Everyday Ethics

Well, friends, I hope you’ll bear with me for some good ol’ Monday angsting. As we all know, it’s tempting to navel-gaze, but I think that my questions for you just manage to miss the self-indulgent mark (I hope?)…

Some would say you’re only as good as the company you keep. If that’s truly the case, would that mean our moral or ethical report card gets a poor mark when our friends act against our personal standards of  “righteous” behavior? Or are we meant only to accept, not judge, our friends for their different opinions and actions?

For the most part (the 99.99% mark that is), I’m happy to be held by the standard of the company I keep. I am incredibly proud of my friends, not only because of their success, intelligence or charm, but also because of what I would consider their high ethical and/or moral standard.

That said….I don’t have any overtly racist friends, or for that matter, covertly racist friends. But at times, there have been remarks about race, joking or otherwise, that I feel supremely uncomfortable simply overhearing. While I don’t laugh or encourage such remarks, I also rarely do more than pooh-pooh them.

Another personal example, I have a friend who routinely runs down others, far more than the occasional pettiness. We’re talking nasty remarks, judgmental remarks, back-handed compliments and front-handed insults. By not correcting his/her behavior, am I condoning it? Or am I simply minding my own business?

For so long I’ve adopted a type of laissez-faire attitude to my judgment (or non-judgment) of those around me. “To each their own,” I’d shrug. “Who am I to judge?” is my internal reminder when I hear or see someone acting in a way I find reprehensible.

To be honest, I often fail myself in upholding this attitude. I admit to occaaasionally ranting over dinner or drinks to my closest friends when others fail to meet my standards of behavior – though a part of me is flinching with each smug, self-righteous word.

Yet most of us would agree that there is some type of universally understood definition of bad behavior, wouldn’t we? Calling someone fat and ugly to their face = bad. Attributing criminal behavior to a person purely based on the color of skin = bad.

Is my personal ethical credit report tarnished when I tolerate such behavior, or is it actually the opposite (which is what my instinct seems to maintain) and I tarnish myself when I judge other people by my own beliefs?

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