I’ve been giving thought to how to best pass along ethical values to my family. Our current culture has adopted a situational view of acceptable behavior which leaves our young people with a daily ebb and flow of truth and untruth, right and wrong, ethical and unethical, in evaluating the behavior, rhetoric and teachings of politicians, community leaders, corporate leaders and yes, indeed even our school teachers and pastors. We have come to a point where the moral and ethical standards of the past are dismissed with an air of irrelevance for a variety of unreliable reasons. I believe that for me and my home and those within my sphere of influence, it is time for a reasoned call back to our roots, the origins of our ethos and culture. As a light in an otherwise dark world, it is time to begin acting in ways that respect others rather than just looking out for ourselves. If we’re successful, we have the opportunity to impact the lives of those with whom we come into contact.
When using the word ethics, the very word has its origins in the word ethos. Ethos is a Greek word originally meaning “accustomed place.” This is interesting as it points us back to a place in time. It points us back to those things on which our character was founded, our faith, our society, our country. For those of us in the Western world, looking back takes us back century upon century through a political and religious system of beliefs that go back to the time of Abraham. The very foundation of Western civilization can be traced back to a model of societal values and mores going back thousands of years. This is true for Islam, Jews, and Christians. So looking back to our origins is important to calling back our ethics. As part of that we must, then look at how our code of acceptable behavior has been documented through history. For most of us it has been our documents of faith. For me and my family going back as far as I am able to determine, it is the Bible to which we look to help us guide our faith and demonstrate our walk with God. The same is true as well for those who will take an honest look at the founding of our country, The United States of America. The guiding principles of ethical and moral conduct have been founded in the Bible.
So then, looking back and calling up what would be our ethos (our accustomed place) and our customs of ethical mores, the basis for determining our ethics is documented on principles found in the Bible. I am not asking you, at this point, to take on the fact that all must be believers in Jesus Christ, although I am an avid follower, but simply that this record has been historically Western civilization’s documented code of moral conduct. It has been the basis of the Church for the last 2,000 years, Roman law had its roots in these principles, the British code of law was founded in its principles, and North and South American legal systems are deeply rooted in these principles.
Which are the ethics and mores of which I am most concerned? It is those in which we find ourselves interacting with one another as people, as employers, as neighbors, as citizens of a country, as customers and purveyors of products, and the list goes on. The ethics of which I am concerned are those which guide the interpersonal interactions we have with others. For example, the Golden Rule is one that is often raised as a standard, which by the way is claimed by all known world religions. The Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Another way of saying this is that we should love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. This single small phrase has such broad implications that volumes have been written and continue to be written on its meaning and applicability to our daily lives. Why then is it so hard to carry out? If we all believe this, why is there so much trouble in this world?
Therein lies the reason for the ethics project. Simply stated a project that will identify various places this simple rule seems to fall by the wayside. I’d value your partnership and thoughts on this project. I don’t want it to be overly complex or “high faluttin'” but let’s leave some practical application and guidance behind for the next generations to follow that will help them navigate a very different world than the one in which we’ve lived.
Blessings to all!