Six Pillars of Ethical Behaviour

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“Ethics starts with actual moral judgment before the formulation of general principles.” (Aristotle)

It is fitting to begin this article with a quote from the father of ethics. Aristotle believed that mankind was capable of goodness. At times, one might need direction and this is why he developed the six pillars of ethical behaviour. The six pillars include: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. Each of these pillars can be found in the majority of our religious texts, in the classrooms and in the workplace. They are used to remind us that as humans we have to work together; in order to do so, we have to have guidelines. I hope to break down these six pillars and provide many of us the reminder that is needed.

Trustworthiness is complicated and concerns qualities like honesty, integrity, reliability and loyalty. It is hard to trust others only because at times it is hard to trust ourselves. It is hard to tell if your relationship with someone is being held in high esteem; at times, we can all become self-serving and because of this, it is essential to focus on your actions and not always the actions of others. If you have someone in your life that is not trustworthy, you have a choice: you a can either keep them around unsure of whether you can depend on the person, or you can begin to surround yourself with people who you know you can trust.

Respect is an adherence to the Golden Rule; do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Respect for another person prohibits violence, manipulation and exploitation. We have the responsibility to treat others respectfully, even if we do not like them. Believe me, I know that there are times in your life where you feel that certain people do not deserve your respect because they have wronged you; respect the role that they have in your life and leave it at that.

Responsibility is synonymous to accountability; being responsible means being in charge of your choices. One learns that their actions matter and they are linked to consequences. Our freedom of choice is what makes us morally autonomous and thus responsible for how we treat others. I am in the community and I hear this statement quite a bit, “She makes me feel this way,” or, “He gets me so mad.” I always question this; when do we start taking responsibility for our feelings and our actions? When do we stop giving control of our thoughts and feelings to others?

The concept of fairness seems simple, yet applying it to daily life can be difficult. It is tricky because there can be legitimate debate on what is interpreted as being fair. There needs to be a standard set without relevance to one’s own feelings or inclinations. It is hard to decide what is fair, which is why the idea of gathering elders is a misplaced ideology, but so very necessary.

Caring has long been considered the heart of ethics. It is impossible to be truly ethical yet unconcerned with the welfare of others. The highest form of caring is benevolence or altruism; this involves doing for others without retribution.

The last pillar of ethics is citizenship; how we are to act in a community. Good citizens know the laws and obey them, but that is not all. Good citizens stay informed on issues and do what they can to promote fairness in their communities. A good citizen will give more than they take. Just like food, our souls need to be replenished, and I hope I can do for you week to week.

Stay blessed Toronto! Ase!


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