What Does Being Ethical Mean To Me? 

Across the world, millions of people suffer injustices caused by unethical practices every day. They are treated poorly, tricked into unfair contracts, robbed of their humanity, blackmailed into submission, and hurt in countless other ways as those in power institute practices that take advantage of the weak and vulnerable. Such practices degrade society and the human race as a whole. In order to counter that degradation, it is necessary to fully understand what it is to “be ethical.”

First and foremost, ethicality involves treating others with respect. This includes acknowledging their humanity and treating them as equals. To do this, we must constantly be mindful how our behavior will impact those around us, even during activities as everyday as walking down the street or driving to work. It can be all too easy to allow our emotions, such as road rage, to take control, but in order to be truly ethical we need to fully accept that other people’s lives and opinions matter. We must let go of the erroneous belief that we are any more important than the rest of mankind. Not only does this apply to those immediately at hand, but also to those who, though removed from sight, will be just as affected by one’s actions. Privileged members of a society in particular must consider how their policies will affect the poor, homeless, and otherwise disadvantaged members of the population.

If we truly desire to be ethical, then we cannot stand by and do nothing once aware of unethical practices. We must rise up and speak out against them. British statesman Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing,” and this is especially true when it comes to ethicality. People willing to do whatever it takes to obtain power, earn a profit, or otherwise further their own selfish interests will always be present in society. It is the same with people who mean well, yet whose efforts unintentionally cause harm. If no one steps in to stop unethical practices enacted by either source, those practices will continue to be used until they become widely accepted. This is why ethical people cannot afford to stand by and watch. If they were to do so, they would allow the very ethicality they claim to represent to dwindle into insignificance.

Interwoven with being morally upstanding is integrity, the quality of sticking to one’s moral code in every circumstance. Being ethical means nothing if one does not choose to adhere to and advocate it no matter how inconvenient, socially unacceptable, or incredibly difficult it may be to do so, including when no one is watching. The instant one sets aside their ethicality for even a moment, that ethicality loses much of its strength. The temptation to give in, to follow in one’s own footsteps down the slippery slope of questionable choices, grows each time this is done and, before long, all ethicality is lost. This is what happened to Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist famous for his use of free dinners, job offers, football game tickets, and other extravagant gifts to corrupt and win the votes of congress members. He may have been moral at first, using only legal and ethical means to influence legislation, but a lack of integrity led to the loss of his ethicality.

Just as integrity is essential to being ethical, so is truthfulness. In order to achieve-and retain-our ethicality, we need to be completely honest with ourselves about our motives, constantly mindful of our actions, and always brave enough to face our fallacies. This is where Abramoff’s most glaring failure laid. Not only did he use unethical means of persuasion, but he convinced himself that such methods were completely moral. Self-deception led to the belief that he was the epitome of morality among lobbyists. Had he confronted the truth, he would have been able to adjust his path and avoid further use of unethical practices, not to mention prison time, loss of face, and other grave consequences.

To be ethical is to be considerate of others, morally upstanding, and completely nondeceptive. By fully understanding each aspect of ethicality, we can cut through the overshadowing haze of rationalization and work together to better ourselves, each other, and society.

Lesa Rae Waterer, Class of 2019, Volcano Vista High School, Albuquerque, NM