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Student Essay 2 for Assignment 3

Sections in Assignment 3:
Prewriting  |  Discussion  |  Writing the Essay  |  Revising  |  Peer Review  |  Rubric Student Example 1  | Student Example 2 Back to Assignment 3

How Am I Doing?
Jennifer Bartlett

After doing some thorough research, I have come to the conclusion that it is almost impossible to accurately define ethics. In my pursuit for an answer, I turned to The New Merriam-Webster Dictionary which defines ethics as, “a discipline dealing with good and evil and with moral duty.”  I am unsatisfied with this definition as it clearly leaves room for personal interpretation and opinion.  For instance, an individual may consider it a moral duty to never tell a lie under any circumstances.  Surely, this doesn’t mean that they would offend a dinner hostess by telling her that she had just served the worst meatloaf that they had ever tasted. Would they tell their best friend that her new baby was the ugliest infant that they had ever seen?  Sometimes, it appears that it is more ethical to lie than to speak the truth.  My own idea of morality is simply that a person will make the best possible decision that they can when presented with any given situation.  I believe that acting in an ethical manner sometimes involves making personal sacrifices and behaving selflessly, while deciding upon solutions that will provide benefit to the most and cause harm to the least amount of other living creatures. Morality also includes learning from our mistakes and trying to never repeat them. While the opinions of those around us are essential to feed our egos and certainly continuously influence our actions, ultimately every individual is responsible and self accountable for their own actions. I believe that in order for a person to be truly ethical they must not only possess, but also adhere to, the guiding of a reverent voice inside of their spirit that defines right from wrong. 

I recall that in my latter adolescent years, the pull between my parent’s influence on me, and that of my friends became overwhelming.  My parents maintained high personal standards for themselves and always set a good example for me.  They did not drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, gamble, use profanity, or even ever lie to me that I am aware of.  My parents were always very active in our church and left me little choice about attending Sunday services myself.  As a young teenager, I began to rebel against being forced to go to church and argued that it was hypocritical to go worship God when I did not want to be at church.  I started participating in social activities that did not conform to the teachings of our religion such as using profanity and experimenting with alcohol and marijuana with my friends during weekend parties.  When I was twelve, a girl named Leeann who was two years older than me befriended me. I followed her around like a puppy and we soon became best friends.  I was absolutely thrilled when I started going to high school because we then attended the same school.  By this time, there were many perks that stemmed from being her friend, one of which being that she could already drive and had her own car, so I got to go off campus for lunch. Being a high school freshman is a very scary experience in my opinion, so I thought that falling into her circle of friends that were all juniors and seniors would make my life much easier.

One Saturday morning shortly after my fifteenth birthday, Leeann invited me to go to Christown Mall with her.  After doing some window-shopping we found ourselves at Tower Records.  Leeann was very skilled at manipulation and informed me that she was tired of my never contributing much money to our social endeavors.  She convinced me that if I were really her friend, I would steal several music tapes from the store that she wanted, as a sort of financial restitution for gas money for her truck.  Although I absolutely knew better than to steal and wanted no part of this act, at the time it seemed more important to commit this offense than to risk losing her friendship.  In the ignorance of my youth, I was easily able to convince myself that this was virtually a victimless crime, as I wasn’t going to hurt any specific person and surely this one incident wouldn’t put a financial dent in the stores plentiful resources.  To this day, I remember that the tapes I took were “Ghost in the Machine” by the Police, and “Lovedrive” by the Scorpions.  I had been successful at shoplifting the tapes and waited outside of the store for what seemed like an eternity for Leeann to come out.  Finally, I went back inside to get her, only to be greeted at the door by a security person who escorted me to an office at the back of the store.  Leeann, of course, was already sitting in the room and just grinned at me as she leaned forward to show me the handcuffs she was wearing.  I was absolutely mortified as the man, who turned out to be a moonlighting police officer, placed a pair of handcuffs on me while he read me my rights.  I genuinely wanted to just beat Leeann to a pulp for getting me into this, and held her completely responsible.  The officer phoned my father and arranged to have him pick me up there at the store.  I sat there waiting in a state of pure anxiety, desperately trying to formulate a story that would somehow shift the blame for this event away from me in my father’s eyes.  After my father arrived, he spoke with the officer momentarily and signed some documents.  Finally, the handcuffs were removed from my wrists and my father silently escorted me out of the store through what seemed to be endless aisles of staring employees and customers.  Once we were in the car, I was ready to begin offering my excuses to my father, making it clear that this was all Leeann’s fault.  I drew a deep breath and turned to face him, ready to blurt out some nonsense when I saw a single tear running down his cheek.  I had never seen my father cry before and witnessing that tear felt like a dagger piercing my heart.  I sat back in my seat and kept my mouth shut.  It was at that moment that I truly accepted that I was not only completely responsible for choosing to shoplift, but worse, I was responsible for hurting my dad like this.  Most importantly, I learned that answering to my own conscience was a far more difficult consequence than any embarrassment I had felt or punishment that I might receive.

After spending several days soul searching and reflecting on the events surrounding my arrest, I completely reorganized my priorities.  I decided that I wanted to live as an honest person with virtue and integrity.  I started treating my parents with the respect that they not only warranted, but also had genuinely earned. While I didn’t entirely sever my ties with my group of friends, my relationship with them did change significantly.  I was no longer willing to be peer pressured into doing anything that I was not comfortable with.  Additionally, I was not concerned that if I didn’t agree with them exactly that they would no longer want to be friends with me.  In the end, my newfound independence only enhanced my friendship with most of them.  The majority of this group of friends was nearing high school graduation, and I found myself increasingly seeking out and interacting with different people and making new friends.  Ultimately, largely due to this experience, I had grown from being an irresponsible adolescent into an accountable young adult, in what now all these years later seems like the blinking of an eye.

Every day I observe people turning a blind eye to situations that I believe are unethical.  This occurs in politics and religion, and in just plain everyday society.  While sitting at a red light, it is hard to not notice something wrong, whether it is a person littering, graffiti spray painted on a sign, or someone playing their stereo so loud that drivers can’t hear the siren of an emergency vehicle.  For some reason, most of us have a difficult time stepping up and speaking out when we witness an offense occurring.  Even when we know that something is wrong, something possesses us to be intimidated about attempting to change the situation.  I believe that when we find the strength within ourselves to overcome our inhibitions and act righteously, we are tapping into the space in our spirits where ethics are rooted within us.  I try to always be mindful of and empathetic to the feelings of other people, and I am concerned about the opinions that especially other people who I admire and respect have of me.  While I desire to be held in high regard by others, however, ultimately it is my own reflection that I must be able to stare back at in the mirror.


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