Everyone else would take this opportunity, so why can't I." Even putting yourself in someone else's shoes may not help very much. You must have a stronger foundation to base all your ethics on.

The motivation for doing right should be based far deeper than just testimony, commandments, or responsibility. I believe it must come from a true desire to be the best person you can be. Don't settle for second rate behavior. Expect the best out of yourself and your fellow man. Be forgiving both of yourself and others, but don't be clumsy and just stumble through your mistakes. I believe the savior didn't do all he did on the earth just to obey, or just to be righteous. Those were true motivations, but I believe His motivation was more proactive rather than reactive. He was good, and He loved us, and wanted us to be like Him. He knew the only path possible for our return. That is why He volunteered and submitted. I could compare it to temple attendance or missionary service. We may serve by commandment alone, and reap all the blessing and rewards, or we could look beyond and see the work of saving souls. We could see the absolute need for our service and give our lives for it.

I believe with that kind of true motivation we will more easily be able to see right from wrong. We will not seek to satisfy our own needs or wants, but will see others needs along with ours. We could more clearly see the importance of ethical and moral behavior. Whether someone is watching or not is irrelevant and has no part in our decisions. I admit that this in no way will make the decision making process easier; quite the contrary. No longer will decisions be made based on popularity or gain, but on what's right and good. Unfortunately I will still have to learn by experience when the answers are not clear, so I will get burned a few times. But in the process of learning, I can be confident that I am really doing my best and improving always. By refining this formula I will find myself better able to resolve difficult dilemmas and feel good about my decisions.

Moral and Ethical Dilemmas

One of the most difficult trials I face in my life are ethical and moral dilemmas. They can be soul-wrenching and searching experiences that tax my character and cause me to really "put my money where my mouth is." Sometimes I'm quick to see ethical faults in others, but slow to see them in myself. Other times I see all to clearly my mistakes and wonder why I don't measure up. I believe one purpose for this life is to learn to act for ourselves. Learn to see a situation correctly and act righteously. In this paper I wish to discuss many of the thoughts I have had recently on setting a pattern for making ethical decisions throughout my life. I will present many of the traps I have fallen into or observed in others.

Everyday I'm faced with decisions of right and wrong, most of which are easily and correctly dealt with. Sometimes however, decisions need to be made that are not easy or clear-cut. They require thought and often prayer. I like to draw on past experience to make comparisons that help give insight to new problems. Many times, however past experiences cannot be related to present problems and can confuse and obscure possibilities. Even the opinions or actions of friends faced with similar dilemmas may not be helpful. Often you feel pressured by piers that say, "it's no big deal", or "you'll understand later". It's important that I understand why a particular action or resolution is correct or incorrect. If I can't or don't it's difficult to feel I've been honest with myself. That for me can be a good measure of ethical behavior, my conscience.

The ideal way to deal with difficult questions is to have a foolproof formula. Find steps that will always lead to correct decisions. Unfortunately I do not yet have such a formula and often learn by hard experience right and wrong. Let me start by saying I firmly believe the formula exists, and is to be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The only way to live a perfectly ethical and moral life is to be Like Him. There is no other way. The entire world will experiment and try all other forms of self-indulgence and soul searching and will not be one step closer until they begin with His gospel. I heard it said once that "he who picks up one end of a stick, picks up the other end also." No matter how hard you try or want happiness, you cannot pick and choose values and beliefs according to your tastes and wants. It really is all or nothing. That is why I will discuss my formula in a gospel light, because any other way is a waist of time.

I believe that in order to make correct and righteous decisions you must first have proper perspective and motivation. The Apostle (???), said that "the true character of a man can really be seen when he is alone and no one will know." Many people, myself included, are motivated by responsibility or leadership. They ask, "what will my wife, or kids think?" or "what will my ward think?". These are good motivations and the mantle of responsibility can mold a person, but they can also betray us and make decisions quite difficult. If you rely on pressure to make decisions, what will you do when a decision is unpopular, or when no one is looking?

Still others weigh consequences or outcomes to aid in decision making. Rather than look at the question and judge it by it's own merits, they want to see who's affected or what it would really cost. It's like putting a price on your character. If it's small or doesn't hurt anybody, than it won't be a big deal. We can "nickel and dime" our moral piggy bank to death. It's the old, "the ends justify the means." Criminals aren't made in a day.

Some of the most unethical and unjustifiable behavior I know of has come out of our own political system. The very men who are responsible for making our laws have little or no regard for them. They live under the philosophy that "I'm an ethical person until I get caught..." and when their caught they exclaim that their human. Ethics has nothing to do with other people. It's called personal integrity and character and no one else will ever be my judge but me in that regard. An ethical person has character and personal integrity.

