My mother always told me I must learn to think for myself, question a situation and most importantly, I must learn to say ‘NO’, cause when the devil shows or makes you an unbelievable offer it’s harder than you think to say ‘NO’. Regardless of ethnicity, religion or culture when faced with a moral dilemma there is no telling how you would react or what your decision will be, even if you grew up as a devout Catholic like I did, and were expected to obey the Ten Commandments till the day you die or ‘burn for eternity in hell!’, or if you are lucky, spend part of eternity in purgatory atoning for you sins. Often we are placed in situations that test our ethical resolve. Lapses in ethics due to a dilemma can occur because of the simplest of issues like a need or fear.
A dilemma is a situation requiring a choice between equally undesirable alternatives. An ethical dilemma can also be known as a moral dilemma or temptation. Moral temptations are viewed as “the right choice verses the wrong choice”. The right choice is not necessarily the easy choice. Any situation in which there are two choices to be made, neither of which resolves the situation in an ethically acceptable fashion nor provides a satisfactory outcome for the chooser adequately describes a dilemma. Ethical dilemmas assume that the chooser will abide by societal norms, such as codes of law or religious teachings, in order to make the choice ethically impossible. Knowing how to best resolve difficult moral and ethical dilemmas is never easy.
Situation I Found Myself In Three years ago I left my job as a teacher to work in an employment agency to gain ipractical accounting experience. Not long after I started working the owner fired her sister and sister-in-law leaving me as the only member of staff. In December of that same year a pastor well known to my employer came into the office and placed an envelope on the chair next to where he sat down. He got up and left the envelope there. Firstly, I had no idea the envelope contained. So when I saw the envelope I thought it was empty and I was pretty annoyed that this man had left an empty envelope on the chair and didn’t have the courtesy to throw his rubbish in the bin!! So instead of taking the initiative to throw the envelope in the bin, I left it there. Yes I left it there on the chair. Secondly thing you should know is that my boss and I were not on the best terms.
My boss obviously irritated that I made no attempt to throw the envelope in the bin asked me to do so. As I picked up the envelope I realized it was not empty, I looked inside only to become conscious that not only was it not empty, but it actually contained a large sum of money in one hundred dollar bills. In fact it contained thirty thousand dollars. Yes, THIRTY THOUSAND! My dilemma at that very moment was whether to confirm to my boss that envelope was empty throw it in the bin and take the money when she left the office or let her know the envelope contained a large sum of money and it is possibly belonged to the pastor. But what if it did not belong to the pastor?
I would lose out on some much needed money and besides, if it did not belong to the pastor we may not be able to find out who it belonged to. And I believe in my heart of hearts if we did not find who it belonged to my boss would have claimed the money herself. Finding the rightful owner could have been a challenge, as a great deal of different people passed through the office on a daily basis, most of whom we did not know and the pastor was not the only one in the office at the time. I needed the money, Christmas was right around the corner and getting presents for the family that year was going to be a challenge as my salary was less than it was previously. Here I was faced with a way out, but what should I do? It will help, surely help and with a little left over for the future it couldn’t hurt! This predicament can be examined through the paradigm of right verse right or right verses wrong.
A paradigm refers to the framework or pattern of thought we use to determine and perceive events surrounding us. It is considered as the lens we see our life through, helping us to interpret the world around us and determine how we interact with this world. Our paradigm is infused with prejudice, assumptions, expectations and beliefs from which our values ethics and rules flow. On one hand wrong argues ‘finders keepers’, how it could be wrong to keep something that may not make it to the right person any way.
On the other hand right argues that keeping something that don’t belong to you without trying to genuinely find the rightful owner or taking an action that will deny the rightful owner the opportunity to recover their lost item is as good as stealing. It is against the law to take something that doesn’t belong to you and you can go to jail if caught and convicted. Regardless of religion or social strata, honesty, responsibility, fairness, respect and compassion are considered the five main values. You only need to fail in one; if you’re not honest you will still be considered unethical even if you’re fair, responsible, and deeply compassionate.
Without realizing it our actions and response to ethical situations is guided by the principles of ethical decision making. According to Kidder there are three such principles. The first is called Ends-Based Thinking: doing whatever is needed to produce the greatest good for greatest number.
The second is The Rule Based Thinking: which focuses on what we ought to do rather than what we think is best and or might work. Third is the Care– Based Thinking: which is chiefly based on the golden rule “do onto others as you will have them do unto you”. The use of these principles is to help you determine the correct course of action when faced with a dilemma, not provide an automatic solution to moral problems and issues. So here I am with thirty thousand dollars in my hand. I had no idea it was that much at the time and the only thing I can think is I started asking myself questions and turning over the answers in my mind. The first thing I asked is what are the benefits of keeping this money? Is it fair? What if the person trace back their steps what would I say? What if it is for something important? If I was in this same situation how will I feel? Will I want this person to do everything in his power to give me back my money?
WHAT IF I GET CAUGHT? What then? Is this the person I want to become? And my answers at the time was ‘Screw religion yes it is fair, I found it fair and square’. I don’t have to worry about getting what I need done I have more than I need now. So what if he comes back it’s just not here and if I am really good, which I was and still am, I won’t get caught. But if I were in that situation I would be devastated and would want whoever found it to remember me and try to get it to me. But I also did not want to become that person who has to think twice about being honest. So when my boss passed by and asked is there anything in the paper I opted to do unto others as I will have them do unto me as the care base thinking commands. I turned to her and said ‘yes’ with a shocked expression on my face ‘it has money a lot of money.
I think it belongs to the pastor’. The money was returned to the pastor; I was out an extra thirty thousand dollars and had a guilt free conscience. In the end when dealing with moral issues and dilemmas riddled with moral complications we must deliberate for ourselves, keeping a careful eye on both the facts and on the ethical considerations involved. No situation is just cut and dry. Having good intentions and intuition is not all. Living an ethical life, being a good person, requires a disciplined commitment to think and act in accordance with the fundamental principles of right and wrong. Bibliography
2009 Loyola Marymount University. (n.d.). Resolving an Ethical Dilemma. Retrieved July 28 th, 2013, from http://www.lmu.edu/copyright LoveToKnow, Corp. (2013, May Wednesday). Ethical dilemma Examples. Retrieved july 29th, 2013, from Your Dictonary Examples: http://examples.yourdictionary.com/ethical-dilemma-examples.html © Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.. (2013). dilemma. (n.d.). Retrieved July 28th, 2013, from Dictonary.com: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dilemma Free Dictionary. (2013, January). paradigm-difinition of paradigm by the free online dictonary,thesaurus and encyclopedia. Retrieved July 27th, 2013, from The Free Dictionary: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/paradigm Heathfield, S. M. (2013, January). Workplace Ethics- Did you bring your Ethics To Work Today. Retrieved July 29, 2013, from About.com Human Resources:
http://humanresources.about.com/od/businessethics/qt/workplace-ethics.htm Josephson, M. (2010, December 4th). The Groung Rules of Ethics. Retrieved August 2 nd, 2013, from Business Ethics and Leadership: http://josephsoninstitute.org/business/blog/2010/12/the-ground-rules-of-ethics/ R.Komives, S., Lucas, N., & R.McMohan, T. (2007). Chapter 6 Leading with Integrity and Moral Purpose. In Exploring Leadership second edition (pp. 179-211). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. The Contrarian . (2013, January). The Paradigm Problem: Everything You KnowIs Wrong. Retrieved August 1st, 2013, from Contrarianism An assult of thought on the unthinking: http://www.contrarianism.net/2011/04/04/the-paradigm-problem-everything-you-know-is-wrong/
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