Ethics: The Small Stuff

(Written for kids with ages 16 and below.)

The one supreme power that the human mind has, is the ability to be ethical in life. This is a power, not because it achieves miracles. This power is supreme because it requires an underlying mental stamina and discipline that is unparalleled. Due to the complexity of human emotions and needs, the mind is often unable to keep things together in life for one to be ethical. If one can master the skill of being ethical, one can be assured to achieve other great things in life with the foundations thus laid.

What does it mean to be ethical?

Consider the simple case of when you have to answer a few questions in a final examination, but do not know how to. Your classmate next to you is at it though. You can almost clearly see what he is writing, and now that you know, what is the harm in writing it out? If the goal is to ensure that you know something, how does it matter if it is from a handwritten note from an answer sheet of one of your classmates?

Look at it from a logical standpoint, and it does matter. The essence of knowledge is not in repeating it, but in being able to reproduce it when you need to apply it. Reproduction of knowledge is when you add your own character to the understanding of something. Application of knowledge is thus possible to its fullest extent.

Going back to the final examination, should you write those answers down or not? This is where ethics come into play. Ethics are governed by loosely coupled rules that are meant for the betterment of the society as a whole. If the diktat from your class teacher was to not study prior to the examination, not pay attention during class, not ask for help when you didn’t get a concept – and yet come to a final examination ready to answer questions on a piece of paper, the ethics have been set to do whatever is necessary to get through those questions. Mostly because the other play by such a fictional class teacher is, unethical.

This definitely is not an ideal school teacher. Most teachers expect their students to learn, understand and grasp concepts in advance of their examinations. Here, the ethics dictate that you use those expectations alone to answer questions. In fact, it is even unethical to learn by rote, without understanding concepts and repeat knowledge. This is often overlooked, because you are not physically cheating. This is still cheating, mentally. This is how you know what is ethical and what is not. You have to understand the basic  expectations of society, and avoid what defies them. Granted, these expectations are geared towards the betterment of society – and positively geared, not in the, “it gets worse before it gets better,” way.

How to lead an ethical way of life?

So how is one supposed to live their life, following every rule and expectation of a complicated society? It is the small stuff that matters. Ethics in daily life, can be as simple as these:

  • Standing up to give your seat away to a lady or an elder person
  • Not using a fake teacher’s identification to get yourself vaccinated for COVID-19
  • If unable to answer a question, saying so – and preparing in advance to have the pride next time to be able to answer it
  • Returning to the supermarket to pay for that extra item that was accidentally not checked out (even if it was just a 10c bag)
  • Paying the overage on the parking meter, even when no one is looking
  • Keeping someone’s secret, if they said, “between you and me…”
  • Putting those pens you took from your office back into the drawer of the common area
  • Not paying cash without a receipt at that restaurant so that you can save that extra 5% tax

Why does this small stuff even matter?

When faced with these choices, your friends may often mock you and encourage you to overlook the ethics behind them to make an easier choice. They’ll reason with you, “It’s small stuff, let it go. Chill.” Stand your ground on the small stuff. Even the sun is made up with a lot of it.

Most importantly, ethical behavior is doing things when it may not benefit you personally and immediately. Sometimes even hurting you. This self-sacrificing mode is not eternal, and will force a change in your surrounding (or auxillary) behaviors to adjust to the ethical way of life. This is where your super powers are taking roots, leading to key foundational changes in who you are and what your character is. This will lead to the bigger deal in life, where you’d be able to:

  • Build self-reliance to stand up in life to take what you need, deserve and earn
  • Maintain principles in life that you will cherish, as they bring you the eternal wealth of keeping your head high
  • Garner the respect of everyone with your brand that will be set apart

Start your ethical journey with the small stuff in life and cherish them. Brag about them, and take pride when others mock you for it. And some day, when you have kids of your own, you will be able to look them in the eye and tell them about your supreme powers, your ethical way of life and transfer these on. Most of all, you will earn the respect that most can only dream of.

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