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What Would You Do? 10 Moral Dilemmas

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What Would You Do? 10 Moral Dilemmas

Have you ever felt bad about cutting someone off in traffic? When you take a free sample at the supermarket, do you feel compelled to purchase the product, or at least pretend you will? It’s rare to face the kind of life-defining, Schindler’s List–esque dilemmas that make heroes or criminals. But almost every day, many of us come across some small moral predicament whose consequences seem insignificant but that nonetheless (sometimes surprisingly) get our consciences wagging their fingers. Don’t lie, cheat, steal, or kill is pretty clear—but what if you’re just stealing a stamp from your employer or telling a fib to your nagging spouse? And what if everyone else is doing it, too?

It would be easy to get the opinion of an ethics professor, someone who has spent his or her career weighing history’s philosophical arguments on right and wrong and distilling a coherent view of what it means to be moral. But if ethics boils down to the Golden Rule—do unto others—then perhaps it’s not an academic definition we should be interested in, but the wisdom of the common conscience. If we believe (or hope) that others are acting in the way in which they would like to be treated, then how are they acting, particularly when no one’s looking?

I set out to conduct a (very informal) survey of 23 friends whom I consider ethical people. Offering them anonymity (names have been changed), I asked them to answer honestly some questions about everyday ethics. A few of their responses surprised me.

1. Is it okay to use work supplies or mail for personal purposes?
Yes: 10
Yes with Reservations: 9
No: 4

Most of the “yea” respondents qualified their answers by stressing moderation. “Did I print out personal documents on company paper? Yes,” explained Sarah, Pilates instructor and escapee from the corporate world. “Did I take the company computer home? No.”

Others’ opinions on dipping into the company supply closet were tied to their feelings about their jobs, particularly in terms of whether they felt appreciated or appropriately compensated. “Yes. I get paid $32K a year to work 12-hour days. You owe me that stamp!” expressed a writer friend. Nina, an elementary-school teacher, ’fessed up to taking home toilet paper, after noting how little money she makes.

One respondent, a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., said the culture of the office influences his “borrowing” habits. “When I worked on the Hill, I never used office supplies for personal use. At this job, I do at times.”

However, even respondents who believed it was not okay to use work supplies for personal purposes admitted to moments of weakness. “No,” answered Samantha, who works in retail, “but that doesn’t mean I’m always good about not using an envelope here and there.”

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By Kathryn Williams, DivineCaroline

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Samantha, selected from DivineCaroline

At DivineCaroline.com, women come together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability, and culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by writing and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real women publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re discussing all facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel and healthy living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at DivineCaroline.com.

69 comments

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3:15PM PST on Feb 27, 2013

loved this lol

5:49AM PST on Dec 14, 2012

Thank you Samantha, for Sharing this!

6:19PM PST on Dec 9, 2012

Most of these scenerios aren't even about moral things, and focus more on what is socially acceptable. I mean some are obvious moral things, such as not lying on taxes or stealing, while other things are more social concepts such as going to another hair dresser, or not giving people food you dropped on the floor.

3:03PM PST on Dec 9, 2012

Interesting article...

12:25PM PST on Dec 8, 2012

jeez..............................

7:19AM PST on Dec 8, 2012

These are all a matter of personal choice. There is such a thing as conscience.How do you feel if you were at the receivibng end?

9:33AM PST on Nov 29, 2012

How very interesting ... thank you :)

9:10PM PST on Nov 28, 2012

Some times u never know where food has been. If u find $ and are not sure who it belongs to, mayb I'd give it to the poorest looking person there. If u see who lost anything it's got to be given back to them.

12:57PM PST on Nov 28, 2012

Interesting.
Thank you

9:13AM PST on Nov 28, 2012

thanks

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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