ETHICS & The ethical character of a church leader: What is “ethical character” and how should a turnaround leader use it?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 4/26/18.

What exactly makes a decision ethical? 

It is best to think of ethical decisions as those that honor the “the spirit behind the law.” 

Definition: “Ethics” means operating in the “spirit behind the law” and not just the letter of the law.  Example:  Something can be lawful (a loophole for instance) but not ethical and thus does not honor the “spirit” behind the law. 

The “character” of an ethical leader requires a 3-pronged approach, as popularized by former president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and ethics professor Alexander Hill (“Just Business: Christian Ethics for the Marketplace [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997].)

Ethical leaders have a “character that embraces” three principles…

1. Right actions

2. Just actions 

3. Acting in love

Let’s briefly explore each.

RIGHT ACTIONS are actions in harmony with God’s Word, sometimes described as “holiness” or Biblical godliness. Here are two examples:

a. Being physically and emotionally separate from impure or or ungodly principles, practices and actions. Peter reminds us that as Christians we are to “be Holy without blemish” 2 Peter 3:11-12. EXAMPLE: the ethical leader spends time in Bible study, theology and history to be able to distinguish between actions that go against Christ and His Word.

b. Right actions are rooted in humbly serving others as exemplified in the servant leadership of Jesus. EXAMPLE: “If someone claims, “I know him well!” but doesn’t keep his commandments, he’s obviously a liar. His life doesn’t match his words. But the one who keeps God’s word is the person in whom we see God’s mature love. This is the only way to be sure we’re in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.” 1 John 2: 4-6.

JUST ACTIONS characterize leaders who practice equal procedures, fair reward for merit, and protection of rights.

a. Equal procedures mean that regardless of where the person is in the company hierarchy or their cultural background, they are treated equally. EXAMPLE: The apostle Paul living in a highly bigoted and hierarchical culture said that in Christ said that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ” Galatians 3:28. Ponder for a second how revolutionary this was in Paul’s day. Embracing equal procedures means treating people the same regardless of gender, ethnicity and/or socioeconomic culture.

b. Fair reward means that a person is paid fairly based upon their performance (merit) when balanced with what the congregation can afford. EXAMPLE: Exorbitant salaries for church leaders cannot be justified by saying that: “We’ve always paid this much for that position.” Sometimes in church turnarounds, the pastoral salary was set at a time when the chruch could afford a larger salary. Fair reward means negotiating salaries that are equally fair to the organization and the individual. 

c. Probably the most important aspect is to protect the inalienable rights that God has bestowed upon his creation, including bodily safety, freedom from harassment.

ACTING IN LOVE is what sets apart the character of a Christian, because it means our ethical framework demonstrates supernatural love. Here are two areas where Christians often fail in their ethical behavior.

a. Shouldering others pain: This means when one person in the organization suffers, we all suffer and therefore everyone does something to address their pain. Luke tells us in Acts 2:42-45 that in reaction to Peter’s Pentecost sermon, “They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.” EXAMPLE: When a church is undertaking a turnaround, one of the most powerful examples occurs when leaders give up something to help others. A notable secular example occurred when Malden Mills, a textile factory was destroyed by fire. Their CEO refused to lay off his workers. Instead he paid the worker’s salaries out of his own pocket. He told the news media that the workers were, “part of the enterprise, not a cost center to be cut. They’ve been with me for a long time.  We’ve been good to each other, and there’s a deep realization of that.” (Manuel G. Velasquez, Business Ethics: Concepts and Cases, 5th ed. [Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Publishers, 2003], p. 122-124, 491-92.)

b. Taking action on others behalf: This means working and coaching others to help them improve rather than firing them to find someone else. EXAMPLE: In many churches in need of revitalization, there is often an unhealthy and historical “Burn and Churn” style of leadership. “Burn and Churn” means that leaders “burnout” the volunteers/staff and then  leaders recruit more volunteers/staff to replace them, creating an endless “churning” cycle of: recruitment-leavings-recruitment-leavings-recruitment-leavings-etc. However, “taking actions on others behalf” means noticing when people are struggling and coaching them to improve, rather than dismissing them. By taking more time to mentor volunteers/staff rather than firing them, builds upon the strengths of the volunteers’ experience, the volunteers network of friends and the volunteer’s feelings of self worth.

Below is an example case study. Can you spot what could have been done differently utilizing “right actions, just actions and acting in love?”

