The Ethical Dilemma: Integrity Beyond Visibility

Mar 1


Chuck Gallagher

Chuck Gallagher

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In a world where success is often measured by the end result, the ethical compass of our youth is being tested. The notion that dishonesty without detection is acceptable has permeated some aspects of society, raising concerns about the moral fiber of future generations. This article delves into the attitudes of young people towards ethics, highlighting the importance of understanding that every decision carries its own set of consequences, whether immediately apparent or not.

The Impact of Choices on Life's Trajectory

During a recent engagement with a church youth group,The Ethical Dilemma: Integrity Beyond Visibility Articles a question from a young attendee prompted a reflection on the profound impact of personal choices. The inquiry about how my children coped with their father's incarceration for embezzlement brought to light the harsh reality of my actions: a shattered marriage, a forfeited career, and the loss of trust and assets. Yet, amidst the turmoil, the unwavering love of my sons endured. I had resolved to be transparent with them, reinforcing the lesson that every choice indeed has a consequence.

A Startling Revelation from the Youth

The session took an unexpected turn when a young man boldly declared, "You're not dishonest if you don't get caught!" This statement, though shocking, was not unique to this individual. It echoed a sentiment that, while not always verbalized, is demonstrated through the actions of many, including adults. The law of reciprocity, a universal principle, dictates that we reap what we sow, regardless of whether we believe we can evade the consequences.

The Youth's Ethical Compass: A Concerning Trend

Recent studies have shed light on the ethical attitudes of young people, revealing a troubling inclination towards unethical behavior if it means gaining an advantage. For instance, a survey by the Josephson Institute of Ethics found that 59% of high school students admitted to cheating on a test during the last year, and 34% did so more than twice. This "success at all costs" mentality is a pervasive issue that needs addressing.

In one instance, a student from a Princeton Review class inquired about using the newly acquired tools to cheat on a test without getting caught. This resulted in his expulsion from the program and a subsequent dispute with his parents, who felt the punishment was too harsh. This incident underscores the disconnect between actions and their rightful consequences.

The Role of Adult Leadership in Ethical Education

The responsibility to instill ethical values in young people falls on the shoulders of adult leaders. It is crucial to not only teach the right thing but to lead by example, sharing firsthand experiences of the repercussions of unethical choices. Whether speaking at colleges or to business executives, the message remains clear: every choice has a consequence.

The Case of Genarlow Wilson: A Cautionary Tale

The story of Genarlow Wilson, a promising high school football player from Georgia, serves as a stark reminder of the gravity of our choices. His decision to engage in consensual sex with an underage girl at a party, which was subsequently recorded and exposed, led to a ten-year prison sentence. Although the law has since changed, Wilson's life was irrevocably altered by that one choice.

The Power of Choice and the Inevitability of Consequences

In addressing the youth, I emphasized the importance of making wise decisions, as the consequences of our actions are inescapable. The Choices Foundation, which I founded, is dedicated to educating young people on the significance of their decisions and how to become effective citizens by creating opportunities from possibilities. For more information on how to bring a Choices Foundation presentation to your organization, visit Chuck Gallagher's website.

In conclusion, the ethical landscape of our youth is a reflection of the values imparted by society. It is imperative that we reinforce the message that integrity matters, even when no one is watching. By doing so, we can foster a generation that values honesty and responsibility, understanding that the true measure of character is what we do when we think no one is looking.