9 Ethical Behavior & Moral Values in Everyday Life

Ethical Behavior & Moral Values in Everyday Life

Ethics in Law Enforcement by Steve McCartney and Rick Parent https://opentextbc.ca/ethicsinlawenforcement/

The Importance of Ethical Behavior

For citizens, morality and integrity are important characteristics to demonstrate. We instinctively know that it is good to be moral and act with integrity, but by coming to an understanding of the reasons for morality and integrity, we will be motivated to champion such behavior. Among the reasons to be moral and integral are to:

  • Make society better. When we help make society better, we are rewarded with also making better own lives and the lives of our families and friends. Without moral conduct, society would be a miserable place.
  • Treat everyone equally. Equality is a cornerstone of most Western democracies, where all individuals are afforded the same rights. This is not possible without the majority of citizens behaving in a moral manner.
  • Secure meaningful employment. Often employers will look at a person’ past behavior as a predictor of future behavior. Someone who has a history of immoral behavior will have difficulty securing employment in a meaningful job, as that person may not be trusted.
  • Succeed at business. If you are employed in an occupation in which there you must rely on others, your moral conduct will determine the degree of goodwill that you receive from others. Businesses that have a checkered moral history are typically viewed with caution and are unlikely to attract new customers through word of mouth, and therefore are unlikely to prosper. This is especially the case where social media ­­makes customer reviews readily accessible.
  • Lessen stress. When we make immoral decisions, we tend to feel uncomfortable and concerned about our decision making. Making the right moral decision, or taking a principled perspective on an issue, reduces stress.

Ultimately, ethics is important not so that “we can understand” philosophically, but rather so we can “improve how we live” (Lafollette, 2007). By being moral, we enrich our lives and the lives of those around us. It’s especially important to live a moral life when we are young, as it is helpful to exercise and practice these concepts before being confronted with more complex issues. Lafollette (2007) theorizes that ethics is like most everything else that we strive to be good at; it requires practice and effort. Practicing and making an effort to make moral decisions throughout life will pay dividends when we are faced with serious moral dilemmas. Furthermore, having insight into “…historical, political, economic, sociological, and psychological insights…” (Lafollette, 2007, p.7) allows us, as decision makers, to make more informed decisions, which will likely result in moral decisions. In sum, the practice of being moral, allows us to work on these skills, so when we are faced with real situations that impact others, we are ready

Lafollette (2007) also emphasizes the need to understand and develop our virtues. Knowing that we ought to behave in a certain way, yet missing an opportunity to exercise moral behavior, is an indication of the need to “sharpen moral vision.” For example, we know that we ought to stay in good physical shape but often do not. This illustrates the need to be mindful of a virtue (in this case perseverance) that is important and must be developed.

Successful business leaders often say that treating people morally is a very important aspect in obtaining success. A person’s reputation is of key importance for a business leader, and if a person’s reputation is damaged by poor ethical conduct, the business will also suffer. The same is true in all walks of life. Where ethics are taken seriously, and people strive to make ethical decisions and actions, personal and professional success follows.

Critics may argue that this attitude is self-serving and that some individuals act ethically only for their own self-interest to be successful or happy. Critics would add that this is not the right reason to be ethical, and therefore is not being truly ethical. A counter argument may be that the action itself can be regarded as ethical, regardless of the reason for taking the action. This perspective focuses more on the end result rather than the means to the end.

Moral Values in Everyday Life

Ethics & Compliance Initiavive’s Resource Center (2020) identifies the following values as typical values that appear throughout codes of ethics. These are important for us to remember when faced with difficult ethical problems and decisions where we are required to be aware of all the values of each of the vested stakeholders. Consider how the following list of moral values can be used to develop a “moral compass” to help direct actions and decision of everyday life:

Acceptance Favorable reception or belief in something
Accomplishment Doing or finishing something successfully
Accountability Obligation or willingness to accept responsibility
Adaptability The ability to modify behavior to fit changing situations
Adventurousness Inclination to undertake new and daring enterprises
Allegiance Loyalty or the obligation of loyalty
Altruism Unselfish concern for the welfare of others
Ambition An eager or strong desire to achieve something
Appreciation Recognizing the quality, value or significance of people and things
Aspiration A strong or persistent desire for high achievement
Assiduousness Unceasing; persistent; diligent
Authenticity The quality or condition of being trustworthy or genuine
Autonomy The condition or quality of being independent
Benevolence An inclination to perform kind, charitable acts
Camaraderie Goodwill and lighthearted rapport between or among friends
Caring Feeling and exhibiting concern and empathy for others
Changeability The ability to modify or adapt to differing circumstances
Charity Generosity toward others or toward humanity
Chastity The condition of being of virtuous character
Cheerfulness The quality of being cheerful and dispelling gloom
Citizenship Exercising the duties, rights, and privileges of being a citizen
Clear thinking Acting intelligently without mental confusion
Collaboration To work cooperatively especially in a joint intellectual effort
Commitment Being bound emotionally or intellectually to a course of action or to another person or persons
Community  Sharing, participation, and fellowship with others
Compassion Deep awareness of the suffering of others coupled with the wish to relieve it
Competence The state or quality of being adequately or well qualified
Competitive To strive to do something better than someone else
Composure Maintaining a tranquil or calm state of mind
Concern Regard for or interest in someone or something
Conscientiousness The trait of being painstaking and careful
Consideration Process of employing continuous, careful thought and examination
Consistency Reliability or uniformity of successive results or events
Constancy Steadfastness in purpose
Cooperation The willing association and interaction of a group of people to accomplish a goal
Courage The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with confidence and resolution
Courtesy Civility; consideration for others
Credibility The quality or power to elicit belief
Decency Conformity to prevailing standards of propriety or modesty
Dedication Selfless devotion of energy or time
Democracy The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community
Dependability The trait of being reliable
Determination Firmness of will, strength, purpose of character
Diversity A point of respect in which things differ; variety
Easygoing Relaxed or informal in attitude or standards
Education Obtaining or developing knowledge or skill through a learning process
Efficiency The quality of producing an effect or result with a reasonable degree of effort to energy expended
Empathy Identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives.
Encouragement The act of incitement to action or to practice
Equality The right of different groups of people to receive the same treatment
Equity The state, quality, or ideal of being just, impartial, and fair
Ethics The way people behave based on how their beliefs about what is right and wrong influence behavior
Excellence State of possessing good qualities in an eminent degree
Fairness Consistent with rules, logic, or ethics
Faith Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing
Faithfulness Adhering firmly and devotedly to someone or something that elicits or demands one’s fidelity
Fidelity Faithfulness; loyalty or devotion
Flexibility Responsive to change
Forgiveness The willingness to stop blaming or being angry with someone
Fortitude The strength or firmness of mind that enables a person to face danger, pain or despondency with stoic resolve
Friendship A relationship between people based on mutual esteem and goodwill
Generosity Liberality in giving or willingness to give
Gentleness The quality of being mild and docile
Genuine Not spurious or counterfeit
Giving Voluntarily transferring knowledge or property without receiving value in return
Goodness Morally right, or admirable because of kind, thoughtful, or honest behavior
Goodwill A friendly attitude in which you wish that good things happen to people
Gratitude A feeling of thankfulness and appreciation
Hardworking  Industrious and tireless
Helpfulness The property of providing useful assistance or friendliness evidence by a kindly and helpful disposition
Honesty Fairness and straightforwardness of conduct
Honor Principled uprightness of character; personal integrity
Hope The feeling that something desired can be had or will happen
Humility  Feeling that you have no special importance that makes you better than others
Industriousness The characteristic of regularly working hard
Ingenuity Inventive skill or imagination
Initiative Ability to begin or to follow through energetically with a plan or task
Integrity Strict adherence to moral values and principles
Joy Intense or exultant happiness
Justice Conformity to moral rightness in action or attitude
Kindness The quality or state of being beneficent
Law-abiding Abiding by the encoded rules of society
Liberty The right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one’s own choosing.
Love A feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person or idea
Loyalty A feeling or attitude of devotion, attachment and affection.
Mercy Forgiveness shown toward someone whom you have the power to punish
Moderation Having neither too little or too much of anything
Morals Individual beliefs about what is right and wrong
Obedience Compliance with that which is required; subjection to rightful restraint or control
Opportunity Favorable or advantageous circumstance or combination of circumstances
Optimism A bright, hopeful view and expectation of the best possible outcome
Patience The ability to accept delay, suffering, or annoyance without complaint or anger
Peace Freedom from war or violence
Perseverance Steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose
Promise-keeping Keeping your word that that you will certainly do something
Prudence Doing something right because it is the right thing to do
Punctuality Adherence to the exact time of a commitment or event
Purity Moral goodness
Reason The ability to think and make good judgments
Recognition An acceptance as true or valid
Reconciliation Enabling two people or groups [to] adjust the way they think about divergent ideas or positions so they can accept both
Reliability Consistent performance upon which you can depend or trust
Repentance Remorse or contrition for past conduct
Resilience The ability to rebound quickly from misfortune or change
Resourcefulness The ability to act effectively or imaginatively, especially in difficult situations
Respect Polite attitude shown toward someone or something that you consider important
Responsibility That for which someone is responsible or answerable
Righteousness The state of being morally upright; without guilt or sin
Sacrifice To give up something for something else considered more important
Self-control Control of personal emotions, desires, or actions by one’s own will
Self-discipline Making yourself do things when you should, even if you do not want to do them
Sensitivity Awareness of the needs and emotions of others
Serenity Calmness of mind and evenness of temper
Sharing To allow others to participate in, use, enjoy, or experience jointly or in turns
Sincerity Genuineness, honesty, and freedom from duplicity
Sobriety Habitual freedom from inordinate passion or overheated imagination; calmness; coolness; seriousness
Stamina The physical or mental strength to do something for a long time
Stewardship The careful conducting, supervising, or managing of something
Supportive Furnishing support or assistance
Thoughtfulness The tendency to anticipate needs or wishes
Tolerance Recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others
Tranquility A state of calm and peacefulness
Trustworthiness The trait of deserving confidence
Understanding Knowing how something works or a positive, truthful relationship between people
Values Core beliefs that guide and motivate attitudes and actions
Virtue Doing something right because it is the good thing to do
Wisdom The ability to make good judgments based on what you have learned from your experience
Work Perform as intended or desired





Ethics & Compliance Initiative(2020) Definition of values – Free ethics & compliance toolkit. https://www.ethics.org/resources/free-toolkit/definition-values

Lafollette, H. (2007). The practice of ethics. Malden, ME: Blackwell Publishing


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Ethical Behavior & Moral Values in Everyday Life Copyright © 2020 by Ethics in Law Enforcement by Steve McCartney and Rick Parent https://opentextbc.ca/ethicsinlawenforcement/ is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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