Sarah doesn’t know very much about her new job as the Director of Discipleship. The previous director suddenly left because of burn out. And though he had no more prior experience than Sarah, the church paid him more because he was a man and was perceived to be the sole provider for his family.

A little more than year into the job Sarah felt she was starting to understand her responsibilities. For most of that year Sarah was on the verge of burning out because she felt the mission of the church was so important that she often worked 60 to 70 hour weeks taking time away from her two young children. 

Her boss the administrative pastor came in to her office and explained to her that she wasn’t developing into what the church needed. Sarah felt blindsided, because the administrator had not worked with her to help her learn her job or improve on doing it better.

The end result was that in this church turnaround situation Sarah was fired with little consideration for her financial and emotional fallout. In the 18 months she had developed many friends among the staff and they empathized with Sarah, perceiving the leaders’ actions to have had failed to exemplify Christlike actions. The end result was that the church went into further decline. Instead of a turnaround church … the lack of ethical character in the leader resulted in at downward church.

Download the article here: ARTICLE ©Whitesel – Ethical Character of Planter (Church Revitalizer) and here: https://issuu.com/renovate-conference/docs/2018_april_may_cr_magazine_final_adb6f267542cdb

ETHICS & Billy Graham’s Modesto Manifesto covered more than we realize…

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: My friend and colleague Nelson Searcy has written a good article explaining that Billy Graham’s Modest Manifesto (ethical guidelines for their ministry) is much more than people realize. Take a look at this brief excerpt of Nelson’s insightful article.

“Billy Graham’s secrets to a scandal-free ministry“ by Nelson Searcy, Renegade Pastors Network, 3/27/18.

…For 80 years of ministry, Billy Graham stayed scandal-free.

… So in November 1948, Graham called the members of his evangelistic team to his hotel room during a crusade campaign in Modesto, California. “God has brought us to this point,” he said. “Maybe he is preparing us for something that we don’t know.”

He and his team identified the issues that had been stumbling blocks to evangelists — and ways to prevent them from happening again.

What emerged was a declaration of Biblical integrity that all church leaders can follow. The “Modesto Manifesto” was the pact that would set the standard for Billy Graham’s scandal-free ministry.

The Manifesto included four key principles to guard against:

– Financial Abuse
– Sexual Immorality
– Pride (specifically with relationship to other local churches)
– Lying and Deceit (specifically regarding publicity and reporting of attendance numbers)

No formal document was ever created . . . until now.

I know the impact this Manifesto of integrity can have on your ministry as well. It has made such an impact in my own life and ministry. So I decided to painstakingly research and assemble the four principles into a framable presentation — one that would be easy to follow and keep as a guide…

(To download Nelson’s analysis of the manifesto you must be a member of his Renegade Pastors Network. I am a member and would encourage you to check it out: https://renegadepastors.com )

LEADERSHIP & Inspiring Presidential Quotes on Leadership for #PresidentsDay

by Marissa Levin, the founder and CEO of “Successful Culture,” and author of “Built to Scale: How Top Companies Create Breakthrough Growth Through Exceptional Advisory Boards,” Inc. Magazine, 3/19/18.

On Mindset:

“If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.” ~Calvin Coolidge

“Pessimism never won any battle.” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” ~John F. Kennedy

“What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.” ~Abraham Lincoln

On Community & Circles of Influence:

“Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company.” ~George Washington

“Never waste a minute thinking about people you don’t like.” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, then you are a leader.” ~John Quincy Adams

On Persistence & Resilience:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” ~Calvin Coolidge

“In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins.” ~General Ulysses S. Grant

“In the time of darkest defeat, victory may be nearest.” ~William McKinley…

“The harder the conflict, the greater the triumph.” ~George Washington

On Ethics & Taking a Stand:

“An honorable defeat is better than a dishonorable victory;” ~Millard Fillmore…

“Unswerving loyalty to duty, constant devotion to truth, and a clear conscience will overcome every discouragement and surely lead the way to usefulness and high achievement.” ~Grover Cleveland

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power” ~Abraham Lincoln

“Life is never easy. There is work to be done and obligations to be met – obligations to truth, to justice, and to liberty.” ~John F. Kennedy

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/marissa-levin/22-presidential-quotes-on-most-important-aspects-of-great-leadership.html

ETHICS & Simon Sinek at TEDxPuget Sound on “How great leaders inspire action”

Commentary by Prof. B.: In my introductory course on leadership we discuss the importance and impact of ethical behavior in leaders.  We look at Alexander Hill’s three aspects of ethics: right action, just action and acting in love.  Hill bases these elements on a biblical and theological foundation.  Simon Sinek, author and futurist, describes these same three aspects of ethics in his TEDx talk on what inspires action in followers.

