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Today I want to talk about morality and ethics. I have a little different take on these things than a lot of other people do. You hear these words thrown about quite a bit these days. The common definition of these words is fairly straight forward.
Morality is defined as; principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. And Ethics are defined as: moral principles that govern a person’s behavior, or the conducting of an activity.
So, according to the definitions, morality is a set of principles that distinguish between right and wrong, or good and bad behavior, and ethics is the act of using those principles to govern ones actions.
That’s pretty easy to understand, I think we could all agree that this is what is meant by morality and ethics. For me however, the problem is not with the definitions of these words. Rather, my problem is when people impose their version of morality and ethics on other people.
I believe that every man should govern his life according to his own principles of morality. I believe in that sense, every man should strive to live a moral life, every man should govern his life according to his ethics. It really irritates me though, when people make judgements on another persons sense of morality.
There are times of course, when we are subject to the ethics and morality of another individual or entity. For example, when you are at work. You have agreed that to be an employee you will abide by the ethical guidelines of your employer. I don’t have a problem with that.
Also, as a citizen of a country you have an obligation to adhere to the laws of that country. I find that acceptable as well, civilization would be hard to achieve if we didn’t have that understanding.
The problem I see, is that with all these ethics and rules of morality being placed on us by governments, communities, employers, and religious organizations. We forget sometimes that we must have our own principles. We must self govern first and foremost. Otherwise, we wind up blindly going along with a morality that was spoon fed to us, and we lose connection with the reason for them.
I use the analogy of melatonin. Melatonin occurs naturally in our brains, its what helps us go to sleep. If a person takes melatonin pills all the time to go to sleep its dangerous, because your brain might stop making it…because it doesn’t have to, because you are taking too many melatonin pills.
Its the same with morality and ethics. We are deluged with other peoples version of these things…so much so, that we forget to establish our own. I think there would be less crime in the world if this was not the case. Its much easier to break someone else’s rule than it is to break your own.
I think its imperative that every man take a good long look in the mirror and decide for himself what is and is not acceptable behavior…and then, abide by those rules you set for yourself. That is my definition of morality.
It may seem like an exercise in redundancy, because many of your own morals will be exactly the same as those currently being imposed upon you. The difference is, that now they are yours, and you comply with them not because you are told to, but rather because it is what you as a man, have deemed to be the right thing to do. See the difference?
To use the extreme examples; we all know its wrong to murder and steal and lie and cheat on our taxes. But do you know why its wrong? Have you considered these things yourself and made a determination as to why exactly they are wrong to you? Many people have not, because they haven’t needed to. We have been inundated with this external morality since we were born, just like the guy that takes too much melatonin. We have not seen the need to make these determinations for ourselves, because it has all been done for us.
What I am suggesting to you is that we all need to internalize our morality and ethics. We should all live by a creed that is determined by us individually. Because then it is true morality. Then you are acting out of a true sense of right and wrong, instead of merely acting, in an effort to conform with what someone else is telling you.
I know many of you have already done this to some degree. You may have decided that it is better to be honest and keep your word for example. You may have decided that fidelity in your relationships is critically important. These things that you have decided for yourself, are yours. You do them because you are emotionally and intellectually aligned with the reason for them.
What I am suggesting, is to do that with everything in your life. What if every time we did or said anything, our actions were being governed by our own morality and ethics? Reasoned and decided upon by us? I think you would be less likely to do things you regret. I think life in general might become more profound, because you would be living by your own set of rules, for reasons you decided.
So there is some food for thought. Mull it over and see what you think about that. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and you can always write me a letter at: email@example.com and tell me whats on your mind. If there are issues you have been pondering, ask me about those too, it might wind up being an episode and I will give you all the credit.
Now head out into the world and know why you do the things you do. Understand why you don’t do other things. Exercise your will as a man in the world by doing everything for a reason. It is just another way to be accountable to yourself, and be a better man today than you were yesterday.
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