Being an Ethical Nag

I have realized recently that people actually like being nagged.

My most popular posts are where I nag and rant about ethics.  A lot of what I do can be described as ethical nagging.  Here is the moral thing to do, here is why it works, there is no reason not to be good. We all need this sort of reminder from time to time I think.

What I have realized is that people want to be good and sometimes they just need someone to remind them to do the right thing. I was nagging my neighbor the other day about resting after surgery. I nagged him. He thanked me because he wasn’t taking care of himself the way he knew he needed to.  It’s like my nagging gave him permission to rest and recuperate.

And it is hard to do the right thing. We all have competing demands on our time and competing pressures to do different things. Making the time to slow down and consider the moral implications of our actions gets lost in the day to day struggle of living.

Having someone lecture on ethics and morality – helps us to re-prioritize them in our lives.

Another thing I have noticed is that we live in a culture that likes to be outraged especially if that outrage has a moral component.  What I want to caution you is this.  Just because someone is morally outraged doesn’t mean they are speaking the truth. People get outraged about things that aren’t true all the time.

Humanism isn’t just about being a moral person. It’s the recognition that our good intentions can be harnessed to do bad things if we don’t also commit ourselves to critically examination of the situations we find ourselves in.  It isn’t enough to be moral. If what you think is true isn’t true, your moral outrage can and will be harnessed for evil.

So beware people peddling moral outrage. They are manipulating you.  Keep on being moral, but also dedicate yourself to thinking critically. The two mindsets are complimentary. Consider yourself nagged for today.

Nothing is inherently immoral

The only immorality is not to do what one has to do when one has to do it. Jean Anouilh

Humanist ethics are situational ethics. And this makes a lot of people nervous. But it shouldn’t.

Humans all value the same things – for the most part. We value justice, compassion, and responsibility for instance. Studies have shown that there is indeed a common set of widely held human values.

Where these values come from is a matter of debate, obviously. But to me, as a pragmatist, I’m less interested in why we have these values than on how we apply them.  This is why I’m an advocate of situational ethics.

The reality we all face is that while we share common human values, those values are often in conflict with one another. Also, as individuals, given our personal experiences and beliefs, we may value some values higher then we value others.  We are constantly weighing our values to come to what we think are ethical decisions. Even if we don’t realize we do this – we are.

All situational ethics is, is an explicit acknowledgement of the reality of how we humans go about making moral decisions. The reason we do this is so that we can more effectively balance our moral values when making decisions.  We do this because it seems to yield better more moral decisions as judged by the real world effects of our decisions. We do less harm inadvertently when  we take such an explicit approach BECAUSE we considered the possibility that we might do harm while trying to do good.

Let that sink in for a moment. We might do harm while trying to do good. It doesn’t matter what your morality is or how it is based. If you aren’t willing to consider this possibility that you might accidentally do harm while trying to do good and you aren’t willing to think through how you might do the most good with the least harm, then you aren’t doing moral reasoning right.

I started this essay by saying nothing is inherently moral. But that doesn’t mean that anything goes. It just means you have to THINK through the potential consequences of your actions before taking action to insure your decisions are good and moral and will do the most good and least harm.

And this brings us back to the topic of leadership. Want to be a good moral and just leader?  Take the time to think through your actions to ensure you actually do good because good intentions aren’t enough. They never are.  Moral reasoning is hard. Put some effort into it.

Learn more about how to make more moral decisions with Planning for Personal Success – online course -

Self Care - a Humanist perspective

Caring for yourself isn't selfish.

Subscribe to my youtube channel.

Cure is about Caring

“Patients can benefit from both personal caring and scientifically proven treatments.” – Science Based Medicine

Humanism in medicine isn’t just about being nice. It’s about caring. Helping to alleviate stress can improve health outcomes.

I am a big fan of Science Based Medicine, the website. When in doubt, I go to them for the research. They had an article last year about placebos, not as cures, but as comfort.

Placebos are things which have no effect on the outcome of a disease.  There is just the suggestion that some people have experienced good results with the placebo and this helps people think they are improving.

There is also a Nocebo effect, as it turns out telling people about negative side effects seems to make those side effects more common.

The research into the ethical use of the placebo effect in medicine is a new field of research and the article above does a good job of laying out what is real in the research and what isn’t.

Let’s be real, people seek out placebos in the form of “alternate medicine” all the time and they do so for a variety of reasons. Mostly it’s because they are scared and are seeking ways to be “proactive” as a way to reduce their stress levels. And this is important because stress can kill and lead to adverse health consequences.

The conclusion of the article is this “We need to learn how to incorporate things like empathy, social support, and hope into better patient care. It’s not just about curing; it’s about caring and comforting when we can’t cure.”

I agree. Sounds a lot like Humanism in medicine to me!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...