Read and watch more at … https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action and https://startwithwhy.com/

Download the rest of the chapter “Becoming a Leader After God’s Own Heart” by Bob Whitesel in The Church Leader’s MBA: What Business School Instructors Wish Pastors Knew About Management, eds. Mark Smith and David Wright here > Ethics_Whitesel_10.09.

ETHICS & Becoming a Leader After God’s Own Heart #ChurchLeadersMBA

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2012 (excerpted with permission from The Church Leader’s MBA: What Business School Instructors Wish Pastors Knew About Management, eds. Mark Smith and David Wright, chapter title “Becoming a Leader After God’s Own Heart” by Bob Whitesel).

Today we are having the most lively ethics discussions since ancient Greece more than 2.300 year ago… – Geoffrey P. Lantos, Professor of Business Administration[i]

A Well-intentioned Misappropriation?

“They didn’t train me for this in seminary … the rules about ethical business decisions were never addressed.”

Jim, a pseudonym, was leaving the community food bank for which he had served as director. His career had been shaky from the start, but Jim felt over time he had grown into the position. Just a year before he had told me, “this (job) is where I think I’ll stay until I retire.” Now, only in his mid-40s, Jim was leaving to pursue a career in business. He had been stung by perceived ethical missteps, which eroded his credibility, and eventually eroded his support among the food bank’s board. “They didn’t train me for this in seminary,” complained Jim. “The rules for parsing verbs were explained clear enough. But the rules about ethical business decisions were never addressed.”

The ethical landscape can be a minefield for the Christian leader. Differentiating between what is appropriate and what is illicit can be daunting. Jim had learned the lesson so many church leaders learn the hard way, that high expectations are placed upon church leaders, and ethical missteps, even minor ones can be ruinous.

What was the fiscal blunder to which Jim succumbed? In the midst of trying to keep a floundering food bank afloat, he appropriated money designated specifically for food purchases and used it for office expenses. When the benefactor learned money designated for food stuffs, was now going to buy a copy machine, they demanded their money be returned. Standing upon shaky ground, Jim could not refund the money without jeopardizing the daily operations of the center. The board decided that in order to make ends meet, Jim’s salary would have to fill the gap. And thus, Jim was unceremoniously dismissed.

Jim had rationalized, that if he didn’t apply the designated money to the non-designated needs of the office, then food bank would lose its few already overworked employees. Certainly this is not what the benefactors would want. And thus, he made a judgment call. However, it was an ethical decision that the wealthy benefactors felt crossed the line of propriety. What Jim needed was some sort of system, or procedure for effectively grappling with these ethical questions.

Defining Ethics

Fred David in his seminal book on planning, tenders a common definition of ethics. David writes, “ethics can be defined as principles of conduct within organizations that guide decision making and behavior.”[ii]   This definition is good, even in its brevity, for it reminds us that ethics are not a set of hypothetical decrees, but principles that actively affect daily action and attitude. Ethics are powerful and dynamic ways of thinking that determine our choices, our actions, and our future.

In today’s world, ethics play a central role. The media is full of accounts of moral breaches of ethical behavior. And a continued barrage of ethical issues is being thrust upon businesses and churches by the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, religious prejudice, and ethnic discrimination.

Therefore, due to the dynamic and strategic nature of ethics, let’s begin our investigation with a look at how ethics are practiced in the business world. We begin with the business realm, because is it the venue where most laypeople become acquainted with ethical decision making…

Download the rest of the chapter here > Ethics_Whitesel_10.09.

[i] Geoffrey P. Lantos, “Motivating Moral Behavior,” Journal of Consumer Marketing (Arvada, Colorado: np, 1999), Vol. 16, No. 3, p. 222.

[ii] Fred R. David, Strategic Management: Concepts and Cases, op. cit., p. 20.

ETHICS & Video intro to Praxis 2 assignment for LEAD 600 by Prof. B

Commentary by Prof. B: For my students I often record weekly “introductions” to prepare them for upcoming submissions. This 5-min video explains the Praxis 2 assignment “Developing a Ministry Ethics Policy” for LEAD 600: Missional Leadership.

