Sunday, February 10, 2008


Wouldn't it be lovely if there were a simple rule book for tough ethical decision, one that covered most eventualities?

For ethical reasons I cannot go into any details here in this public forum, but I find myself in a bind. I have been asked for advice in a situation in which I feel unsure about my right to advise. When should we not feel unsure about our right to advise....maybe, carefully, as a parent....sometimes as a spouse, occasionally, very occasionally, as a friend.

In fact we are given any number of guides; from that simple golden rule on up to the prayers and writings of any religion you care to name.

I am still wary of the bind I face between my reaction as a human and my responsibilities.

This is turning into a tough post to write, one I may delete at the end, or one that I may alter beyond recognition before I hit that little red 'publish post' button.

I am a Bahá'í and that provides guidance.

I am a human, and know in my heart what I should do.

I am also a outside of the situation, and there is the nub, which hat fits on top? Which tips the balance of a decision.

It would be so neat if we could weave together the hats we wear, parent, human, spouse, professional, friend, trusted acquaintance; like the Egyptian gods of old with their crown of upper and lower Egypt, and their God stature, and mace of power.

It is not that simple.

I have yet to work out how to handle the situation. I am always uneasy when asked what I would do, when asked what someone else should do. I prefer to be a sounding board where they can bounce ideas, where people can begin to formulate in their own minds what they need to is their decision, not mine.

This one seems cut and dried, to me, the only question is whether I can or should say what I believe.

If you wanted, I would be interested to hear from anyone else out there faced with a tough ethical decision, and what they did.

Can't say it would change what I will do, but I would be interested to hear.

This one will take some thinking, and some gnawing over. We'll see, though I may not be able to let you know a whole lot.

It's never dull.


elPadawan said...

If you're not sure whether or not you can advise correctly, just tell it to people. "Sorry, but I'm not sure I can give you the right advice" or "I'm not sure that I have the right answer for you". Nobody can ask you to be perfect. It's as simple as that.

Anonymous said...

That is a tough one for sure. But I am confused. Do you feel that you are not in a position to give that advice, or is the advice you are asked to give is against what you believe? I think by he cryptic post that it is the second question.

Sometimes a person just needs to hear what he/she needs to hear. If you can say it without offending them, then you would be fine....depending on if the other person is willing to listen to the truth of what you will be telling them. If they asked for your advice, that person obviously holds you in high esteem. Another thing to remember is that the advice may not be what the person wants to hear....but if they asked, you will have to tell them the way you see it. Of course...not knowing the details of the situation it is hard to answer the I hope I've said something in all this that made some sense for you.

oreneta said...

elPadawan, that's basically how I started out, but I am still feeling compelled to speak up...

Sirdar, yes, I don't know what the person wants to hear, yes, you said some things that make sense...thanks. Sorry it is so cryptic, I tried to be as clear as I could will saying nothing tracable...another interesting ethical bind.

Beth said...

I don't know what your ethical dilemma is but in my experience when people ask for advice what they really want to hear is that you agree with them - their plan of action or point of view.
I've recently been asked for some advice and have decided NOT to give it - or, at least, not give the complete unvarnished truth of what I think. I know I would lose a friend if I did.

Good luck.

Michele said...

When people ask me, honestly, what I would do, I tell them what I would do. But I always add that just because I would do it that way, doesn't mean that they should do it my way. I like the sounding board thing. I try not to give advice unless I really think I'm supposed to. And more often that not, I'm NOT supposed to.

David Keating said...

Hi Oreneta
Google sends me notes when it finds articles containing the Golde Rule. I hope that you will not mind a comment from me.

Over the years I've distilled those religious guides that you mention into a shorthand based on the Golden Rule (which is not at all simple when studied).

The 7 Questions have helped me innumerable times in tough situations by helping me to place the choice I'm making into context. I offer them to you. If they help well and good. If not, feel free to ginore them 8-)


7 Questions

dawn said...

It is hard to say, not knowing an ounce of the situation. I would likely give what I would do, based on my world view and experience and beliefs and be clear about those things as well. I would also suggest the person consider his/her own beliefs, world view and experience (certainly if it involves a third person). In the end, the person is looking for guidance and may ask more than one person. Not knowing the person in question, some people also ask people of different backgrounds to see what they have to say, to get an idea of where others are coming from. Ultimately the person has to make the decision for his/her self, and ultimately you are not responsible for that. If it isn't clear to the person, I would also spell that out, and be careful to not judge if the person goes with a different route. But that is just me, I don't know what you are talking about;-).