What of the argument, "Remember the SPIRIT, or LETTER of the law"? I think all too often I use both of these arguments to justify myself. When I may not exactly follow a law to the letter I can justify myself by babbling about "original intent or spirit". On other occasions it's an easy way out of a dilemma by taking too literally the letter of the law. The classic argument against war is "thou shalt not kill". If a person wishes to look blindly on a rule or a law and will not see a larger picture, than they easily justify the letter of the law. It is for this reason our courts are overloaded with endless cases and appeals. Criminals go free on technicalities caused by forced "letter of the law" rulings. I believe it's important to understand both the letter and spirit of the law in order to make correct decisions.

Drawing analogies can often help me to understand complex subjects. I think traffic laws are a good microcosm of our society. We are a car along the road of life (sorry if this is too much, just bare with me). On the road we have laws, which are straight forward and strict. We also have guidelines, that are not laws, but still expected. On this road, we also interact with other cars and difficult situations. "Can I pull a u-turn in the middle of the road when there's no sign that says I can't?", or "Can I park here?", "Should I stop that drunk driver?" etc. There are many examples that can be directly related to our lives, and can demonstrate the purpose for law and order. Are there times on the road when we justify an action by an individual situation or outcome? Are there times when we are justified to not obey the law? Some may think these examples are too much of a stretch, and I agree that they only apply so far, but in a Priesthood session not long ago we were asked, "how many of you brethren obeyed all traffic laws when driving to conference today?" I believe that it is easy to justify traffic infractions, just as it is easy to justify small compromises in our character.

I believe there are situations that merit not following the law. As we discussed in class, The revolutionary war was begun as a result of outright rebellion of the colonies. When a people is deprived of life or liberty they have a human right to claim it and fight for it if necessary. Imagine if a police officer over enforced laws on you, or unreasonably harassed you. Even though technically he may be within the law to do so, do you have a right to not obey him. Many courts have stated you do, and for good reason. Recently in Alabama an officer was chasing a women on the highway for a traffic violation. He was in an unmarked car. It had no police lights on the top or any markings that would show it's identity. He flashed his brights and told her to pull over for miles, but she wouldn't pull over. She was frightened of the man and wouldn't believe he was an officer. After several miles she finally pulled to the side of the rode. The officer was furious and pulled her out of her car, through her on the ground, cuffed her, and arrested her. Here, the officer was justified in pulling her over. In Alabama police are not required to be in a marked police car. The officer has the right to arrest someone that doesn't pull over. Technically the women broke the law, but was she justified? I believe she was. She feared for her own safety, and could not be faulted for doing so. Fortunately her judge felt the same way and the officer was suspended.

I believe this example, and others can show that ethical decisions are not always black and white. They usually require thinking and good judgement. I realize that I can't look at situations always at face value, but must endeavor to understand them if I always want to make the best decision I can.

A simple guide that I have used throughout my life is the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. I believe this is a good rule of thumb to fall back on, but I don't believe it's foolproof. So often we can justify actions by using this kind of reason. Just because you would do it, or have it done to you in no way means it's ethical or right. Sure it may keep you from stealing, or murdering, but what about the gray areas. "I'll do it for him because he'd do it for me." "Everyone else would take this opportunity, so why can't I." Even putting yourself in someone else's shoes may not help very much. You must have a stronger foundation to base all your ethics on.

The motivation for doing right should be based far deeper than just testimony, commandments, or responsibility. I believe it must come from a true desire to be the best person you can be. Don't settle for second rate behavior. Expect the best out of yourself and your fellow man. Be forgiving both of yourself and others, but don't be clumsy and just stumble through your mistakes. I believe the savior didn't do all he did on the earth just to obey, or just to be righteous. Those were true motivations, but I believe His motivation was more proactive rather than reactive. He was good, and He loved us, and wanted us to be like Him. He knew the only path possible for our return. That is why He volunteered and submitted. I could compare it to temple attendance or missionary service. We may serve by commandment alone, and reap all the blessing and rewards, or we could look beyond and see the work of saving souls. We could see the absolute need for our service and give our lives for it.

I believe with that kind of true motivation we will more easily be able to see right from wrong. We will not seek to satisfy our own needs or wants, but will see others needs along with ours. We could more clearly see the importance of ethical and moral behavior. Whether someone is watching or not is irrelevant and has no part in our decisions. I admit that this in no way will make the decision making process easier; quite the contrary. No longer will decisions be made based on popularity or gain, but on what's right and good. Unfortunately I will still have to learn by experience when the answers are not clear, so I will get burned a few times. But in the process of learning, I can be confident that I am really doing my best and improving always. By refining this formula I will find myself better able to resolve difficult dilemmas and feel good about my decisions.

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