News for the ‘Ethics’ Category

“Helpful” People and Ethical Dilemmas

Sometimes people can cause problems for us by solving problems for other people. Usually this is not the person’s intent; however, by trying to help someone else their solution winds up shifting the problem to another person or creating a new problem for someone else.

This brings about its own challenges. If the person that the problem is being shifted from is someone you care about, how do you handle it? It introduces an ethical dilemma. It is right to take care of yourself and push back on the solution, but it is also right to help other people.

There is no formula that you can plug a few variables into and get an answer. You do not want always to choose yourself at the expense of others, but it is equally unhealthy to always put the other person first.

If you choose the latter and are always self-sacrificing, you will never take care of your needs and cause harm to your own health and damage or even prevent yourself from recovering. If you always choose the former at worst you risk bringing harm to others, at best you come across as not really caring about the other person and damaging your relationship. You need to evaluate each situation as they occur and try to find a middle ground when possible.

If we look at Dr. Kidder’s book, How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living, he provides nine steps for dealing with ethical issues. These steps are meant as a guide to help in making ethical decisions and not necessarily a step-by-step instruction manual.

  1. Recognize that there is a moral issue.
  2. Determine the actor.
  3. Gather the relevant facts.
  4. Test for right-versus-wrong issues.
  5. Test for right-versus-right paradigms.
  6. Apply the resolution principles.
  7. Investigate the “trilemma” options.
  8. Make the decision.
  9. Revisit and reflect on the decision.

Like the skills we learn through DBT, the process of resolving ethical dilemmas require practice and commitment. The value and benefit we gain from the practice and commitment are worth it. It is worth it because the more we are able to live in moral alignment, studying true to our values, the more ethical we live the more we improve the quality of our life, the lives of those around us and reduce our stress.

Edited: February 19th, 2013

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