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The Ethics Behind Ethical Behavior

This week we celebrate Ash Wednesday—the beginning of Lent on Wednesday and St. Valentine’s Day on Thursday. I had already written the devotion before I was looking at the calendar. This devotion about ethics has led me to consider the Lenten Season of penitence to prepare for Easter as the perfect time to focus this year’s Lenten series on our desire to eliminate sins from our earthly experience. Not an easy task to achieve, but well worth living your life trying to attain! So for Lent I will offer you a series that encourages you to think about the wonder of ceasing from sin and wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day hoping you feel God’s grand love for you!

Every year my professional counseling license requires that I take a 3-hour ethics course to keep my status. It is the only subject that is required. Over the decades I have been to every kind of ethics class, including a stand-up comedy version. The ones taught by lawyers are the worst. After listening to them you are afraid to look at a client. This year the presenter really caught my attention when she started off with the story of how she snuck into the HOV lane because she was late to teach an ethics course and admitted that she is just one orange jumpsuit away from being unethical herself! I thought, now that’s a truthful place to begin.

No one is completely ethical and sometimes for ethical reasons! She gave an example of a counselor who reported herself to the ethics board for a hearing. Anyone listening would understand how the ethical standards left her in a moral dilemma and she could not live with herself. Even following ethical codes can’t make you ethical. Funny thing about ethics, we have to admit that we are all unethical. I agree that the counseling profession should require the grueling procedure of covering ethics from every angle, every year. It is a profession that requires the highest of ethical standards in order to maintain the health and well-being of the ones who come seeking help and enter into a relationship of power. Every profession needs ethical standards. Sometimes it is the church that overlooks that they are the source of ethical standards. Too often the church falls short from its duty to portray the difference living by the ethic of love makes on the world.

Jesus gave us one ethical mandate and example that simplifies every ethical decision we will ever face. He asks us to make love the standard of everything we do.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:34).

He sets the ethical standards very high. St. Francis of Assisi stated: “But I say love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. We must follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ, who called Judas—his betrayer—a friend and freely laid down his life for him. Our friends are those who bring suffering, shame, even death to us without provocation. We must love them. We must love them passionately, because they are helping us to receive eternal life.”

He also makes it simple. If your profession doesn’t have an ethical standard (or even if it does), I know a way that you can always remain ethical: follow Jesus’ commandment. Find a way to love like Jesus loved you and you will be using your best judgment in every encounter that you face. Ask yourself, How would Jesus love me in this situation? And then respond as you believe He would. Live in love and your ethics will greatly improve!


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