Thinkers and writers should be praised when they attempt to describe what it means to be ethical, that is to behave ethically. However, when you see a list of ethical characteristics or values there is something big missing. Let’s see what I mean by referring to  a list of values I read about recently.

Honesty:  at all costs –  even when being honest isn’t the easiest road to take. However, if someone has a severe body odour problem and you tell them honesty “You stick please have a wash” is that good? If your honesty will result in another person being killed should you be honest?

Responsibility: if I am the getaway driver in a  bank robbery I will take my  responsibility seriously by maintaining the vehicle well, keeping a good lookout and checking the best escape route.

Reliability: since I have committed to be the getaway driver I will keep to my promise (I will be trustworthy)  and will  not let my colleagues down.

Goal-Oriented: as a bank robber my gal is to steal one million pounds by he time I am 42 and I will wok hard to achieve this and let nothing stand in my way – even if hat means shooting a few people. I am dedicated fully to my goal.

Loyal: I am loyal to my gang of bank robbers and if arrested I will never tell on them.

Caring: I care so much about my family and I will go and steal from other families to get the money I need to buy my children Christmas presents.

Although I may have used some strange example, can you see what I mean?

You can take any value and show that it can be used to describe instances of unethical behaviour. What this tells us is that that to  ethical behaviour involves  more than just adhering to a set of values  or characteristics. Those values have to be applied in life in the right way. And that is where ethics education comes in – to know what is the right way to apply any value and to be aware when you are using the value to justify an unethical act.

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