Monday, 23 April 2012

Responding to minor ethical dilemmas

I'm sure you can think of a lot more dilemmas than the three I came up with: buses, refills and CDs. My intention here is to sum up some general principles that could apply to any ethical quandary, whether minor or not.

In very black and white terms, if something is wrong you shouldn't do it.

The great problem we have is in deciding whether something is wrong. As it clearly behooves us to find the answer to that question, it's no surprise that we've developed a smorgasbord (oh yeah, Sweden was fun by the way) of tools to help us make the right choice:
- Does the teaching of the Bible suggest this is wrong?
- Pray about it.
- (Loosely related) What would Jesus do?
- Is it illegal?
- What are the consequences (i.e. will anyone get hurt, or will the cons outweight the pros?)
- What would my mother say?
- What is my gut reaction/what does my conscience tell me?
- What does my favourite blogger/celebrity/leader think?

So we're all capable of making an informed decision, and yet we often find it difficult to make decisions in the case of ethical dilemmas. We feel in a pickle when we stand to gain by doing the thing we suspect might be morally wrong. The thing that clouds our decisions more than anything else is selfishness. Suppose I find a wallet with £40 on the street - to hand it in to the police is a no-brainer... unless of course I want that money for myself.

In other words, if you're not sure what the right thing to do is, try not to think about how much you stand to gain. A better way of approaching it is to ask, "what would be most honouring to Christ?" 

If you've already acknowledged that there is a dilemma though, then you're halfway to making the right decision. A lot of people make the wrong choice without even thinking about it, so if you find yourself in an ethipickle, it's a good sign that at least you are keen to do the right thing.

Come on, let's get 'ethipickle' into the dictionary.

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