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

ETHICS & Harvard Researchers Discover Most People Selfless – Until They Think About It

“Selfish behavior comes from thinking too much, not too little. Rand recently verified this finding in a meta-analysis of 51 similar studies from different research groups.2 “Most people think we are intuitively selfish,” Rand says—based on a survey he conducted—but “our lab experiments show that making people rely more on intuition increases cooperation.”

Selfishness Is Learned: We tend to be cooperative—unless we think too much.

by MATTHEW HUTSON, Nautilus, 6/9/16.

…In 2012 he and two similarly broad-minded Harvard professors, Martin Nowak and Joshua Greene, tackled a question that exercised the likes of Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Which is our default mode, selfishness or selflessness? Do we all have craven instincts we must restrain by force of will? Or are we basically good, even if we slip up sometimes?

They collected data from 10 experiments, most of them using a standard economics scenario called a public-goods game.1 Groups of four people, either American college students or American adults participating online, were given some money. They were allowed to place some of it into a pool, which was then multiplied and distributed evenly. A participant could maximize his or her income by contributing nothing and just sharing in the gains, but people usually gave something. Despite the temptation to be selfish, most people showed selflessness…

This finding was old news, but Rand and his colleagues wanted to know how much deliberation went into such acts of generosity. So in two of the experiments, subjects were prodded to think intuitively or deliberately; in two others, half of the subjects were forced to make their decision under time pressure and half were not; and in the rest, subjects could go at their own pace and some naturally made their decisions faster than others. If your morning commute is any evidence, people in a hurry would be extra selfish. But the opposite was true: Those who responded quickly gave more. Conversely, when people took their time to deliberate or were encouraged to contemplate their choice, they gave less.

The researchers worked under the assumption that snap judgments reveal our intuitive impulses. Our intuition, apparently, is to cooperate with others. Selfish behavior comes from thinking too much, not too little. Rand recently verified this finding in a meta-analysis of 51 similar studies from different research groups.2 “Most people think we are intuitively selfish,” Rand says—based on a survey he conducted—but “our lab experiments show that making people rely more on intuition increases cooperation.”

Read more at … http://m.nautil.us/issue/37/currents/selfishness-is-learned

PLANNING & A Better Option Than Just Trial-and-error (A Leadership Exercise)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 9/8/15.

I created this exercise to help leaders see that strategy planning is often undertaken in the church in a emotional and imprecise manner (and that is something we must change).

And so in previous postings, I explained how to rate various plans with a simple SWOT analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Yet some readers and students (especially those with strategic/operational leadership leanings) sometimes find such quantitative analysis a bit tedious. (I did actually when I was in seminary.  But as I progressed through graduate school I came to enjoy research).

Thus for the above two reasons, sometimes those with strategic/tactical gifts and those with tactical/operational attributes will find this exercise helpful.

A Leadership Exercise

Let’s start by recalling that Baumhart asked business people “What does ethical mean to you?” (Church Leaders MBA, p. 29)  The following were the answers he received:

“What does ethical mean to you?”  Answers:
1)  What my feelings tell me is right.  50%
2)  In accordance with my religious beliefs. 25%
3)  Based on the Golden Rule. 18%

Now, let’s see if this also might be true regarding how Christian ministries pick their strategies (and select programming).  Here is an adaption of Baumhart:

How do churches usually decide upon programming?
#1:  What they feel is a good program.
#2:  In accordance with what other Christians and churches think about a program.
#3:  A program based upon a bible passage.

So, pick either #1, #2 or #3 and tell why it isn’t (or is) a good way to choose a strategic ministry tactic.  And, give an example if you know of one.

For example, you might explain why “relying on your feelings” is not a good way to choose a program.  And, you might site a personal example.  Or you might share why basing a strategy on a merely bible passage could be misleading.  Again, you could give an example from your personal history with the church.

Baumhart, R. (1968). An honest profit: What businessmen say about ethics in business. New York: Holt, Reinhart and Wilson.

Smith, Mark and Wright, David. W. (2011). The church leaders’ MBA: What business school instructors wish church leaders knew about management. Circleville, OH: Ohio Christian University.

ETHICS & Implications of Wesley’s quote: I would not tell a lie to save the souls of the whole world.

