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Everything you should know about ethics, you were taught in kindergarten

I’ve been thinking a lot about personal ethics lately: our personal “way of being” that defines us, our actions, how we approach decisions, and ultimately how we treat others. We talk a lot about corporate social responsibility, but what about our personal social responsibility? What are we doing? How are we behaving? How far do we go?

A situation was shared with me recently, whereby a person’s decision to pursue one option would directly compromise their associate’s position. The relationship between the personal gain for the one was directly tied to the personal loss of the other. In this story, the person chose to proceed anyway. It made me consider what I would do in that circumstance. And it occurred to me that somewhere along the line, with the heightened complexities of the adult world, amongst pressures to perform in a job and provide for a family, some of the most basic principles of interpersonal behavior – and personal ethics – may have been forgotten.

It makes me think – perhaps everything we should know about ethics, we were taught in Kindergarten. We remember the principles of sharing, of playing nice, waiting our turn, being honest, and ultimately, of contributing to tasks, our micro-community and the collective well-being. We would care if something we did hurt Ramona’s feelings, and we would learn to apologize. Obviously, some situations are not so simple, but the same basic principles still apply. Would we teach our children to do as we do? Would we do, say or act in the same way in front of our children and grandchildren as we do away from them? If there’s a question – perhaps it shouldn’t be done. But maybe the problem is we’ve become so practiced at shutting down the voice inside that we no longer hear it – and all we see is what I need, what I want, what I think. And what’s lost are the needs, wants and thoughts of those around us.

Perhaps it’s an over-simplification, but it’s worth considering. Sometimes what the most complex problems need are the simplest of solutions – back to the basics.

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