“A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary.”Ethical behaviour does not “pop into” one’s head, but is received from mentors by basic principles. This mentor – a parent, teacher, or friend – points out correct conduct and behaviour in an individual’s life. After a flawed behaviour is performed, the mentor points out the flaw and as a result, the person usually goes through a process of transformation.
In this process, the individual with the flaw usually recognizes what they did wrong and attempts to modify their actions. Not only do they modify their actions, this person integrates this behaviour as a part of their life for performing future actions. Sometimes, however, this integrating process of following correct ethical behaviour is not obeyed. As a consequence, the flawed individual knows about the correct ethical behaviour, but finds it challenging to obey. Thus, this individual might cause a potential challenge of a conflict in ethical behaviour to be born.
How can we change our ethical behaviour? It is hard, but not impossible, to change our feelings and actions to conform to a behaviour that is ethical. Since an individual has the choice of choosing their behaviour, it is difficult for a mentor to persuade this individual to act in the correct way. Arguments may erupt and become forceful between the mentor and the one with the choice over their behaviour. No amount of argument can compel ethical conduct. However, when attempting to change an individual’s behaviour, the mentor should do so in a compassionate manner.
When ethical behaviour is taught, it takes place within the context of certain issues of social values and norms, which are standards or models regarded as typical. Without these norms, mentors would have no guide for shaping behaviour to suit a correct standard. In regard to this, the kind of teaching one receives is based on the kind of society in which one lives. In many third world countries, bribery is considered to be the normal way of doing business because that is how many government officials earn sufficient money to sustain themselves.
“Grub first, then ethics.”However in North America bribery is definitely not ethical behaviour. The way to truly understand these teachings is to self-evaluate our actions and become more perceptive of the appropriate ethical behaviour. As children, if individuals are exposed to correct ethical behaviour, such incidents as the Wall Street scandals, would never had taken place. Individuals who exhibit this type of unethical behaviour lack the character to carry out such illegal and immoral actions as adults.
Children that witness a great deal of unethical behaviour can still manage to overcome the past and grow into adults whose actions correctly use ethical behaviour. As a child, if you are taught right from wrong, you will be brought up with proper ethical behaviour. In a perfect world, a uniform, ethically behaved society would be able to distinguish between what is right and wrong and accordingly act upon it. Today’s educators and parents must do more to emulate appropriate behaviour, so children will know that their behaviour is ethical.
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics; Hackette Publishing Company; Indianapolis; 1985 p.172 Newsweek. The Business Ethics Debate, (May 29, 1987) p.36