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 9/2/10.

John Wesley famously said, “I would not tell a lie, no, not to save the souls of the whole world.” So, I ask my students to grapple with this.

One student remarked that according to a book he read (written by two of my close friends, Gary McIntosh and Charles “Chip” Arn) that “the goal of your financial investing should be to make the greatest number of disciples” (What Every Pastor Should Know).

Subsequently, the discussion turned to a discussion if finances could be used in an unethical way because more people would be saved as a result.  As I mentioned above, I know the authors of the book and this is of course not what they are saying.

But, this reminds us that outcomes can (but should they?) be used to justify the means.

According to John Wesley’s writings, it has to do with our understanding of God’s foundational action in love. Here are some questions that will help our understanding of ethical actions:

  • Would God have us do something unethical to make the greatest amount of disciples (This is part of the question in the story of the “plank of Carneades.”)
  • In other words, should we do something that furthers benefit to ourselves or even someone else’s soul … when that action is unethical?
  • And finally, would God require such action?

What are your thoughts?  If you are a student of mine, you can reply in the discussion forums to garner more points.  For all others, this is a good exercise to keep your leadership team sharp when considering ethical dilemmas.

ETHICS & Honoring Promises in a Small Ministry (a case study)

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 9/2/15.

Once a student remarked that she felt she did not have to worry too much about equal procedures, protecting employee rights and rewarding employees for merit because their church only had a church secretary and a part-time janitor. I often get this question in various forms from my students because many of my students are leading a small organization. But, I shared with her an example that happened to me when I was pastoring a small church. It drove home to me the lesson #4 in my leadership course: Just Actions, honoring of promises.

You see, sometimes we fudge, exaggerate or ignore, and then our church can’t or don’t honor their promises.  I remember when I pastored that we had a local hardware store.  We had an account there.  And sometimes, for instance in the summer when attendance was down, we would get behind in paying our bills. I thought nothing of it, for we always paid the bill eventually and we also paid the extra interest.

But, one day the owner took me aside and told me that as a church we should be setting an example by paying our bills on time.  He told me that we signed an agreement to pay our bills on time, that late payments hurt the store, and that we were not honoring the contract we had signed to pay our bills on time.  I was surprised, for I thought paying late, and paying the interest was standard business practice.  But, I found out the hard way that the world usually holds us to a higher standard and that churches especially need to be careful to “honor” our promises.

If you are one of my students and reading this, do you have thoughts or insights? (This is an optional question for those students who would like to dialogue a bit more – but it is not required 🙂

ETHICS & How Does Jesus’ Call to Self-sacrifice Impact the Plank of Carneades?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 9/1/15.

In an earlier posting, I described the classic ethical dilemma of the Plank of Carneades.  Read this posting if you have not already done so read my introduction to the Plank of Carneades.  Then undertake the following exercise.

What Part Does Self-sacrifice Play?

When considering what he would do regarding the Plank of Carneades, a student shared the importance of self-sacrifice for a stranger.  He stated,

“If I managed to get to the board first, it would be very hard for me to let it go knowing that I would not survive. It would be different if person B was my wife, or someone else I cared for; I would gladly give them the board. If I could be in a Christian spiritual state of mind in that situation, I know I could give the board to any person B, but, I am just being realistic here, God would have to give me that peace to make that sacrifice. I do think I would be willing to ask God to give me that peace” (student, anonymous).

I especially think it is important to note that he said, “God would have to give me that peace to make that sacrifice.”  That is an important aspect.  And, Church History is replete with examples of persons who gave their lives for others.  And, that “peace” to give up one’s life for a stranger is a powerful and spiritual force.

I often give students a short (optional) exercise for anyone wishing to garner more points (or needs to 🙂 in my courses. This can also be an exercise for your small group or leadership team.  Here is the exercise:

  • Do a quick Internet search,
  • Cut/paste a story about a Christian who gave their life for another.
  • Focus on what it takes to have “peace to make that sacrifice.”

The Key is Preparation for Sacrifice

The reason I think this endeavor important, is because ethical behavior requires self-sacrifice (according to Hill 1997:50-51).  Therefore, how can be prepare for such situations? The key lies in a readiness to deny our self.  Because this runs against our human instincts (except when we have a close, e.g. family, relationship) we must look at how to address this if we are to prepare to act in love.

