A meaningful philosophy of life is important.
I cheat on tests.
I'd lie about possible exposure to AIDS (with
A nation-wide survey by Ralph Wexler of the Institute of Ethics
indicates that 1/3 of high schoolers and 1/6 of college students admit
stealing something in the last year. Over 1/3 said they would lie on
their resume to get a job. Over 1/2 of college students admit cheating
in some way, over 60% say they would cheat on an important test.
Other surveys show that 8 out of 10 high school students admit
cheating. Likewise, 1/4 Americans think it is okay to cheat on their
auto insurance, 30%-50% think goofing off at work is okay, 1 in 6 use
drugs on the job, and 1/3 to 1/2 cheat on their spouses. Almost 60%
of American adults have used force against another person; 7% say
they would kill someone if paid enough; 25% would abandon their
families for money (Etzioni, 1993). Furthermore, Wexler says only 2%
of students get caught cheating because teachers don't watch
carefully; therefore, maybe crime does pay and maybe honesty is, in
some ways, not always the best policy from a selfish point of view.
What about from society's point of view?
Immoral behavior comes from somewhere. Our current
environment is not highly moral or supportive of morality and our
society doesn't seem to know what to do about these permissive
conditions. About 20% of high schoolers feel a lot of peer pressure to
do something wrong. About 80% of teens think schools should teach
basic values; yet, 90% of them are already "satisfied" with their values
(Ansley & McCleary, 1992) and probably don't want to think seriously
about values. In general, many adults fail to provide good role models.
Psychology Today (August, 1997) recently reported a survey showing
that about half of American workers did something unethical at work
this year--padding the expense account, stealing property, lying about
what they did or did not do, using sick days inappropriately, etc. Even
at the highest levels, half of the top executives admit they are willing
to "fudge" figures to look good. More than that, a whopping 75% of
MBA students say they would be willing to distort the facts to make
company profits look higher. This lack of moral restraint, according to
Secretan (1998), is epidemic in the workplace. He says we can change
that. Buford & Whalin (1997) take a different approach, namely,
change your goals in mid-life from success to significance. Still others
suggest simplifying your life by doing what really matters (Aumiller,
In any case, all of us face temptations frequently to be dishonest
and almost all of us could improve our moral behavior in some way.
Avoiding being immoral is a very worthy endeavor; however, it is
important to realize the immense gap from being "just barely on the
side of the law," i.e. on the edge between moral and immoral, to being