…or, at least, we have the capacity to be.
Part of my duties as as Editor-In-Chief at NIFSE is writing articles when something worthwhile pops up.
Earlier this week, my former Mock Trial partner did an interview about what ethics mean to her in life & in her law practice, and in it made a point in one of her answers about the difference between what is legal and what is ethical. Oftentimes, what we think is the good or right way to live is at-odds with laws.
Legislators passed laws that protected slavery – most of us think of slavery as unethical now. All types of laws prevented same-sex couples from having access to marriage licenses – for and against, people felt it was their moral duty to advocate for their position. Our laws have left out folks of all types, conservatives and liberals, the majority of one demographic and the minority of another.
The thing both sides of these contentious issues share one thing: they feel they’re doing the right thing. Ethics > Laws.
Laws set the floor on behavior – dip below it into & you face undesirable consequences. But laws can’t set quotas for how much we can care, expand our perspectives, or grow. Laws can’t put a limit on our goodness.
We fight so much about what government should or shouldn’t do. Really, we should keep in mind that we have the ability of self-determination and an American spirit of manifest destiny. We should be building up ethical, responsive, moral lives by embodying our respective values, rather than relying on laws to hold others down so that we may feel validated.
We can talk about the psychological implications of laws another time. But Winston Churchill provides a nice wrap-up that speaks to the awareness necessary in creating our social constructs:
We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us.
We are better than our systems. We just have to act like it.
Read next: Stand Together Or We’ll All Fall Apart