Thus, contemplating about how to foster self-sacrifice is a crucial part of regular spiritual formation.  I hope all of us will pray and seek God who can prepare us for self-sacrifice in His name.

Here is a verse that sums this up nicely this connection between acting in love and sacrifice:

My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.1 John 4:7-10 (The Message)

ETHICS & The Plank of Carneades: An Exercise Every Christian Leader Should Undertake

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 8/30/15.

“The Plank of Carneades” is a classical ethical dilemma.  Read this abbreviated version, look at this ethical dilemma through the lens of Jesus’ words in John 15:11-15 and then answer five short questions.  This is an exercise every Christian leader should revisit every few years in their ministry.

Here is the scenario (described by Khalid Ghanayim in The Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, January 2006 Vol. XIX, No. 1):

“Should a person in a life-threatening situation have a defense when he saves his life by causing death to a person who was not involved in creating the life-threatening situation? Viz., does the perpetrator have an excused necessity defense that negates imposing the punishment? This issue – excused necessity defense – has fascinated the legal world since antiquity and has been described as one of the most complicated issues in criminal law. The well-known case is the ‘plank of Carneades’ or ‘two men and the plank.’

Two men, A and B, are shipwrecked on the high seas; as their strength ebbs and they are about to drown, they see a wooden plank that is just large enough to support only one of them. A reaches the plank first and grabs it, but B, faced with the prospect of certain death, pushes A off the plank, resulting in the death of A by drowning. B then grabs the plank and manages to save his own life. Should B have a defense if he is prosecuted for pushing A off the plank in these circumstances?”

Now, look at this through the lens of Jesus’ statement in John 15:11-15 (The Message):

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

Now, for five questions.  Share a sentence or two about any.

1. What should the secular courts do with Person B?

2. What would you do if you were Person B?

3. What would you do if you were Person A?

4.  What do you think it means that, “the English case of R. v. Dudley and Stephens (1884) established that necessity is no defense against a charge of murder?” (Retrieved from http://www.search.com/reference/Plank_of_Carneades)

5. What does this tell you about the law and the Christian life?

Here is a bonus question.  Do an Internet search to discover what great philosophers such as Immanuel Kant have said about the “plank of Cardeades.”

ETHICS & Harm to others outweighs harm to self in moral decision making

by Molly J. Crockett PhD, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 11/21/14.

Significance

Concern for the welfare of others is a key component of moral decision making … However, little is known about how people evaluate the costs of others’ suffering… Here we addressed this issue by measuring how much money people will sacrifice to reduce the number of painful electric shocks delivered to either themselves or an anonymous stranger. Surprisingly, most people sacrifice more money to reduce a stranger’s pain than their own pain. This finding may help us better understand how people resolve moral dilemmas that commonly arise in medical, legal, and political decision making.

Abstract

Concern for the suffering of others is central to moral decision making. How humans evaluate others’ suffering, relative to their own suffering, is unknown. We investigated this question by inviting subjects to trade off profits for themselves against pain experienced either by themselves or an anonymous other person. Subjects made choices between different amounts of money and different numbers of painful electric shocks. We independently varied the recipient of the shocks (self vs. other) and whether the choice involved paying to decrease pain or profiting by increasing pain. We built computational models to quantify the relative values subjects ascribed to pain for themselves and others in this setting. In two studies we show that most people valued others’ pain more than their own pain. This was evident in a willingness to pay more to reduce others’ pain than their own and a requirement for more compensation to increase others’ pain relative to their own. This ‟hyperaltruistic” valuation of others’ pain was linked to slower responding when making decisions that affected others, consistent with an engagement of deliberative processes in moral decision making. Subclinical psychopathic traits correlated negatively with aversion to pain for both self and others, in line with reports of aversive processing deficits in psychopathy. Our results provide evidence for a circumstance in which people care more for others than themselves. Determining the precise boundaries of this surprisingly prosocial disposition has implications for understanding human moral decision making and its disturbance in antisocial behavior.

Read more here … Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

ETHICS & Night owls unethical in the morning, early birds unethical at night says new research

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “When a person has low energy, that person is more likely to act unethically reveals new research reported in the Harvard Business Review. Read this research and then watch yourself and be aware of the times when such behavior is more likely.

For my students, I give them two extra credit questions based upon this research:

1)  Knowing this, what will you do about protecting yourself from such ethical lapses?

2)  And, what will do to help others avoid this misstep?

