Choosing the right thing and doing it (also called morality).
You feel good (have a clear conscience), if you make the right choice.
We need principles (or values) to guide these ethical (or moral) decisions.
How to be ethical and be a good person
1. Practise the right principles
Moses gave us the Ten Commandments, summarized by Jesus as
- loving your neighbour as yourself (now known as the Golden Rule) and
These are similar to the beliefs of other religions like Islam.
Plato and Aristotle’s (pictured
right) four main principles (“cardinal virtues”) are:
(to do what’s right and physical bravery).
(self-discipline and moderation i.e. avoiding excess).
(thinking wisely and then doing the right thing).
Other virtues are:
Belief in something that is good and worth striving for.
- keeping alive a desire for good.
- expecting something worthwhile to be successful.
c) charity (or love)
Selfless giving (also called altruism).
Admitting your ignorance and insignificance.
2. Do your duty
Duty is what you should (or ought) to do.
It may force you to put others before yourself (i.e. being altruistic).
But don’t let duty weigh you down so much that you miss exciting opportunities
The Chinese philosopher, Lao
Tzu (pictured right) said that “life is an opportunity and not an
3. Love yourself to love others
You must have self-esteem and believe in yourself, or you won’t have the
self-motivation or confidence to help others.
Good people have time to themselves to make themselves better people.
But helping yourself (selfishness) can hurt others.
4. The human spirit
The Greek philosopher, Plato (pictured
right), said your soul has three parts:
- reason (logic and self-control).
- spirit (ambition, indignation and determination).
Spirit gives us the strength to be good and do difficult things.
You must give yourself time to think (perhaps in meditation or prayer).
This peaceful reflection will give you a clearer idea to know what is right, particularly when the decision is
6. Think of the people you love
What would they judge what you are doing? If you’re ashamed, you’ve got to change.
7. Follow your instinct
What’s your gut feeling about what you are doing? Does it make you feel good or bad?
8. Balance opposites
a) you and me
Help yourself (for self-esteem) to help others (see point 3).
b) thrift and generosity
Look after your money but be kind to others.
c) toughness and tenderness
Be hard on people (e.g. constructive criticism) to help them (called tough love).
d) dogmatism and pragmatism
Dogmatically believing in certain values like love but applying them differently in different situations
9. Think of your funeral and legacy
What will people say about you at your funeral? What will you be remembered for? These questions will make you
think of the life you should lead.
Your life will be judged on your relationships, not money and possessions.
10. Balancing good and bad
It isn’t always a straightforward choice between right and wrong.
You may have to choose between two rights (e.g. hard work and family), or the lesser of two evils (e.g.
redundancies or a company’s liquidation).
The American theologian, Paul Tillich (pictured right), said that all ethical decisions
have “ambiguity”, a mixture of good and bad.
Key quotes explained
“Happy are the pure in heart”
- Jesus (in the Sermon on the Mount).
Jesus said the happiest people try their hardest to be good, love others with great humility and never sacrifice
their principles pursuing power and money.
St. Augustine (pictured
right) summed up Jesus’s philosophy by saying: “Forgive and you will be forgiven and give and you will
But Augustine also said: “To err is human, to persist in error is devilish”.
Nobody’s perfect, but you must always try to be good.
“Hell has three gates, lust, anger and greed”
- Bhagavad Gita (the holy Hindu poem, the Son of God).
Overcome these three evils and you’ll be a much better person.
“Right is might”, said Abraham
Lincoln, the American president (pictured right).
“Character is higher than intellect”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, American philosopher
Character is vital – seeking good and fighting evil. This means standing up for what you think is right.
The American civil rights leader, Martin Luther
“We shall have to repent in this generation, not so much for the evil deeds of the wicked people but the
appalling silence of the good people”
“Believe so that you may
There are certain things (like God) that you can only believe and not fully understand. Belief gives you the
certainty to deal with the uncertainties of life.
Jacob Bronowski (pictured right) was a brilliant scientist, whose dedication to scientific
questioning and truth was balanced by an unshakeable belief in what was right.
“My life has been happy because I never had any uncertainty about the meaning of the word
good”, Bronowski said.
Franklin (pictured right) , Autobiography
We should pursue moral perfection and make a habit of virtue.
This will also make you successful, because good and kind people are liked and trusted.
Ask yourself at the start and end of each day: what good shall I do? And what good have I done?
(pictured right) & Norman Vincent Peale
(pictured right), The Power of Ethical Management
The 5 P’s make you a good person:
- purpose – doing something worthwhile.
- pride – self-esteem and self-confidence.
- patience – waiting for the benefits of a good life.
- persistence – never giving up.
- perspective – values and spiritual meaning from thoughtful reflection.
Lord Longford (pictured
right), Humility (1970)
Humility (the greatest of virtues) is:
- the opposite of arrogance.
- being self-critical, not self-satisfied.
- meekness (bowing to others’ wishes, turning the other cheek and suppressing anger and irritation).