One of my favorite quotes from any movie is from the Shawshank Redemption. In the film, the character played by Tim Robbins (Andy) says you either “get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.” It gets me every time.
It’s obviously an inspiring scene, but it also brings an interesting observation about human behavior to light – we have a hard time staying where we are.
Andy suggests that as we go through life, we can’t stay at the same equilibrium indefinitely. Rather, he says, we either get better or get worse. There’s no such thing as staying where you are.
And so it is with acting ethically. I do not think ethics is as simple as drawing a line in the sand saying “I will not cross this line”. If that’s how we chose to manage ethical behavior we will always lurk toward acting unethically. In real life, it doesn’t work for ethics to be a standard.
Rather, ethics is a practice. We have to constantly strive to be more ethical and live our ethics more fully. It’s something we must work on every single day. If we don’t do that, we’ll surely become more unethical as time passes.
Ethics isn’t something that can be maintained as a status quo. We must either get busy being more ethical or get busy being less ethical. There’s no in between.