Low Energy, Low Ethics Chart

by Christopher M. Barnes, Brian Gunia and Sunita Sah | 8:00 AM June 23, 2014

Employees face many temptations to behave unethically at work. Resisting those temptations requires energy and effort. But the energy that is essential to exert self-control waxes and wanes. And when that energy is low, people are more likely to behave unethically. This opens up the possibility that even within the same day, a given person could be ethical at one point in time and unethical at another point in time.

Over the past few years, management and psychology research has uncovered something interesting: both energy and ethics vary over time. In contrast to the assumption that good people typically do good things, and bad people do bad things, there is mounting evidence that good people can be unethical and bad people can be ethical, depending on the pressures of the moment. For example, people who didn’t sleep well the previous night can often act unethically, even if they aren’t unethical people.

Our research started from this idea. Drawing from recent research indicating that people can become more unethical as the day wears on, we asked whether this plays out the same way for people who show different patterns of energy during the course of a day. Fatigue researchers have discovered that alertness and energy follow a predictable daily cycle that is aligned with the circadian process. However, different people may be shifted in their circadian rhythms. Some people are “larks” or “morning people” in that their circadian rhythm is shifted earlier in the day. They are most easily detected by their natural tendency to wake early in the morning. Others are “owls” or “evening people” and they are shifted in the opposite direction. Larks tend to get up early, and owls tend to stay up late.

…A more detailed description will be provided later this year in our forthcoming article in the journal Psychological Science.

The important organizational takeaway from these findings is that individual may be more likely to act unethically when they are “mismatched” –that is, making a decision at the wrong time of day for their own chronotype. Managers should try to learn the chronotype (lark, owl, or in between) of their subordinates and make sure to respect it when deciding how to structure their work. Managers who ask a lark to make ethics-testing decisions at night, or an owl to make such decisions in the morning, run the risk of encouraging rather than discouraging unethical behavior.

Similarly, people who control their own work schedules should structure their work with their chronotype in mind. Many of us are tempted to squeeze in that extra hour of work. If we’re a morning person squeezing it in at night, though, we create a situation in which resisting temptation may be harder than ever. Owls who schedule extra hours for themselves early in the morning face the same issue.

Read more at … http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/06/morning-people-are-less-ethical-at-night/

ETHICS & How Unethical Behavior Becomes Habit Forming #HarvardBusinessReview

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “This offers a case study exemplifying one of my favorite CS Lewis quotes, ‘The safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings…’ See how little lapses in ethical behavior have been confirmed by researchers to lead to greater ethical breaches. And then … be forewarned.”

Read more at … http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/09/how-unethical-behavior-becomes-habit/

ETHICS & How to Manage an Immoral Employee Before It’s Too Late

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “In my early ministry life, the models I received were not the best models to follow. This article points out the importance of modeling ethical behavior that is even higher than is expected. This is how I’ve tried to live my life in the almost 30 years since the poor examples of those early models.”

Article by Will Yakowicz, Inc. Magazine, 5/27/14

Read more at … http://www.inc.com/will-yakowicz/how-to-manage-immoral-employee.html

ETHICS & What’s morally acceptable? It depends on where in the world you live. #PewResearch

by Jacob Poushter, Pew Research Center, 4/15/14.

“The Pew Research Center asked people in 40 countries about what is morally unacceptable, morally acceptable or not a moral issue. The issues included: married people having an affair, gambling, homosexuality, having an abortion, sex between unmarried adults, drinking alcohol, getting a divorce and using contraceptives. Our new Global Morality Interactive highlights the findings and allows users to sort the data in a variety of ways.”

Visit the interactive → Here are 5 key takeaways from the survey:

Global survey on whether people in 40 countries see certain behaviors as morally acceptable, unacceptable, or not a moral issueRead more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/15/whats-morally-acceptable-it-depends-on-where-in-the-world-you-live/

ETHICS & Why In the Afternoon, the Moral Slope Gets Slipperier

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “In this article, new research is discussed whereby people tend to become more unethical when they are tired or fatigued. The forces that encourage non-Christlike behavior should be understood. And, this article from the Harvard Business Review is helpful for analyzing research that indicates that fatigue influences unethical action.”

ARTICLE by Maryam Kouchaki, Harvard Business Review, 5/14

Read more at … http://hbr.org/2014/05/in-the-afternoon-the-moral-slope-gets-slipperier/ar/1